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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:26 am

• Christmas-tree •

Pronunciation: kris-mês-chree • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To fill in randomly answers to test questions that you don't know, as though adding ornaments to a Christmas tree. 2. To add superfluous items randomly, as to Christmas-tree a legislative bill with unnecessary amendments.
Notes: This verb has apparently been trying to make it into the English vocabulary for some time. In addition to the two solid definitions mentioned above, it also has been randomly used to mean "provide with a Christmas tree" and "chase up a Christmas tree". We did not include these meanings because they don't seem to have established themselves so far.

In Play: This word has been making its rounds around US schools for quite some time: "I just couldn't miss Claudia's pajama party last night so I had to Christmas-tree the bio mid-term." It also turned up in congressional hearings for the bill that bailed out the US banking industry in 2008: "Senator Shumer promised that the Congress would not Christmas-tree the bail-out plan with unnecessary provisions and amendments."

Word History: Today's Good Word shows poignantly the difficulties of etymology. It clearly is a new verb that has arisen, probably, within the last ten years, yet no one knows who initiated it. We don't even know where it was first published. Christmas, of course, is a reduction of "Christ's mass". Christ, in its turn, is not part of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather an epithet from Greek: khristos "anointed", the verbal adjective of khriein "to anoint". Jesus Christ hence means "Jesus the Anointed" or did originally—a long way from the meaning of today's Good Word. The word for "anointed" in Aramaic, by the way, the language spoken by Jesus, is meshiha, rendered in English as Messiah.
• The Good Dr. Goodword

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Re: Christmas-tree

Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Dec 20, 2017 4:18 am

Dear Dr. Goodword,

The ngram viewer turns up this example from
Allen Schick: The Federal Budget: Politics, Policy, Process published by the Brookings Institution, pg 147

It is now less practicable for the Senate to "Christmas tree" tax bills by inserting revenue-losing provisions as bargaining chips for the conference. Every step of the way, senators must be mindful of whether a proposal would cause a drop in revenue. Senate-passed tax legislation must be deficit (or surplus) neutral. All revenue losses must be offset, even if the revenue loss is incidental to the bill's main objectives.

This quote is from the edition published in 2004 (apparently the first edition; there have been at least two later editions. The 3rd edition also includes the word.) The use of quotes that suggest the author recognises it as a neologism.

Perry Lassiter
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Re: Christmas-tree

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:12 pm

I have also seen the term applied as a noun in several contexts referring to an elaborate instrument display, as in an airliner cockpit. I believe I've also seen it in places like steam control or even nuclear control rooms. And doesn't it also show up in the space program?

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