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Monthly gleanings for October 2019

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Parting formulas I received a question about the origin of French adieu and its close analogs in the other Romance languages. This question is easy to answer. The word goes back to the phrase à Dieu “to God,” which is the beginning of the longer locution à Dieu commande, that is, “I commend (you) to God” or, if we remain with French, “je recommande à Dieu.” The European parting formulas are of rather few types. They may be like Engl. fare well (as in Byron’s 1816 poem: “Fare thee well, and if for ever, still for ever, fare thee well”). Latin vale, the imperative of the verb valēre “to be strong or well,” carries the same message. The practice of commending, that is, recommending one to God (à Dieu = ad deum) goes back to Christianity. French adieu enjoyed some popularity even outside France. Thus, it (or its northern variant adé) migrated to Germany. In rapid speech, its possibly Wallonian variant adjuus (sounding close to Spanish adiós) yielded the almost unrecognizable word tschüs. German Gott befohlen carries the same message as adieu. God may also be invoked elsewhere. Thus, Russian spasibo (stress on the second syllable) “thank you” goes back to spasi Bog ‘God save you’. Other than that, consider Engl. see you soon and goodbye. See you soon is reminiscent of German auf Wiedersehen, a possible calque of French au revoir “until we see each other again.” Goodbye is an alteration of the phrase God be (by) you. Good has been substituted for God in it. Good day, good evening, and so forth have the same origin. Since a simple question from our correspondent has resulted in a full-fledged digression, I may mention the well-known fact that the origin of the English formula so long, unlike the origin of all the previous ones, is enigmatic. The phrase surfaced in print only in the middle of the nineteenth century and is, most likely, an Americanism. Its foreign origin is nearly certain, and several lending languages, from Hebrew (via Yiddish) to Irish, have been. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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