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In this year's update to the New York Sun's famous 1897 "Yes, Virginia" editorial, "'Marginal' Santa Believer Puts Out Cookies After Trump Chat", AP 12/26/2018:

A 7-year-old girl who talked to President Donald Trump on Christmas Eve still left out milk and cookies for Santa despite the president telling her it was "marginal" for a child of her age to still believe.

Then again, Collman Lloyd of Lexington, South Carolina, says she had never heard the word "marginal" before.

You can see and hear Donald Trump's side of the conversation here, and Collman Lloyd's side, with the president on speakerphone, here.

Combining the first few of the president's lines from the White House pool video with the portion of the exchange covered by the Lloyd family video, we can reconstruct this transcript of the exchange:

Donald Trump:   How are you doing? How old are you, Collman?
Is everything good? You doing well in school?
That's great. What are you doing to do for Christmas?
Collman Lloyd: Probably
put out some cookies and then we're hang-
we're hanging out with our friends so that's pretty much all.
Donald Trump: Well that's very good well you just have a good time
Collman Lloyd: Yes sir.
Donald Trump: Are you still a believer in Santa?
Collman Lloyd: Yes sir.
Donald Trump: Cause at seven it's marginal, right?
Collman Lloyd: Yes sir.

The reaction to the president's comment has been generally negative. Some of the snarkier Twitter reaction:


  1. D.O. said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 9:40 am

    Yes, south Carolina, Donald Trump is the president.

  2. The Other Mark P said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

    Americans like their children to believe in Santa until quite late. Personally, I wasn't into lying to my children, so we never let them believe in him. (To be clear, we still had Santa, it's just that they didn't believe he was real. We had to give explicit instructions that they were not to blab at school though.)

    In New Zealand we use litotes a fair bit. A rugby player putting in an "ordinary" performance has played really badly, for example.

    "Marginal" to me, in the sense Trump used it, means "basically wrong". And I fully endorse the sentiment.

    [(myl) My interpretation of marginal in this context is that belief is Santa is normal for a four-year-old, too childish for a ten-year-old, and thus marginal for a seven-year-old. And probably there's an implicature for listeners, "isn't she too old for that?" ]

  3. Rick Rubenstein said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 7:16 pm

    I have discovered a truly remarkable proof that Santa is real which is unfortunately too long to be marginal.

  4. mg said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

    @Rick Rubenstein wins this comment thread.

  5. Rick Rubenstein said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 7:57 pm

    Thank you sir!

  6. Viseguy said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 1:23 am

    Trump uses "big" words, like marginal, with 7-year-olds who don't understand what they mean, but mainly small words, like "lock her up", with people who are old enough to understand big words. It's all so maddeningly perverse.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 5:49 am

    I agree with both MVL's analysis (in his response to the other Mark P) and with MG's nomination of Rick Rubenstein as holder of the best-comment-in-this-thread award, but in the context of childish beliefs, for me, as a child, Christmas was the most wonderful/magical thing in the world — I would lie awake on Christmas Eve, unable to sleep because of my need to try to see Santa in the flesh, and I recall hearing him in my bedroom on at least one occasion very clearly. I also remember how heartbroken I was when my parents finally told me that Father Christmas did not exist. The feeling was exactly like one of bereavement — I had lost someone whom I loved with all my heart and soul, and with it I lost my childhood innocence forever. I don't think anyone should tell a child (or even imply to a child) that Santa does not exist — childhood innocence is so precious, and should be preserved for as long as is humanly possible.

  8. Martha said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

    Philip Taylor, are children who never believe in Santa in the first place lacking in childhood innocence?

    For children who do believe in Santa, learning he isn't real isn't THE loss of childhood innocence, but simply a notable landmark.

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 5:03 pm

    Philip Taylor: In line with what Martha says, telling a child that Santa exists guarantees that that moment will come. I'd add that I don't see the value of postponing it. Maybe the child will be more able to handle the disappointment, but on the other hand maybe it will come from others who think the child is too old for such a belief, and will be accompanied with mockery that rubs salt into the wound.

  10. Michael said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 7:31 pm

    Interestingly, it was only AFTER I stopped believing in Santa that I started staying awake all night on Xmas Eve, eagerly anticipating all the presents my parents would put under the tree. I suppose this speaks to my materialistic nature.

  11. The Other Mark P said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 9:13 pm

    Christmas was the most wonderful/magical thing in the world

    Fair enough, but belief in Santa is not required for this. Our children loved Christmas, and indeed Santa, but believing him to be a real person was not required for that.

    You might want to study children sitting on Santa's knee a bit more. A lot of them are frankly terrified.

    I also remember how heartbroken I was when my parents finally told me that Father Christmas did not exist.

    So by endorsing telling children a lie, you know that you are endorsing breaking their hearts?

    I find that … marginal.

  12. Rodger C said,

    December 28, 2018 @ 9:07 am

    According to my mother, I came to her when I was four (I would have been nearly five) and told her I'd figured out Santa didn't exist, because all the presents in the world couldn't fit into one bag. This no doubt says something about me.

  13. Rose Eneri said,

    December 28, 2018 @ 11:19 am

    As a child, I loved everything about Christmas despite the fact that I don't ever remember believing in Santa. However, I do remember feeling obligated to pretend that I did believe in front of adults. So basically, I felt it was my responsibility, as a child, to care for the feelings of the adults. Rather the opposite of how things should be!

    I do have a vivid memory from my time in first grade (I know it was first grade because this is the only year I went to this particular school). I was 6 years old. It was before Christmas and a group of my classmates were earnestly talking about Santa coming. I remember looking at them and wondering how these kids could still be so clueless.

    It is beyond me why parents would intentionally lie to their kids over something so patently false, except perhaps, as an experiment in IQ development.

  14. tangent said,

    December 28, 2018 @ 11:37 pm

    Regardless of whether one believes the Santa myth is good or bad (debate away), perhaps we would agree that proselytizing your position to other's children is not a done thing.

  15. Suburbanbanshee said,

    December 29, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

    If you don't play folkloric role-playing games with your children at home, who will they do It with?

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