'Bah! Humbug!'? What is humbug?

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge. ‘Humbug! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money?  For finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer?'

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For Scrooge (and Scrooge McDuck!) Christmas is 'humbug'. In the modern sense of the term, 'humbug' is roughly synonymous with the more recent 'virtue signalling'. In other words, insincere or hypocritical speech aimed at gaining social acceptance.

Was Scrooge an early opponent of virtue signalling? Not exactly. Scrooge's complaint is more against the idea of charity itself. He sees this as a fraudulent commercial trick aimed at 'picking a man's pocket'.  The poor, he argues, are the responsibility of the prisons and workhouses.

This view contrasts with that of Scrooge's nephew, Fred:
'Christmas is a good time - a kind, forgiving, charitable time'

But what is a humbug?

In British English, a striped candy/sweet. It's boiled and hard enough to crack a tooth. Dentists cry, 'Bah! Humbug! - all the way to the bank! 

A Christmas Carol Audiobook & Reader (£2.50)

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