Friday - - Mind Games -

All com­mu­ni­ties and na­tion­al­i­ties have cus­toms for when they part. More uni­ver­sal than gift-giv­ing is the prac­tice of ut­ter­ing a part­ing word or phrase. If you were to pause and re­flect you’d re­alise that whether the visit or meet­ing went well or not, you wish the per­son only well on de­par­ture since you don’t know when you’ll see him or her next.

As a nat­u­ral con­se­quence of those sen­ti­ments, the phrase it­self would make ref­er­ence to peace, good­will and God’s pro­tec­tion. Take ‘Bye!’ for in­stance – such a ubiq­ui­tous word heard ev­ery day in speech and seen ev­ery­where in writ­ing. Of course you al­ready know that it’s an ab­bre­vi­ated form of ‘Good­bye’, but you may not know that ‘Good­bye’ in turn is a short ver­sion of ‘God be with ye’.

Some lan­guages have a com­mon phrase for both hello and good­bye, such as ‘Aloha!’ in Hawaii; usu­ally the loose or generic trans­la­tion is sim­ply ‘Greet­ings!’ ‘Marhaba!’ in Ara­bic is an­other ex­am­ple (one et­y­mo­log­i­cal source analy­ses it to mean ‘God love’ from ‘Mar’ and ‘haba’). And ‘Peace’, as in ‘salaam’, re­mains the em­pha­sis in for­mal greet­ing, though it fig­ures promi­nently in both the hello part (‘As salaam alaikum’) and the good­bye bit (‘Ma’as salama’).

Those of the younger set who like to sound cool are fond of ut­ter­ing for­eign phrases in greet­ing. A huge favourite is ‘ciao’, which serves as both hello and good­bye, while re­serv­ing ‘ar­rived­erci’ for older folk or more for­mal sit­u­a­tions. Or so you might think. How­ever, Italy ex­pert Jes­sica Spiegel, writ­ing on the web­site Italy­logue.com, clar­i­fies ciao’s ety­mol­ogy on a cau­tion­ary note. She says it has its roots in the Vene­tian di­alect, where the phrase ‘s-ciào vostro’ meant ‘I am your slave’! While it wasn’t taken lit­er­ally among the Vene­tians who used it with one an­other (it sim­ply meant ‘if you need any­thing, let me know’), it’s a word (she says) that’s used among close friends or peer groups and there­fore best left to the Ital­ians.

So, on that note, dear reader, so long, farewell, auf wieder­se­hen, adieu, sayonara and the rest of it. This is Dr Chan­drashekhar’s last col­umn for us. Watch out for our new-look page in the re­vamped Fri­day next week – Karen

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