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As we enter the holiday season, we thought you'd enjoy one of Tom Stern's classic reviews of his Christmas catalogs.
Annual Christmas ’Log Review
Have you noticed that Christmas is in the air? I started noticing in October, when I received my first Christmas catalog eleven days before the start of
the World Series.
New ones have been arriving ever since, filled with gift ideas so remarkable that I just can’t keep them to myself.
The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, replete with high thread counts and decadent relaxation devices, is always on the technological
cutting-edge—we’re living in the age of the voice-interactive coffee maker and the talking wristwatch. For the discreet creep, there are the
“video camera pen” and the “video recording sunglasses.” Merry golfers will go for the “drink-dispensing golf club,”
which pours an ounce of booze per second from a spout in the club head. After a few pops, the “golf ball locating glasses” may come in handy.
These ungainly-looking goggles find that lost ball even as they identify anyone wearing them as a dork. The catalog is laden with pseudo-sophisticated
phrases like “an ubiquitous ritual,” apparently written by someone who’s never said “ubiquitous.”
The Frontgate catalog got my attention with “100s of best-made gifts” instead of “hundreds” and
“1,000s” instead of “thousands.” That just looks silly. Otherwise, a tasteful brochure, filled with good ideas. This isn’t
one of them: a $500 treadmill—for pets. How will I ever get Rover to use his treadmill when mine was gathering dust six weeks after I bought it?
Among Gump’s tree ornaments is a comely reindeer wearing a chic cocktail gown. And what brightens up a Christmas tree more than an
exquisite hand-blown … fried egg on toast?!?
has some interesting entries in the ornament sweepstakes, including blown-glass kitties in bow ties and terriers in tutus. But this year’s undisputed
champion of all ornaments is Grandinroad’s kissing fish. The fish has big blue eyes with coquettish long lashes, and puckering, collagen-pillow lips
ablaze with a garish smear of scarlet lipstick. A tank of famished piranhas might not be as festive but would certainly be less disturbing.
The catalog of the Smithsonian Institution devotes two pages to its Jacqueline Kennedy Collection, including the “Jackie Kennedy
Sunglasses” and the “Dual Faux Pearl Floral Leaf Pierced Earrings.” Do we even want to know who out there still sports the Jackie look?
Finally, a holiday quiz. What do these words culled from Christmas catalogs refer to: carbide, cinder, daybreak, eclipse, fig, flag, fog, fossil, gargoyle,
lava, lichen, lily pond, mallard, moonlight, muleskinner, Nero, oasis, picante, saddle, sprig, thunder, tobacco. Hint: they’re not rejected first
names for Sarah Palin’s kids. They’re colors!?! … “Remember our first Christmas, darling? You were standing in my
muleskinner foyer, your mallard hair perfectly matching your gargoyle dress. I wore tobacco slacks and a Nero tie with fossil stripes to complement the
warm earth tones of my carbide cape.”
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
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Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.