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Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

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January 8, 2012 by Alison Grisham

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The last evening of the year is upon us — we’ll all whine about parties we’d rather not attend, squeeze into clothes that are a little too tight and at midnight we’ll all sort of sing the words to a song that we don’t really know. Ahh, the New Year! So filled with promise.

This year I’m making my resolution early. I’m learning the words to Auld Lang Syne before 2012 arrives. If I actually complete the task before the New Year, I’ve succeeded. If I don’t, well, it’s not really the New Year yet, is it? So technically I’m off the hook. Either way, I’ve exponentially cut down on my chance of failure.

To complete my mission, I went online to find the lyrics to this old holiday classic. Up until now, my entire knowledge of Father Time’s favorite song was gleaned from too many viewings of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Now if we’re being honest, we all know that 80 percent of Americans think the lyrics are “Old Ang’s Ine.” We mouth the words and hope no one will notice, or hope that someone else will drown us out. And after a couple of martinis, this is sound reasoning. The thing is — and I say this with caution since I hate to out anybody — last year the guy standing next to me was definitely singing “Old Hang Line.” This is what prompted my mission.

After researching the subject extensively I have two questions. What the “H-E-double hockey sticks” does this song mean? And why are we still singing it?

First, it turns out that the original song is from a Scottish poem written about 250 years ago. I was fine with this since I’m about 1/16th Scottish and have a thing for the Celtic nations. But the reason that none of us can understand the words, is because part of them were never translated to English. Hey, that would have been nice to know. I could’ve worked with that and I bet Mr. Old Hang Line could’ve too. We thought we were searching for English words.

But that only explains why the song is so weird. It doesn’t explain why we still try to sing it. Can’t we come up with anything better? I mean, really. Has anyone even made an effort?

In case you’re wondering, here are the song lyrics.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne. 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 two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.

I think it’s important for me to say at this point that, as it turns out, I wasn’t just fuzzy on the chorus. I had the first verse wrong, too. I thought it was “should old acquaintance be forgot and never hard to find,” or possibly, “should old acquaintance be forgot and never far behind.” Either way, my lyrics are better. I never even took a stab at the remaining verses and frankly, I’m glad, cause this song isn’t worth remembering.

If it’s supposed to mean that you don’t want to forget your old friends, and that you’re sort of toasting to the past, explain to me why the people in the song are buying their own drinks. And if no one is buying anyone else a drink, how did this ever get to be a popular song we sing on New Year’s Eve?

I give up. I’m off to investigate why we’re supposed to eat black eyed peas and if I don’t do any better, I’m just skipping New Year’s all together and moving right on to Ground Hog Day. At least that holiday comes with a movie that make the day worthwhile.

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