Long Time

If you haven’t seen someone for a while, you might greet them by saying “long time no see”. Have you ever wondered where that phrase comes from?

Long time no see

According to NPR, if was first used in print in 1900 in a book by William F. Drannan called Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, Or, the Last Voice from the Plains An Authentic Record of a Life Time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West – a nice snappy title. In the book the phrase is used in the following context:

“I knew he had recognized me. When we rode up to him he said: ‘Good morning. Long time no see you,’ and at the same time presented the gun with breech foremost.”

Another idea is that it is comes from Chinese phrase 好久不见 [好久不見] (hǎojǐu bújiàn), which means “quite a while, not see/meet”.

The character (jǐu) means ‘(long) time’, and appears in Japanese equivalents of the phrase: 久しぶり (hisashiburi) and お久しぶりですね (o hisashiburi desu ne). In this context, the ぶり (buri) part, which can also be written 振り, means after (a period of time), again or for the first time in (a period of time) [source].

always appears in expressions like:

  • 久しい (hisashii) = long (time that has passed), old (story)
  • 久々 (hisabisa) = (in a) long time, long time (ag), while (ago)
  • 久しく (hisashiku) = for a long time, for ages, for a good while
  • 久懐 (kyūkai) = long-cherished hope
  • 久闊 (kyūkatsu) = not having met or contacted someone for a long time; neglect of friends​ [source]

There’s a nice equivalent of this phrase in Russian: Сколько лет, сколько зим! (Skol’ko let, skol’ko zim!), which means literally “How many years, how many winters!”.

How to say ‘long time, no see’, or something similar, in many languages: https://omniglot.com/language/phrases/longtimenosee.htm.

Good Pickaxes

In French when you make a good guess or choice, you are said to be making une bonne pioche or literally “a good pickaxe” [source].

Claes Oldenburg

The word pioche [pjɔʃ] means pickaxe, and also a stock or pile of undealt cards in a card game, and chance or luck. It comes from pic (woodpecker, pick), from the Vulgar Latin *piccus (sharp point, peak, spike, pike), from the Latin pīcus (woodpecker, griffin), from the Proto-Italic *pikos, from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)peyk- (woodpecker; magpie), or from the Vulgar Latin *pīcca (pickaxe, pike), possibly from the Frankish *pikkōn (to peck, strike), from the Proto-Germanic *pikkōną (to pick, peck) [source].

Here are some examples of how pioche and related words are used:

  • faire une mauvaise pioche = to pick the wrong card
  • manche de pioche = pickaxe handle
  • pioche de jardinage = garden hoe
  • piocher = to dig up, to take from the pile, to take a card
  • piocher dans = to dip into
  • piocher pour qch = to cram for sth

Are there any interesting equivalents of this phrase in other languages, or any pickaxe-related phrases?

Together Living

A Dutch word I learnt recently is samenleving [‘samənlevɪŋ], which means society or community. It comes from samenleven (to live together, co-exist), from samen (together) and leven (to live), and could be literally translated as “together-living” [source].

Wonder All Around

Some related words include:

  • anderhalvemetersamenleving = ‘one and a half meter society’, in which (almost) everyone keeps a distance of one and a half meters where possible to prevent the spread of an infectious disease (especially Covid-19)’ [source]
  • wegwerpsamenleving = ‘throw away society’, in which using things once then throwing them away is normal [source]

The English word society comes from the Middle French societé (society), from the Old French societé (association, council, group, society, club), from the Latin societās (fellowship, association, alliance, union, community), from socius (associated, allied, partner, companion, ally), from the Proto-Indo-European *sokʷ-yo- (companion), from *sekʷ- (to follow) [source].

English words from the same PIE root include associate, consequence, obsequious, persue and sequel [source].

The English word community comes from the Old French comunité (community), from the Latin commūnitās (community; public spirit), from commūnis (common, ordinary, universal, public, democratic) [source].

In Old English a community was a gemænscipe [ˈjeˌmæːnˌʃi.pe], which is cognate with the Dutch word gemeenschap (community, society, fellowship) and the German word Gemeinschaft (community, group, company, sense of community). These come from the Proto-West Germanic *gamainiskapi (community), from *gamainī (common, shared, communal) and *-skapi (forms nouns denoting state) [source].

Dawning

A Dutch I learnt recently is uitdaging [ˈœy̯tˌdaː.ɣɪŋ], which means a challenge. It comes from uitdagen (to challenge), from uit (out, off, over), and dagen (to dawn, light, rise, start, call).

Dagen comes from the Middle Dutch dāgen (to dawn, rest (a horse), delay, summon), from the Old Dutch *dagon, from the Proto-Germanic *dagāną [ˈdɑ.ɣɑː.nɑ̃] (to dawn, to become day) [source].

dawn

The Scots word daw [dɑ:] (to dawn) comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, via the Middle English dawen and the Old English dagian (to dawn), as does the obselete English word daw [dɔː], which means to dawn, wake up, daunt or terrify [source].

The word dawning, a poetic word for dawn or the first beginnings of something, comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, and from it we get the word dawn (to begin to brighten with daylight, to start to appear) [source].

Jackdaw

The unrelated word daw is an old name for the jackdaw (Coloeus monedula), and also means idiot, simpleton or fool. It comes from the Middle English dawe, from the Old English dāwe, from the Proto-Germanic *dēhǭ (jackdaw), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰākʷ- (jackdaw, starling, thrush) [source].

Daw is also found in Scots, and means a sluggard; a lazy, idle person; a slattern, a drab or an untidy woman, and comes from the jackdaw sense of daw [source].

Rush Reeds

The French word for daffodil is jonquille [ʒɔ̃.kij], which comes from the Spanish word junquillo (jonquil, rattan, strip of light wood, gold necklace), from junco [ˈxunko] (rush, reed, junk), from the Latin iuncus (rush, reed) [source].

Jonquilles

The English word jonquil [ˈdʒɑŋkwəl/ˈdʒɒŋkwəl] refers to a fragrant bulb flower (Narcissus jonquilla), a species of daffodil, or a shade of yellow, and comes from the same Latin root, via French and Spanish [source].

The English word junk also comes from the same Latin root, via the Middle English junke (old cable, rope) and the Old French jonc (rush) [source].

In Danish and Norwegian a daffodil is a påskelilje, which means literally “Easter lily” [source]. In German they are called Osterglocke (“Easter bell”) or Narzisse (narcissus) [source].

By the way, I wrote a post about words for daffodil in English, Welsh and other Celtic languages a while ago.

Unapologetic Accents

According to a story on the BBC News, a performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It wasn’t to the taste of one member of the audience at the Theatre Royal in York, who objected to Yorkshire accents being used, left during the performance and later asked for a refund.

The company responsible for the play, Northern Broadsides, said that its performances contained “unapologetic northern voices”, and the manager of the theatre apparently said “That’s Yorkshire accents, right here in Yorkshire”.

Here’s a trailer for the performance:

What is the world coming to when a theatregoer is subjected to northern accents in a Shakespeare play?

As everybody knows, Shakespeare should be performed with Received Pronounciation (RP), not with any other accent. After all, that’s how actors in Shakespeare’s time spoke, isn’t it?

Well no, English sounded it bit different back then, and many rhymes and puns in Shakespeare work in reconstructed Original Pronunciation (OP), but not in RP. Here’s an example of the differences between RP and OP:

The actor here is Ben Crystal, and his father, David Crystal, reconstructed the Original Pronunciation of Shakespeare, and is a honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, where I studied.

More about OP: