Thursday, 27 August 2009

Don't cry for me, Clishmaclaver

I am moving from Chambers to pastures new, so the time has come for me to say goodbye.

Many people don’t like to say goodbye as it seems too final – it holds no inherent suggestion that there will be another meeting. Indeed, the word itself is a contraction of the words ‘God be with you’: divine protection must be called upon to guide you through an unknown future. This wish for people to be safe after they have left you is reflected in farewell, while a similar entreaty for God’s care is made in adieu, addio and adios, from the French, Italian and Spanish respectively, all meaning ‘to God’.

Is it because we are reluctant to imply a potentially permanent separation that many other, more optimistic, foreign farewells have been borrowed into the English language? The French au revoir, the German auf wiedersehen, the Italian arrivederci and Arnie’s Terminator 2 special from Spanish, hasta la vista, all mean ‘until we meet again’. Two other ways to say goodbye in Spanish are hasta luego [see you later] and hasta mañana [see you tomorrow].

Mañana itself is a very vague term which is defined (as far as possible) in the upcoming Chambers book, The Untranslatables. It could be translated as ‘tomorrow’, the day that follows today, but there is a strong possibility that in most parts of the Spanish-speaking world, mañana refers to some indefinite time in the future. Arabic goes one step further with the word bukra, which has been described as being ‘like mañana… but without the same sense of urgency’.

Of course, heartrending though it may be, it is always better to say goodbye than overstay one’s welcome. The Untranslatables warns of that terrible beast, la pedze. Coming from the Swiss patois word for ‘resin’ or ‘glue’, this word refers to someone who stays too long in one place, or to someone who cannot drag themselves from the table after a meal, and especially to a guest who long overstays his welcome.

And on that note, I shall quote the The Sound of Music and say: so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

Naomi Farmer

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John Ward said...

Goodbye, we'll miss you - not farewell, but fare forward, voyager.

Rafael Torrubia said...

I'll miss these little missives from the electro-ether. As the prophet of Lake Wobegone used to say, be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Naomi Farmer said...

These little missives will still be here... just not penned by me. The rest of the Clishmaclaver team are still alive and well, although they do not have the same charming habit of highlighting words in both bold and red so I'm sure you will miss that aspect of these posts.

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