Who first said "long time, no see" and in which language? : code switch : npr

Long time no see” or “Long time, no see” is an English expression used as a greeting by people who have sầu not seen each other for a while. Its origins in American English appear to lớn be an imitation of broken or pidgin English,<1> và despite its ungrammaticality, it is widely accepted as a fixed expression. The phrase is a multiword expression that cannot be explained by the usual rules of English grammar due to the irregular syntax.

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<2> It may derive sầu ultimately from an English pidgin such as that spoken by Native sầu Americans or Chinese, or an imitation of such. The lexicographer Eric Partridge notes that the phrase is akin to “no can do” và “chop chop“.<3>


An early use of the phrase, though not as a greeting, is from Lieut.-Colonel James Campbell’s Excursions, Adventures, và Field-Sports in Ceylon (published 1843):

“Ma-am—long time no see wife—want go to Colombo see wife.”<4>

The earliest appearance of the phrase “long time no see” in print recorded in Oxford English Dictionary dates khổng lồ 1901, found in W. F. Drannan’s Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, in which a Native sầu American man is recorded as greeting the narrator by saying, “Good morning. Long time no see you.”<1> This example is intended to lớn reflect usage in American Indian Pidgin English.

The phrase is often portrayed as originating either in Native American or in Chinese pidgin English. It may be compared khổng lồ the Cantonese phrase 好耐冇見 (Jyutping: hou2noi6 mou5 gin3) và the Mandarin phrase 好久不見 (Trad.) / 好久不见 (Simp.), or hǎojiǔ bù jiàn (Pinyin), which is translated literally as “long time, no see” (or, word for word, “very long-time no see”). If from Chinese pidgin, it may be of US Chinatown origin, or alternatively British Far East. Alternatively, it may have been coined by native sầu speakers in imitation of Native American pidgin (as in the pidgin used in cinematic portrayals, as in the language spoken by the character Tonto in the 1930s).<3>

Who First Said “Long Time, No See” And In Which Language?

How many times has the average person been greeted with the phrase “long time, no see” after running into lớn an old acquaintance? My guess is plenty. But how and why did such a grammatically awkward phrase become a widely accepted part of American speech?

It turns out there are, at least, two strong possibilities.

The first time “long time, no see” appeared in print was in the 1900 Western “Thirty-One Years on the Plains và in the Mountains, Or, the Last Voice from the Plains An Authentic Record of a Life Time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West, by William F. Drannan. That last part of the novel’s very long title is relevant here, as it gives a good indication of the kind of story Drannan wanted to lớn tell.

According khổng lồ the Oxford English Dictionary, Drannan used the phrase lớn describe an encounter with a Native American he had previously met, “I knew he had recognized me. When we rode up khổng lồ hlặng he said: ‘Good morning. Long time no see you,’ và at the same time presented the gun with breech foremost.”

The phrase would be used in a similar way in Jeff W. Hayes’ Tales of the Sierras, another Western published in 1900. Once again, the phrase was attributed to lớn an American Indian, “Ugh, you squaw, she no long time see you: you go home page muthân phụ quichồng.”

While Drannan’s book was the first time this exact phrase appears in print, the exact origins of “long time, no see” are the subject of ongoing debate among linguists & historians.

The second widely accepted etymological explanation is that the phrase is a loan translation* from the Mandarin Chinese phrase “hǎojǐu bújiàn”, which means exactly “long time, no see.”

Eric Patridge’s “Dictionary of Catch Phrases American & British traces the term to the early 1900s, but says it has Asian origins và was brought baông xã khổng lồ Engl& by members of the British Navy, who picked it up through the pidgin English used by the Chinese people they encountered.

There is a separate tài khoản that lends weight lớn this latter theory except that it involves members of the U.S. Navy. An excruciating letter published in Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy, Volume 13 includes the following:

“Then Ah Sam, ancient Chinese tailor, familiarly known as ‘Cocky,’ after taking one good look at the lieutenant said, ‘Ah, Lidah, you belong my velly good flkết thúc. Long time no see you handsome facee."”

As the Applied Applied Linguistics blog points out in the debate over whether “long time no see” has Native sầu American or Chinese origins. “The earliest written usages are all native sầu English speakers ‘reporting’ the speech of non-native speakers, from about 1840-1915. … The literature of that era is rife with stylized English attributed to non-native sầu speakers — can we trust it?”

