Thursday, December 12, 2013

So Long!

Steve from Cadillac, Michigan, asked why we say “so long” when we are leaving someone’s presence.  He also asked if there might be a connection to shalom.

So long is said in parting from someone. It is probably a shortened version of something like “God be with ye (goodbye) so long as we are apart.” One of the first uses found in print is in Walt Whitman’s Leaves off Grass, the 1860 edition.

“An unknown sphere, more real than I dream’d, more direct, darts awakening rays about me – So Long!”

In 1923, Whitman’s friend William Sloane Kennedy wrote that Whitman had written to him with the following explanation:

“A salutation of departure, greatly used among sailors, sports, and prostitutes – the sense of it is ‘Till we meet again,’ – conveying an inference that somehow they will doubtless so meet, sooner or later.”

It probably came to English from German, where so lange was used. The Hebrew shalom, which can mean both hello and goodbye, is connected. Norwegian has så lenge, and Swedish has så länge.

SIDEBAR:  Sound of Music

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