Long Time No See, Auld Lang Syne

Proverbs Commonly Attributed to Chinese

Chinese Proverbs

This train of clicking around and browsing started when I told someone “long time no see,” which a teacher had told me is good Chinese grammar. I think it’s a literal translation of the Chinese characters, but a bad translation into English. In English, I would say, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.” Hao3 jiu3 bu4 jian4 is the Mandarin. It’s beautiful because Chinese can be so simple and elegant like the answer to a math problem. But translating character by character doesn’t communicate all the meaning that resides in those four characters.Hao: a plentiful/good amount, jiu3, a long time, so a really long time combined, but the emphasis has been over-used, like “hen hao” and “hen duo” (very good, very much) to mean just the first degree of the superlative. Then, bu4, the negative, then jian, which is like the common phrase, “zai jian” which is “goodbye,” and means “see, meet, observe,” almost like rendez-vous in French. The “bu4 jian4” is a iodomatic for “missing” and literally “not in sight.” So in English, how would this be different than, “You’ve been missing for a long period of time.” or “You haven’t been in sight for a long period of time.” “Where have you been keeping yourself?” Anyways, in English we put meaning in tons of words, in Chinese, the characters all have a lot of history. And compound characters have more meaning as well. As an English speaker I’d like to see more nuances in the translations into English.

On a box of firecrackers my brother in law bought yesterday in Chinatown, the English translation was: Drou grou. Drop to ground. In China the English translations were so bad, and in a way we were thinking they just drop letters every once in a while, like I get a stroke wrong in a character. It can’t make that big of a difference, right? hahaha.

As one garage sign said, “U Good!” ????

Robert Burns, Scotsman, poet. I made some people in the Terracotta museum in Xi’an, who claimed to be from Robert Burns’ hometown, recite his poetry. One guy actually had some on hand that he read by heart.

..And in commemoration of NYE:


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’1l be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

Robert Burns