Is It Tis The Season Or ’Tis The Season?

’Tis the season to be jolly! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. Great, now we’ll be singing that song for hours. To keep our minds preoccupied, let’s go back a second and look at the word ’tis. What the heck does this word mean, and is it supposed to have an apostrophe in it? What are we even saying when we say ’tis the season anyway? Let’s try to solve this mystery before we lose our holiday cheer and become a mean ol’ Grinch.

What does ’tis mean? 

’Tis, as in ’tis the season is an old—very old—contraction of it is. The apostrophe replaces the i in the word it to create ’tis. Because it is a contraction, ’tis needs an apostrophe. Saying ’tis the season is the same as saying it is the season.

According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, the contraction ’tis was a fan favorite in the early 1700s. At this time, it was likely used more often than it’s.

WATCH: 'Tis the Season To Learn More About 'Tis

Why is ’tis used?

’Tis is known as a proclitic. This is a word that “is closely connected in pronunciation with the following word and does not have an independent accent or phonological status.” All that is to say, ’tis was probably so popular because it was easy to say (it really does just roll of the tongue), especially if you needed to express yourself in a hurry or in the lyrics of a catchy tune.

Looking to revitalize your holiday cards with more than the usual Merry Christmas? Try one of these jolly phrases instead, fit for the festive season.

Why do we say ’Tis the season?

Even though ’tis had been in (popular) use since the 1700s, it wasn’t until 1862, when “Deck the Halls” was released, that ’tis got into the holiday spirit. In the song, the word ’tis is the first word of the second line, which is ’Tis the season to be jolly. Keeping in mind that ’tis is a contraction of it is, then we see that this line means “it is the season to be jolly.” Unless you’re a real Scrooge, you’ll probably agree that the holidays are the time to be jolly.

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The “Deck The Halls” melody was originally sourced from a Welsh New Year’s Eve tune called “Nos Galan.” The English-language version of the song lyrics were written by Thomas Oliphant. Singing Christmas carols like “Deck the Halls” is an old tradition that is believed to have come from the even older Anglo-Saxon tradition of wassailing, which involved toasting people and wishing them good fortune. Wassailing was part of the celebration of the new year or the winter solstice. One method of wassailing involved going door-to-door while singing merry songs in the hopes that a homeowner would offer food or an alcoholic drink.

Shakespeare and Charles Dickens had both used the contraction ’tis in their writing before Oliphant wrote the lyrics to “Deck the Halls,” so maybe he decided to channel the literary greats by using the contraction in his writing, as well. He also decided to make the song about Christmas when he wrote the lyrics, so maybe ’tis just had that cheerful vibe he was looking for. Either way, ’tis is now a staple of our festive lingo.

Review these effective ways to ask friends and family to donate to a cause meaningful to you, during the holiday season or any significant time of the year.

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