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Long time no see

刊登日期: 2019.03.08
作者: Grace Tse  

How do you normally greet someone who you have not seen for some time? Examples include “How are you?” “How is everything?” “Long time no see.” Out of these three commonly-used fixed expressions, do you find the last one ungrammatical in the English language? 

It is true that the casual greeting “long time no see”(or “long time, no see”)is not formed of a complete sentence structure. Scholars have tried hard to find the origin of this informal expression. 

There are two possible origins of this fixed expression. Some scholars said that it might have been spoken by native North American Indians(北美印第安人). However, many scholars disagreed and argued that its origin was related to a loan translation from the Chinese language(好耐冇見;好久不見) when many Chinese immigrants lived in the USA in the 19th century. 

One of the earliest printed versions appeared in British Lieutenant-Colonel James Campbell’s “Excursions, Adventures, and Field-Sports in Ceylon” in 1843. However, it was not used as a greeting. 

“Ma-am—long time no see wife—want go to Colombo see wife.” 

“Long time no see” is an example of pidgin English developed from a mixture of Chinese and English. Since it was used many centuries ago to tease immigrants in the Western countries who spoke English as a second language, today some Westerners are worried that this expression might be offensive or racist to Asian people. However, nowadays this phrase is popularly used among English-speaking people. There is no point to be over-sensitive as long as the speaker does not have any bad intentions.  

 

Glossary 
Loan translation 
借譯
Immigrants 
移民
Greeting 
問候話
Pidgin 
混雜語言
Offensive 
冒犯無禮
Racist 
種族歧視的
Over-sensitive 
過度敏感
Intentions 
意圖

 

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