As the 20th century progressed, “long time no see” began to lớn evolve sầu from a phrase in broken English to a standard way lớn greet an old acquaintance. By 19đôi mươi, the phrase makes it into Good Housekeeping magazine. The novemenu Raymond Chandler used it in more than one of his books. In Farewell, My Lovely, Moose Malloy drolly tells his ex-girlfrikết thúc Velma, “Hiya, babe. Long time no see.” And in 1949, the poet Ogden Nash published his poem “Long Time No See, Bye Now” in The New Yorker. The poem introduces us khổng lồ Mr. Latour, “an illiterate boor” who “calls poor people poor instead of underprivileged.”

Today, the phrase “long time no see” is so widespread as a greeting that there’s nothing lớn indicate the term’s origins, be they Native sầu American or Mandarin Chinese.

Given its ubiquitous usage in books, conversations, movies, songs & television programs, the phrase is now widely identified with American culture. So much so that it was included in Ya Gotta Know It!: A Conversational Approach to lớn American Slang for the ESL Classroom. Long time, no see has gone from pidgin English lớn entrenched, American English slang in little over a century.


Greeting is an act of communication in which human beings intentionally make their presence known to each other, to lớn show attention lớn, and khổng lồ suggest a type of relationship (usually cordial) or social status (formal or informal) between individuals or groups of people coming in liên hệ with each other. Greetings are sometimes used just prior to a conversation or to lớn greet in passing, such as on a sidewalk or trail. While greeting customs are highly culture– và situation-specific và may change within a culture depending on social status và relationship, they exist in all known human cultures. Greetings can be expressed both audibly và physically, & often involve sầu a combination of the two. This topic excludes military and ceremonial salutes but includes rituals other than gestures. A greeting, or salutation, can also be expressed in written communications, such as letters and emails.

Some epochs and cultures have sầu had very elaborate greeting rituals, e.g. greeting a sovereign. Conversely, secret societies have sầu often furtive or arcane greeting gestures & rituals, such as a secret handshake, which allows members khổng lồ recognize each other.

In some languages và cultures, the same word or gesture is used as both greeting and farewell. Examples are “Good day” in English, “Sat Shri Akaal” in Punjabi, “As-Salamualaikum” in Arabic, “Aloha” in Hawaiian, “Shalom” in Hebrew, “Namaste” in Hindi and “Ciao” in Italian. The bow và handshake are also used for both greeting and leave-taking.

A greeting can consist of an exchange of formal expression, kisses, handshakes, hugs, và various gestures. The khung of greeting is determined by social etiquette, as well as by the relationship of the people.

Beyond the formal greeting, which may involve sầu a verbal acknowledgment & sometimes a handshake, facial expression, gestures, body toàn thân language, & eye liên hệ can all signal what type of greeting is expected.<1> Gestures are the most obvious signal, for instance, greeting someone with open arms is generally a sign that a hug is expected.<2> However, crossing arms can be interpreted as a sign of hostility. The facial expression, body language, and eye contact reflect emotions and interest màn chơi. A frown, slouching & lowered eye tương tác suggests disinterest, while smiling và an exuberant attitude is a sign of welcome.

Many different gestures are used throughout the world as simple greetings. In Western cultures, the handshake is very comtháng, though it has numerous subtle variations in the strength of grip, the vigour of the shake, the dominant position of one hand over the other, và whether or not the left h& is used.

Historically, when men normally wore hats out of doors, male greetings lớn people they knew, và sometimes those they did not, involved touching, raising slightly (“tipping”), or removing their hat in a variety of gestures. This basic gesture remained normal in very many situations from the Middle Ages until men typically ceased wearing hats in the mid-20th century. Hat-raising began with an element of recognition of superiority, where only the socially inferior buổi tiệc nhỏ might perkhung it, but gradually lost this element; King Louis XIV of France made a point of at least touching his hat lớn all women he encountered. However, the gesture was never used by women, for whom their head-covering included considerations of modesty. When a man was not wearing a hat he might touch his hair to the side of the front of his head khổng lồ replicate a hat-tipping gesture. This was typically performed by lower classmen to lớn social superiors, such as peasants khổng lồ the land-owner, & is known as “tugging the forelock”, which still sometimes occurs as a metaphor for submissive behaviour.

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The Arabic term salaam (literally “peace”, from the spoken greeting that accompanies the gesture), refers khổng lồ the practice of placing the right palm on the heart, before and after a handshake.

In Moroccan society, same-sex people don’t greet each other the same as vì chưng opposite sex. While same-sex people (men or women) will shake hands, kiss on the cheek và even hug multiple times, a man và woman greeting each other in public won’t go further than a handshake. Which is due lớn the Moroccan culture that is quite conservative. Verbal greetings in Morocco can go from a basic salaam, khổng lồ asking about life details khổng lồ make sure the other person is doing good.<3>

A Chinese greeting features the right fist placed in the palm of the left h& & both shaken bachồng & forth two or three times, it may be accompanied by a head nod or bow. The gesture may be used on meeting and parting, và when offering thanks or apologies.

