Christmasy misspellings

It’s that time of year again. Red and green decorations line the streets and shop windows. Store clerks wrestle with the eternal question of whether to wish you “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” And here in Minnesota, it looks like a real-life snow globe.

Today I’m writing about some common Christmasy misspellings, so you can write your holiday cards and family newsletters with peace of mind (and peace on earth).

  • Christmastime is one word.
  • Ho! Ho! Ho! has exclamation points after each one.
  • Santa Claus has no E at the end.
  • Noël, the French word for Christmas, has an diaeresis over the E, if you want to be especially traditional. Though, “Noel” is also an accepted spelling.
  • Xmas does not have a hyphen after the X.

And if you want to add some international flair to your season’s greetings, here is how to say “Merry Christmas” in other languages:

  • Danish: Glædelig Jul
  • French: Joyeux Noël
  • German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
  • Italian: Buon Natale
  • Spanish: Feliz Navidad
  • Swedish: God Jul

Inserting accent marks

There are times in writing when you have to deal with dreaded accent marks. I feel for you. I really do. I’ve typed enough French essays to cry cedillas. So here’s a handy list of accent mark names and how to insert the darn things in Microsoft Word.

Common accent marks:

  • á: accent acute
  • à: accent grave
  • å: bolle
  • ç: cedilla
  • â: circumflex
  • æ: ligature
  • œ: ligature
  • ø: streg
  • ñ: tilde
  • ä: umlaut

Inserting accent marks
When I’m working with accent marks, I use the old-fashioned long way of inserting them because I’m not one for memorizing a bunch of shortcuts.

The long way
In Microsoft Word, go to Insert, then Symbol. Select Advanced Symbol. A small screen will pop up with a list of letters with accent marks. Simply select the letter and corresponding mark you want and click Insert.

Of course, you can always use keyboard shortcuts, too.

For PC users, here’s a list of shortcuts:
accent acute: CTRL+’, the letter
accent grave: CTRL+`, the letter
æ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, a, or A
bolle: CTRL+Shift+@, a, or A
cedilla: CTRL+(comma), c, or C
circumflex: CTRL+Shift+^, the letter
œ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, o, or O
streg: CTRL+/, o, or O
tilde: CTRL+Shift+~, the letter
umlaut: CTRL+Shift+:, the letter

For Mac users, here’s what to do:
accent acute: Option+E, the letter
accent grave: Option+`, the letter
æ ligature: Shift+Option+’ (uppercase); Option+’ (lowercase)
bolle: Shift+Option+A, the letter (uppercase); Option+A (lowercase)
cedilla: Shift+Option+C (uppercase); Option+C (lowercase)
circumflex: Option+I, the letter
œ ligature: Shift+Option+Q (uppercase); Option+Q (lowercase)
streg: Shift+Option+O (uppercase); Option+O (lowercase)
tilde: Option+N, the letter
umlaut: Option+U, the letter


Here! Hear!

When you raise your glass after an impressive speech, do you say “Here, here!” or “Hear, hear!”?

The correct phrase is: Hear, hear! That is, unless someone is asking, “Who wants more wine?” Then you can say, “Here, here!” and pound your fists on the table.

“Hear, hear!” simply means “hear him” or “hear her” and is a sign of approval of the previous speaker.

Imbibing around the world
To add some cultural flair the next time you toast, try doing it in another language. Below is a sampling of toasts across the globe.

Danish: Skål!

Finnish: Kippis!

French: Santé

German: Prost!

Icelandic: Skál!

Italian: Salute!

Malay: Sihat selalu!

Polish: Na zdrowie!

Romanian: Noroc!

Spanish: ¡Salud!

Tagalog: Mabuhay!

Erin Servais is a book editor with more than ten years of experience in the publishing industry. She will gladly toast to your next book project. Learn how to hire her today:

Lost in translation

Don’t use Google translate for your foreign language homework. Period. Sure, if you’re just looking for the general idea of a passage of foreign language text, this tool is nifty. However, translation is one area where it is best not to succumb to our robot overlords.

Translation technology has yet to surpass the skills of actual human translators with their years of study of grammar and syntax and how one language’s idioms translate into another’s.

Case in point: This video from CDZA takes the text from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s theme song and runs it through all languages on Google translate and then back into English. Hilarity ensues.



Still, it’s amazing that we have come as far as we have with computer translations. Here is a video by Google that explains how its translation program works.


If all else fails, you can fake your way through translation like British comedian Catherine Tate does in this video.

Or maybe not.

What does “prn” mean?

At my recent doctor’s appointment, she said, “You’ll just take this prn.” (She pronounced each letter: P-R-N.)

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means you’re supposed to take it as needed.”

Suspecting it was a Latin abbreviation, since we were in a medical setting, I asked her what the full-length Latin word/phrase was. She was unsure. She said she was just used to seeing it in the abbreviated form.

So, dear friends, I did an investigation. It took me perhaps twenty seconds, but still, it was an investigation nonetheless.

Prn is short for the Latin phrase “pro re nata.” The doctor was correct in that it means “for an occasion that has arisen; as needed.

Now you know.