A few days ago, I completed a phone conversation with a stranger by saying, “See ya later.” As I later considered what I had said, I had to wonder if that person thought the parting comment strange.
After all, I had never met that person face-to-face, don’t even know where the call was answered, and most likely will never have a need to call there again. So, why would I end the call that way?
It seems that my usual parting salutation is either “see ya later,” “so long” or, more often than not, simply “goodbye.” Very rarely have I said farewell to anyone, but I have on occasion.
Not being content to ponder just the words or phrases themselves, I needed to know the origin of each. So, to the internet I went to attempt to discover where the phrases came from and perhaps why we use them.
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The origin of “so long” seems to be from the German parting salutation “adieu so lange” or maybe from the Hebrew word for peace “shalom,” and possibly from the Swedish phrase “hej så länge.” (https://www.etymonline.com/)
Regardless of its origin, use of “so long” in the United States seems to have begun in the mid-19th century. The phrase can be found in an 1860 poem written by Walt Whitman, who later defined it as, “A salutation of departure, greatly used among sailors, sports, & prostitutes — the sense of it is ‘Till we meet again,’ -- conveying an inference that somehow they will doubtless so meet, sooner or later.” (William Sloane Kennedy, “The Fight of a Book for the World,” 110)
The term “farewell” seems to have been in existence since perhaps the Middle Ages. A rough definition would be fare (to fare, travel or journey) added to the speaker’s wish that the leave-taking be accomplished well.
There are comparable terms found in various Norwegian languages as well as German, all meaning about the same thing.
I seem to remember a Paul Harvey broadcast from several years ago, in which he discussed the use of the term “goodbye.” Apparently, a famous English university had forbidden the use of this slang word in any commencement address and, during the 16th century, it was thought to be in poor taste to say “goodbye” — a truncated version of “God be with ye.”
Today, it is quite common to wish others a good morning, a good day, a good evening, or a good night. We find that saying goodbye is a very pleasant way of asking for a blessing upon those who are departing or those we are leaving.
I began writing weekly columns for this newspaper in August 2014. I signed on with the understanding that I was only filling in until a full-time editor could be assigned for the task.
While there will probably not be a regular editorial as such, there are several talented columnists out there who are quite willing to contribute.
This is my 175th and last column for this space. It has been a real treat for me to be allowed to express my opinions on a wide variety of topics and to give you a peek into some areas of my personal life.
I have enjoyed the emails and phone calls that I have received through the years — even the few that did not agree with my views.
I’m not retiring from the business world, simply stepping back from producing these ramblings. It is my sincere desire that I have inspired a spirited discussion, or given some crucial insight on a current issue, or perhaps inspired a bit of happiness.
At any rate, I hope you have enjoyed these columns as much as I have enjoyed preparing them.
So long, farewell and goodbye!
David Coffelt is a Harrisonville area resident and his email address is email@example.com.