Friday, 12 October 2012
Goodbye, Adios, Adieu
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
Now to my word;
It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't.
Says Hamlet in a phrase that sounds terribly significant but doesn't actually go anywhere. Mind you, I've always had a private theory that the lines:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Might be adieu and not a dew. But all this is beside my etymological point. Adieu is a contraction of the old French parting A dieu vous commmant, which means I commend you to God. It's a kind sentiment, but French people weren't very kind and couldn't be bothered to say the whole thing. Spaniards were similarly lazy and A dios vos acomiendo became simply Adios.
But English people are the unkindest and laziest of all. 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 dropped the th in with, so Costard says
I thanke your worship, God be wy you.
By the time he had got round to writing Othello in the first decade of the seventeenth century, it was printed as God b'uy, I ha done - although my Arden Edition expands this to a full God be with you to make up the iambic pentameter.
These days we just say Goodbye, or even just bye.