Worth repeating

Hyperlink, schmyperlink.  I’m reposting my “decoder ring” for Robert Burns’ most famous song.

Why decode?  People who sing Auld Lang Syne, especially those who do so only once a year, don’t always know what the song’s about. The lyrics are in Scots–a language or dialect* of Lowland Scotland (as distinct from the Gaelic [Gaidhlig] of the Highlands).

* “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.”
— Max Weinrich

Also, overexposure tends to deaden perception.  Especially in the U.S., we associate the song with noisemakers and incoherent New Year’s Eve singing.

I like revisiting the song.  Auld lang syne (“old long since”) means something like “the days that are past,” and especially “the times that we remember.”  In a way, Burns is celebrating the treasure of a shared experience.

(For extra credit:  “Syne” is pronounced like “sign.”  No Z sound.  There’s a demo below the lyrics.)

What Burns wrote The gist
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
These are rhetorical questions:
– Should we forget old friends and never think about them? 
– Forget old friends along with everything that’s past?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Not at all–in fact, we’ll still have a drink together for the times gone by.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
(I know) you’re good for your drinks ( “be your pint-stowp” — “pay for your tankard” ), and you know I’m good for mine. We’ve still got that drink to share for the times gone by.
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.
We two have run along the hillsides
And picked the lovely daisies together–
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot
since the times gone by.
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.
We two have paddled in the stream
From dawn till dusk
But broad seas have roared between us
Since those times gone by.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught
For auld lang syne.
So, here’s my hand, my trusty friend
And give us (= give me) yours
We’ll take a good, hearty drink
For all the times gone by.

Here are two versions, both sung by Eddi Reader at the opening of the Scottish Parliament’s new building. First she solos with a traditional but less-well-known melody, then has the assembly join in.

Bliadhna mhath ùr (Happy new year).