Auld Lang Syne – What are we saying?

As we said goodbye to 2014 and welcome in 2015 tonight, I’m sure many of us will sing the traditional “Auld Lang Syne.”

I aim to watch the ball drop in Times Square and join in to sing. Of course, there’s no guarantee I won’t fall asleep, as I’m prone to do long before midnight. But I can always watch the re-run.

Like everyone else, I’ll fumble and mumble through the verses, singing the chorus much louder. It’s the part I know best.

And once again, I’ll wonder what I’m singing like Harry Burns, played so well by Billy Crystal, did in When Harry Met Sally.

“My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances? Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?”

This year I decided to figure out the answer to those questions. Since I broke my right wrist the Saturday before Thanksgiving and had surgery on Tuesday before turkey day, I’ve been doing more reading than typing anyway.

What I discovered is “Auld Lang Syne” translates to “times gone by.” Robert Burns wrote the 1700’s Scottish poem, which was then set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Round # 6294).

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You can find the original words here.

These are the words translated from the Scottish dialect in case you want to impress someone tonight.

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot and old lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup and surely I’ll buy mine! And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine; but we’ve wandered many a weary foot since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream from morning sun till dinner; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend and give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

While Burns never intend for the words to be a holiday song, today it is well known for bidding farewell to an old year at the stroke of midnight. It’s also used at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians have credit for popularizing the song during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929. CBS broadcast the first half of his performance and, after midnight, NBC broadcast the second half. Between the two performances, his band segued by playing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Thus a tradition was born.

And, if you want to practice before your New Year’s Eve celebration  or, know you’ll be fast asleep at midnight like me, try singing along with this YouTube video featuring Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians from 1947.

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