A very short (dull) history of Goodbye..


Whilst sniffling with this wretched cold and waiting for the kettle to boil , I was thinking about Hamlet – in particular this odd phrase.
“Now to my word;
It is ‘Adieu, adieu! remember me.’
I have sworn ‘t”.

Adieu is a contraction of the old French parting A dieu vous commmant, which means I commend you to God. It’s rather a nice sentiment, but the French couldn’t be arsed to say the whole thing. Likewise the Spaniards were similarly idle and A dios vos acomiendo became simply Adios.

But the English are the laziest of the lot. Once upon a time we used to say God be with you. By about 1590 when Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost we had already dropped the th in with, so Costard (the clown) now says

I thanke your worship, God be wy you.

Just a few years later when he was writing Othello , the “the” seems to have had finally bitten the dust. When it was printed in 1603 , the phrase now appeared as God b’uy, I ha done – although my Arden Edition happily expands this to a full God be with you to make up the iambic pentameter.

Although these days we just say Goodbye, or more often than not just ” bye”

There, I told you it was dull !

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