Auld Lang Syne
So what the heck does auld lang syne mean, anyway? People all over the English speaking world raise glasses, smooch, or eat a dozen grapes while singing or listening to that enigmatic song.
We of the English-speaking world have the Scots to thank for the phrase, & Robert Burns to thank for popularizing it (though others had put the phrase to paper before Burns).
Auld lang syne is translated in several ways, among them: times long ago, times long since, old times gone… At the end of the year we “raise a cup of kindness to” all the events that preceded the toast. Whether the events were good or bad, the song entreats us to look upon them kindly, then make our way into the new year wiser for having experienced those times.
Auld was an Anglo-Saxon term that means old. Born in the 1300s, it survives today, still spelled auld in Scottish. Its Anglo-Saxon root meant aged, antique, primeval, experienced, or adult. Auld has its roots in a verb meaning to grow or nourish. Auld’s relatives include the words elder, eldest, alto, alumni, adult, adolescent & alumnus. Though many languages make a clear distinction between adjectives used for “old” inanimate things & those used for “old” sentient beings, auld (& its modern pal, old) can be applied to both.
Lang translates to long, something that extends considerably from end to end. It also showed up in English in the 1300s. Its relatives include along, lunge, lounge, linger, prolong, elongate, longitude, & longing, & ling (as in ling cod).
Syne means since. Syne showed up in Scottish in the 1300s. Oddly, it took a couple of centuries for its equivalent, synnes or syns, to appear in English, and another century or so for those spellings to morph into since. It means from the time when, or as a consequence of the fact that. Over time its relatives appear to have faded away, leaving it an etymological orphan.
May you have superb good fortune this year, especially when it comes to looking kindly upon past events & looking forward to an auspicious future.
Feel free to leave a comment if inspired to do so.