The Unexpurgated Jingle Bells

Everyone knows Jingle Bells.  It’s one of those traditional songs of the season.

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way (HA-HA-HA!)

Everyone knows the words though few of us these days know – really – what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh (hey!).  It’s one of those songs that seems to show up – year after year – in Christmas pageants, school functions and the like.  Jingle Bells was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont who happened to be a Unitarian.  Because of this “special” connection to the song, we sang the complete version of Jingle Bells in Children’s Chapel on Sunday morning.

Before you ask, the complete song does not include any references to Batman.  It does, however, mention a certain Miss Fanny Bright whose name elicited at least as many giggles as the Dark Knight would have.

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot


I thought it was a typo at first, but – no, it rhymed.  A couple of the other teachers were looking up from their lyric sheets, as upset about upsot as I was.  It turns out this was a real word back in the day, 1800’s slang for “capsized” (thanks once again, Wikipedia).

I suppose there’s something to be said about singing the complete and unedited version of Jingle Bells.  From the perspective of a trivia buff, it was interesting to find out I didn’t know the whole song.  However, I think the forgotten verses are best left that way.  They take away from the Currier and Ives image the first verse gives us.  They would have been more at home in a Beach Boys song about driving fast and getting girls.  None of them were particularly well written and – frankly – didn’t hold up well.  If I need an extended version of the song, I think I’ll stick with Robin laying an egg.

It’s tradition.


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