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January 01, 2010
First of all, a Happy New Year to you all, which, as you know, is one of our oldest holidays dating back to the ancient Babylonians some 4000 years ago.
Robert Burns, I’m sure, would no doubt be shocked that you, I and hundreds of millions around the globe have rung out the old year with a little song he sent to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788, with this note:
“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."
Although the words, Auld Lang Syne, date back to the 16th century in the poetry of Robert Ayton and later to Allan Ramsay, it's fair to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.
So what does it all mean?
The Scottish title means, "old long since," or more idiomatically, "long long ago" or "days gone by."
The English translation reads:
"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?"
Which is not much clearer.
As Billy Crystal asked, in “When Harry met Sally:”
“I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?”
The drinking part of the song is a lot clearer:
"And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! And surely I’ll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne."
We've raised many a cup, since Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played it for the first time at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on December 31, 1929.
I won't intrude on your day any further, what with the bowl games, the annual "Twilight Zone" marathon and thinking about your (Babylonian inspired) New Year’s resolutions.
Only to say, when it comes to "old acquaintance," ours will never be forgot.
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