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New Year celebrations – the meaning of Auld Lang Syne

nullWe’re now a week into 2013 and should have all just about recovered from the New Year celebrations…

In the UK, and in many other English speaking countries around the world, friends and family gather together at the stroke of midnight to hold hands and sing the traditional Scottish folk song, Auld Lang Syne, but how many of us actually know the lyrics well enough to sing along and do we truly understand the meaning of the song?

As Big Ben begins to chime at midnight we cross our arms and link hands with those around us ready to sing Auld Lang Syne, but you’ll often find that Auld Lang Syne sounds more like one big mumble rather than a well known song. It’s a song which we’ve become accustomed to singing every year on New Year’s eve, but not a song which we’ve ever learned the words to! In a survey conducted in 2011 it was found that 37% of the British population don’t know any of the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne and that 75% of the population are unable to sing a whole verse!

So, for those of us who mumble, here they are, the original lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, and a modern day English translation (in case you are wondering what on earth the song is about!):

ORIGINAL

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind? 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 

And auld lang syne!  

For auld lang syne, my jo, 

For auld lang syne, 

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 

For auld lang syne.   

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp! 

And surely I’ll be mine! 

And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, 

For auld lang syne.  

We twa hae run about the braes, 

And pu’d the gowans fine; 

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot, 

Sin auld lang syne.  

We twa hae paidl’d I’ the burn,

Frae mornin’ sun till dine; 

But seas between us braid hae roar’d, 

Sin auld lang syne.  

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! 

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught, 

For auld lang syne.  

For auld lang syne, my jo, 

For auld lang syne, 

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 

For auld lang syne.

MODERN TRANSLATION

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind? 

Should old acquaintance be forgot, 

And times gone by.  

For times gone by, my dear,

For times gone by, 

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, 

For times gone by.  

And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug! 

And surely I’ll buy mine!

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, 

For times gone by.  

We two have run about the hills, 

And pulled the daisies fine; 

But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot, 

Since times gone by.  

We two have paddled in the stream, 

From morning sun till dine; 

But seas between us broad have roared, 

Since times gone by.  

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend! 

And give us a hand of yours! 

And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will, 

For times gone by.  

For times gone by, my dear, 

For times gone by, 

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, 

For times gone by.

 

Where did Auld Lang Syne come from and what does it mean?

Auld Lang Syne is a poem which was written in 1788 by Scotsman, Robert Burns, and is sung along to the tune of a popular folk song. It was first sung on New Year’s Eve in Scotland, but the tradition soon spread to the rest of the UK, and then to other parts of the world. The poem recalls the kindness and love of days gone by and calls for a toast to the past. As well as being sung to mark the end of one year and beginning of another, Auld Lang Syne is also sung at the end of other events including Scottish dances, Scottish Burns supper and Passing Out Parades in the Royal Navy. It is also occasionally sung at farewell parties, graduations and funerals.

We’d love to hear about your New Year celebrations. Get in touch using the comments box below!

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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