The Twelve Days of Christmas are, of course, the twelve days after Christmas. However, by that time everybody will have stopped singing. So this post must go up five days before Jesus and Mary began their stable relationship, thus giving you five days to stride around sounding clever.
I assume, dear reader, that if you love anybody truly you have been off spending your savings on partridges, turtle doves, French hens and the like. This is all right and proper, but don't whatever you do buy them a pear tree, four calling birds or five gold rings, for these are all linguistic illusions.
Diligent and paleomnesiac readers of this blog will remember that the Old French for partridge was pertis (meaning fart) and the pear tree of the song is almost certainly a confused anglicisation of pertis to pear-tree.
Similarly, there is no such thing as a calling bird; but a colly bird is a blackbird because colly (from coal) means black.
Finally, the gold rings. I hope you have not already bought them, dear amorous reader, or that if you have you have kept the receipt.
Let's have a look at the list for the first week, shall we?
3) French hens
4) Calling [colly=black] birds
5) Gold rings
6) Geese a-laying
7) Swans a-swimming
All birds. Notice the odd one out? Neither did I, for the gold rings are almost certainly ring-necked pheasants, or ring pheasants as they used to be called. The gold would be the colour of the wings, or perhaps the female plumage.
Or the rings could be ring-bills, ring-birds, ring-blackbirds, ring-buntings, ring-dotterels, ring-pigeons, ring-plovers, ring-sparrows or ring-thrushes. There's a veritable aviary of birds that could be called rings and that, given the feathered context, is what the song is about.
As an oven-ready pheasant costs four quid, you could have saved yourself a lot of money by consulting me before consulting the jeweller.
Oven-ready, dear reader, oven-ready.