In India, it is common to see the Namaste greeting (or “Sat Sri Akal” for Sikhs) where the palms of the hands are pressed together và held near the heart with the head gently bowed.

Adab, meaning respect and politeness, is a hand gesture used as a Musllặng greeting of south Asian Muslims, especially of Urdu-speaking communities of Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabadi Muslims, Bengali Muslims and Muhajir people of Pakisrã. The gesture involves raising the right hand towards the face with palm inwards such that it is in front of the eyes và the fingertips are almost touching the forehead, as the upper torso is bent forward. <4> It is typical for the person lớn say “adab arz hai“, or just “adab“. It is often answered with the same or the word “Tasleem” is said as an answer or sometimes it is answered with a facial gesture of acceptance.

In Indonesia, a nation with a huge variety of cultures and religions, many greetings are expressed, from the formalized greeting of the highly stratified and hierarchical Javanese lớn the more egalitarian and practical greetings of outer islands.

Javanese, Batak and other ethnicities currently or formerly involved in the armed forces will salute a Government-employed superior, và follow with a deep bow from the waist or short nod of the head and a passing, loose handshake. Hand position is highly important; the superior’s hvà must be higher than the inferior’s. Muslyên men will clasp both hands, palms together at the chest and utter the correct Islamic slametan (greeting) phrase, which may be followed by cheek-to-cheek contact, a quick hug or loose handshake. Pious Musllặng women rotate their hands from a vertical to lớn the perpendicular prayer-like position in order to barely touch the fingertips of the male greeter & may opt-out of the cheek-to-cheek liên hệ.

If the male is an Abdi Dalem royal servant, courtier or particularly “peko-peko” (taken directly from Japanese lớn mean obsequious) or even a highly formal individual, he will retreat backwards with head downcast, the left arm crossed against the chest & the right arm hanging down, never showing his side or baông chồng to his superior. His head must always be lower than that of his superior. Younger Muslyên males và females will clasp their elder’s or superior’s outstretched hand lớn the forehead as a sign of respect and obeisance.

If a manual worker or a person with obviously dirty hands salute or greets an elder or superior, he will show deference lớn his superior and avoid tương tác by bowing, touching the right forehead in a very quick salute or a distant “slamet” gesture.

The traditional Javanese Sungkem involves clasping the palms of both hands together, aligning the thumbs with the nose, turning the head downwards và bowing deeply, bending from the knees. In a royal presence, the one performing sungkem would kneel at the base of the throne.

A gesture called a wai is used in Thái Lan, where the hands are placed together palm lớn palm, approximately at nose cấp độ, while bowing. The wai is similar in form to the gesture referred khổng lồ by the Japanese term gassho by Buddhists. In Xứ sở nụ cười Thái Lan, the men & women would usually press two palms together và bow a little while saying “Sawadee ka” (female speaker) or “Sawadee krap” (male speaker).

Native American Pidgin English

Native American Pidgin English (AIPE) was an English-based pidgin spoken by Europeans and Native Americans in the United States. The main geographic regions AIPE was spoken in was British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington.

AIPE is mentioned in World Englishes as one of many factors influencing American English.

Native American Pidgin English is much more similar to lớn English than many other English-based pidgins, and could be considered a mere ethnolect of American English.

The earliest variety of Pidgin English to lớn appear in British North America is AIPE. AIPE was used by both Europeans & the Native Americans in the liên hệ situation & is therefore considered khổng lồ be a true pidgin. A pidgin language is made up of two languages sometimes spoken by only one group, but because AIPE was spoken by both groups some would say this makes it a true pidgin. The European people are the ones who taught the Native Americans how to lớn speak English so they could develop AIPE together. This helped them communicate more efficiently.

Native American Pidgin English’s phonology is characterized primarily by decreasing the English phonemic record, through definite exchanges và the loss of some phonemes, together with other distributed phenomemãng cầu.


Unknown. Attested US 1901, presented as pidgin English by a Native American. Possibly a calque of Cantonese, comparable to no can do or chop-chop – if so, most likely US Chinatown origin, alternatively British Far East such as Hong Kong. Alternatively, native American origin, or native coinage as pidgin, particularly in cinematic portrayals of native sầu Americans; compare language used by Tonto (1930s).

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Loan translation

Loan translation, the Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the term as “a compound, derivative sầu, or phrase that is introduced inkhổng lồ a language through translation of the constituents of a term in another language (as anh kiệt from German Übermensch).”

Derived terms

Long time, no smell“Long time, no smell” used as an affectionate greeting. (Hawaiian youth usage. US, 1982)<5>.