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Author Topic: "So long" for "goodbye."
Dara bhur gCara
As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Buy Now Pay Later


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It has just occurred to me that "So long," which is of course a slang term for "goodbye," sounds very like the Irish "slan," which means "goodbye."

I reckon the former must be derived from the latter, although I have no evidence to suggest that one way or the other. Does anyone know anything about this phrase's etymology?

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This wrinkle in time, I can't give it no credit, I thought about my space and it really got me down.
Got me so down, I got me a headache, My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound


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Stoneage Dinosaur
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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It looks like so long is one of those phrases with unknown etymology but several possible explanations:

The Online Etymology Dictionary states that so long may be of German or Scandinavian origin, and may also be from the Hebrew shalom.

quote:
"Dictionary of American Slang" also adds to the list of candidates Ir. slan "health," said to be used as a toast and a salutation.


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"You learn something new every day if you're not careful" - Wilf Lunn

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Nonny Mouse, on Santa's laptop
Once in Royal Circuit City


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Interesting. I always kinda thought it had something to do with the length of time before one expected to see the other person again, and thus I would never use it unless taking leave of someone for an extended period.

Nonny

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When there isn't anything else worth analyzing, we examine our collective navel. I found thirty-six cents in change in mine the other day. Let no one say that there is no profit in philosophy. -- Silas Sparkhammer

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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Interesting, like Nonny I had this phrase pegged as a contraction of, perhaps 'Don't let it be so long until next time..." etc etc

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

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Dara bhur gCara
As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Buy Now Pay Later


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While the link Stoneage Dinosaur posted does offer other, and equally plausible alternatives, it is interesting that it appears to have simultaneously appeared in the US, Canada and the UK in the 1850s. Which would have been shortly after large-scale Irish and predominantly Gaelic-speaking immigration into those countries, during and following the Irish Famine.

Edit:

This is just nonsense however:

quote:
"Dictionary of American Slang" also adds to the list of candidates Ir. slan "health," said to be used as a toast and a salutation.
[/QB][/QUOTE]

"Slainte" is the word used as a toast. "Slan" just means "cheerio."

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This wrinkle in time, I can't give it no credit, I thought about my space and it really got me down.
Got me so down, I got me a headache, My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound


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RealityChuck/Boston Charlie
The First USA Noel


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The OED leans toward a German origin, akin to the phrase "so lange."

It would seem to come from something like "I haven't seen you in so long" or "It will be so long before we meet again."

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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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First, I have to get this out of my system, and I'm sure I'm not the only one:
quote:
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

I hate to go and leave this pretty sight

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu

Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu

So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen

I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye -- Goodbye!

I'm glad to go, I cannot tell a lie

I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly

The sun has gone to bed and so must I

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

Whew. I'm glad that's out. Onward.

I always assumed "so long" was a variation of the sentiments we find in "au revoir," "auf Wiedersehen," "Пока," etc. such as "for so long as we don't see each other." Though it's possible "so" is a mutation of "see."

pinqy

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Don't Forget!
Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Oh no, pinqy's started singing... drown him out, quick!

quote:
So long, Marianne,
It's time that we began
To laugh and cry and cry and laugh
About it all again...


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Dactingyl
Anchovy of a 1000 Days


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I assumed the same, something to do with the length of time until you see someone. I do wonder if people look too deep into explanations for phrases sometimes.

I also wouldn't really describe it as slang either.

The cornish use a word 'dretley' (sp??) which seems to mean later. My Dad reckons this comes from a combination of 'directly' and them being lazy. I'm not so convinced....

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Dactingyl is meant to sound a bit like Christingle.

It's not very good but I couldn't think of anything else.

Sorry.

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Dara bhur gCara
As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Buy Now Pay Later


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quote:
Originally posted by Dactyl:
I assumed the same, something to do with the length of time until you see someone. I do wonder if people look too deep into explanations for phrases sometimes.




I don't think I am in this instance, however. I mean, the two word phrase "so long" is meaningless in and of itself. It's only because of context that we understand it to mean 'goodbye.'

quote:

I also wouldn't really describe it as slang either.



Okay. What would you describe it as? It's not a phrase whose meaning is immediately apparent without context.

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This wrinkle in time, I can't give it no credit, I thought about my space and it really got me down.
Got me so down, I got me a headache, My heart is crammed in my cranium and it still knows how to pound


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Dactingyl
Anchovy of a 1000 Days


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Slang:
1. A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of short-lived coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.
2. Language peculiar to a group; argot or jargon: thieves' slang.

To be honest I don't think "So long' would fit into either of those definitions particularly well.

I'd describe it as a 'turn of phrase' although I'm not sure that is any more accurate.

Just 'cause the meaning of something isn't instantly obvious I don't think it's wise to immediately class it as slang. "On the ball" is similar, you and I both know what it means but to quote you "It's not a phrase whose meaning is immediately apparent without context", I've come across many non-native English speakers who have had trouble (understandably) with such phrases.

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Dactingyl is meant to sound a bit like Christingle.

It's not very good but I couldn't think of anything else.

Sorry.

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Alex Buchet
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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"So long, it's been good to know ye..." --Woody Guthrie

I had always heard that 'so long' originated as British colonial soldier's slang, derived from "Salaam".

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Floater
Xboxing Day


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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Buchet:

I had always heard that 'so long' originated as British colonial soldier's slang, derived from "Salaam".

That doesn't explain why we use it in Swedish as well "Hej så länge!".

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Små hönor skall inte lägga stora ägg för då blir de slarviga i ändan

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Alex Buchet
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Well, you Svenskers shouldn't have annexed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq. Tsk, tsk.
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ninetynine
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by Dara bhur gCara:
While the link Stoneage Dinosaur posted does offer other, and equally plausible alternatives, it is interesting that it appears to have simultaneously appeared in the US, Canada and the UK in the 1850s. Which would have been shortly after large-scale Irish and predominantly Gaelic-speaking immigration into those countries, during and following the Irish Famine.

Edit:

This is just nonsense however:

quote:
"Dictionary of American Slang" also adds to the list of candidates Ir. slan "health," said to be used as a toast and a salutation.


"Slainte" is the word used as a toast. "Slan" just means "cheerio." [/QB]

Slan may not be a toast, but it does mean health, or safe depending on context. Slan leat (health go with you) Slan agat(health stay with you) and go dte tu slan( go safely), and the word slainte is certainly related.

I never made the "so long" connection. It's quite interesting.

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
That doesn't explain why we use it in Swedish as well "Hej så länge!".
The vikings occasionally went that far, so they might have picked it up.

Worth noting is also that the Swedish usage is more correctly translated as "for now" or sometimes "meanwhile", even if a direct word by word translation would be "so long". We use that phrase in other circumstances than goodbuys. Examples:

"Jag väntar här så länge" - "I wait here (mean)while (you are doing your thing)"

"Det här får funka så länge" - "This'll have to work for now"

But also occasionally as the direct translation:

"Så länge jag lever" - "As long as I'll live"

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/Troberg

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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"So long, Old Paint, I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne...."

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"No hard feelin's and HOPpy New Year!"--Walt Kelly
Hear what you're missing: ARTC podcasts! http://artcpodcast.org/

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