Final Word

We have to skedaddle into 2016 after the goodbyes of 2015


As we all skedaddle to get things going for the new year of 2016, the best I can wish to our readers is that the goodbye at the end of 2015 will come true.

It is well worth to consider what we are really saying when we bid one another “goodbye” as we part ways, like in the early hours of the first day of the new year after a night of celebrations.

Sources differ somewhat on the exact date on which ‘goodbye’ made its first appearance in the English language, with the earliest date being 1565 and the latest 1575. Its roots, however, date back to much earlier.

‘Goodbye’ is one of those relatively rare words that developed as a contraction of a whole expression.
In ancient times it became traditional among early Christians to use the expression “God be with ye (you)” or “may God be with ye” as a farewell when parting ways.

The first recorded evidence of the transition from the expression to a single word dates back to 1573 when the English author and scholar Gabriel Harvey wrote in a letter: “To requite your gallonde of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howdyes.”

It is presumed that over time, under the influence of expressions like ‘good evening/night’, ‘good morning’ and ‘good day’ the ‘God’ part of the word became ‘good’.

It is also likely that for some time the two variants of the word, ‘godbye’ and ‘goodbye’ overlapped. While ‘goodbye’ is dated as around 1565 or soon thereafter, a recorded quote from 1959 still uses ‘godbye’, as does Harvey in his 1573 letter.

The tradition to wish the company of God onto someone as a way for saying farewell is also not unique to English. The Spanish farewell ‘adios’, literally translates as ‘to God’.


But as we all know, after the relaxed leisure time of the summer holidays and end of year festivities, the blessing wished on us will not just happen. Often it is quite a scramble to get things properly up and running again to meet the challenges of the new year.

Often, as we say our goodbyes to friends and family at the end of the holiday time, we will tell them that we have to ‘skedaddle’ home to get things ready for the grind of the year ahead.

Based on the way the word ‘skedaddle’ falls on my ear I would have guessed that the word is of Scandinavian or maybe Scottish origin.

It turns out there are quite a number of different claims over many years about the origin of the word. The final word probably belongs to Oxford Dictionaries that stated: “Mid19th century: of unknown origin.”
How thin some of the evidence on the origin of the word is, is illustrated by a post by one Ann Althouse on her blog spot in 2012, claiming “I discovered the etymology of skedaddle”.

And her evidence: “What I discovered is that it’s a compression of the phrase ‘Let's get out of here.’ I discovered it by saying it quickly and interacting with someone who didn't at first catch what I’d said.”
What does seem fairly certain is that the word came into general use during the American Civil War.

According to The word detective ‘skedaddle’ first appeared in written accounts of battles in that war, used to mean “to retreat quickly; to flee”. And “… as the word quickly percolated into civilian usage, it came to mean simply ‘to leave quickly’ or ‘to run away’.”

Theories about its origin include the importation into English of one of various Swedish or Danish words, the Irish word sgedadol, meaning ‘scattered’, or the Scottish skiddle, meaning ‘to spill or scatter’, due to the strong presence of Scottish and Irish descendants involved in that war.

Be that as it may, I now have to skedaddle to get the first edition of The Intelligence Bulletin for 2016 ready to go online.

by Piet Coetzer

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