The Language Research Team at Cambridge University Press have investigated the language surrounding Christmas and they have confirmed that the way we talk about the festive season has become increasingly consumerist.
The researchers have reviewed more than 2 billion words from their English Language Corpus and compared the language we use about Christmas today with data collected in the 1990s. They found that twenty years ago, people across the English-speaking world were far more likely to mention carols, pantomimes, pudding, stockings and crackers when they referred to Christmas.
But today, the words sales, spend, shopping and retailers were amongst the most highly associated with Christmas.
The study identified that excess is now on our minds in more ways than one. The words party, goodies, bash, frolics and knees-up were also all on the rise in the more recent data… and we’re paying the price. Since the 1990s, hangover has become one of the 50 top words commonly associated with Christmas.
Laura Grimes, Language Researcher at the Press, said: “With wall-to-wall advertising from retailers and increasing mentions in the media, we would expect to see a rise in the frequency of materialistic words in the recent data.
“What is surprising is how prominent the influx of these words has been and how they now account for such a significant proportion of the words used in association with Christmas. If that appears a depressing finding, we can take heart from the fact that Father Christmas, tree, cards and decorations remain amongst the most common language associations with the holiday season.”
The Cambridge festive study is still ongoing with the team continuing to gather more data in the run up to Christmas. The aim of this research is to identify the countries where people are most and least excited about the festive season and how our moods change throughout the holidays. A visual representation of the real-time data from social media can be found here: seasonsgreetings.cambridge.org.