• 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.