Posted by: Jack Henry | October 31, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Happy Hallowe’en

My friend, Kara, is always thinking ahead, and last week, she suggested that I might want to dedicate today’s Editor’s Corner to the topic of Halloween. Since we focus on grammar, not haunts and ghouls, I’ll concentrate on a spelling- and punctuation-related issue.

Did you know that until the end of the 18th century, Halloween was spelled Hallow-E’en, Hallow E’en, or Hallowe’en? The Online Etymology Dictionary has this entry:

…the word and the magical lore about the date were popularized by [Robert] Burns’ poem (1785, and he attached a footnote explaining it), but it probably dates to 17c. in Scotland and is attested as the name of a tune in 1724. The tune is mentioned again in an English-Scots songbook ("The Chearful Companion") in 1783, and Burns was not the first to describe the customs in print.

Hallow-E’en, or Holy Eve, is the evening previous to the celebration of All Saints. That it is propitious to the rites of divination, is an opinion still common in many parts of Scotland. [John Main, footnote to his poem "Hallow-E’en," Glasgow, 1783]

Hallow is a noun that means holy person or saint. E’en is a shortening of the noun even, and it means the end of the day or evening, which we have shortened even further to eve. We use eve to designate celebrations that take place in the evening of the day before another holiday.

Halloween takes place on the night before All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day (November 1). And, therefore, Halloween is also sometimes referred to All Saints’ Eve or as All Hallows’ Eve.

If you want to know where the dressing up and begging for candy comes from, Wikipedia has an interesting article. You may not be surprised to learn that it’s another delicious idea that we got from our British forebears.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

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