Auld Lang Syne

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Auld Lang Syne (Eng: times gone by), by Robert Burns, is one of the best known songs in English-speaking countries. Yet, it is sometimes referred to jokingly as "the song that nobody knows", since many people can recall the melody easily but know only a fraction of the words, perhaps because it is written in the Scots language.

It is usually sung each year on New Year's Day (Hogmanay in Scotland) in the United Kingdom, the United States and English speaking Canada at midnight and signifies the start of a new year. It is also used as a graduation song and a funeral song in Taiwan, symbolizing an end or a goodbye. In Japan, many stores play it to usher customers out at the end of a business day. In the United Kingdom, it is played at the close of the annual Congress (conference) of the Trades Union Congress. Before the composition of Aegukga, the lyrics of Korea's national anthem was sung to the tune of this song. Also, before 1972, it was the tune for the Gaumii salaam anthem of The Maldives (with the current words). The University of Virginia's fight song (The Good Old Song) also carries the same tune. In Portugal, this song is used to mark a farewell, especially in the boy scout movement.

It has also been used on other occasions as a farewell. One occasion that falls in this category was in October 2000, when the body of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau left Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the last time, going to Montreal for the state funeral.

History

Auld Lang Syne was transcribed and published by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, based on earlier Scots ballads. Robert Burns forwarded a copy of the original song to the British Museum with the remark, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man's singing, is enough to recommend any air." The tune Burns suggested is not the tune we use today.

Scots Auld Lang Syne translates literally to English old long since, but can best be translated as times gone by. In Scots the word syne is pronounced similarly to the English word sign, (IPA Template:IPA) — not zine [zaIn] as many people sing it.

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Day is a Scottish custom. As Scots emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

Bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the association of the song with New Year, through his annual broadcasts on radio and TV, beginning in 1929. However, he did not invent or first introduce the custom. The ProQuest newspaper archive has articles going back to 1896 that describe revellers on both sides of the Atlantic singing the song to usher in the New Year. Two examples:

New York Times, Jan 5, 1896. p. 10 HOLIDAY PARTIES AT LENOX [Mass.]. ... The company joined hands in the great music room at midnight and sang "Auld Lang Syne" as the last stroke of 12 sounded and the new year came in.

Washington Post, 1910-01-02. p. 12 NEW YEAR'S EVE IN LONDON. Usual Customs Observed by People of All Classes. ... The passing of the old year was celebrated in London much as usual. The Scotch residents gathered outside of St. Paul's Church and sang "Auld Lang Syne" as the last stroke of 12 sounded from the great bell.

Other uses

In the Indian Armed Forces the band plays this song as the farewell song, during the passing out parade of the recruits. The recruits would be marching in slow time when the tune is played.

The University of Virginia fight song (The Good Old Song) is sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

The meter of this song (technically "common meter double" or 8-6-8-6-8-6-8-6) is identical to that of America the Beautiful. The two songs can be sung perfectly with lyrics interchanged.

The song is sung by James Stewart, Donna Reed, et al. during the emotion-filled closing scene of the movie It's a Wonderful Life.

Popular songwriter George M. Cohan referenced it at the end of this song's chorus:

But should auld acquaintance be forgot / Keep your eye on the Grand Old Flag.

Parody songwriter Allan Sherman included this fairly obvious joke in a medley called Schticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other, the main point being that he pronounced it correctly:

I know a man whose name is Lang / And he has a neon sign / And Mr. Lang is very old / So they call it Old Lang's Sign!

The musical Auld Lang Syne was written by Hugh Abercrombie Anderson under the pen name Hugh Abercrombie.

In his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language, Matthew Fitt uses the phrase "In the days of auld lang syne" as the equivalent of "Once upon a time".

External links

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