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
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.
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
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.
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