Johnny Grimond on Robins at Christmas
If there’s something in the air this Christmas – along with, I hope, plenty of peace and goodwill – it may be a robin. True, many seasonal robins will be on Christmas cards, but some will be on the wing. When they alight, and especially if it’s cold, some of these may be round robins, red-breasted, fluffy and puffed up. They should not be confused with other round robins, often typewritten, boastful and also puffed up. At Christmas, the robins share their roundness with other singers, ‘carollers’, who probably get their name from the Greek word choros, a circling dance in Attic plays. The flute-players in those plays were known as choraules, a word the Romans put into their own language unchanged except for the lettering. From it, the people of northern France coined the word carol, which meant ‘to dance in a ring’. We use it to describe songs...
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