Long time no see in "proper" English

Youngfun

Senior Member
Wu Chinese & Italian
Hi folks!

I've heard from various sources that the phrase "long time no see" comes from Chinese pidgin, being a direct translation of the Chinese phrase.
It seems that so far it's the only pidgin expression accepted in standard English and widely used.
Just for curiosity, how would you say it in "proper" English?

My attempts:
- It's long time that I haven't seen/met you
- It's long time that we haven't seen/met (each other)
- I haven't seen you for a long time!
- We haven't seen (each other) for a long time!
 
  • dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi Youngfun,

    you're right in saying that it comes from Chinese pidgin English, but I woudn't discuss whether it is or is not 'acceptable in standard English'.
    People, and I'm one of them, use it for a humorous effect, jocularly, and are most certainly aware of the fact that it's lacking in grammar.
    I'd say it is not gramatically correct, so in this respect it is not "acceptable", but how does that change anything... :)

    If I met a person I haven't seen for ages, I'd simply say, e.g. "Tom, it's been quite a while! What have you been up to?"
     
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    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Thanks dreamlike.
    While searching for a literal "translation" I forgot about "it's been quite a while".

    In China people are so happy that a Chinese pidgin phrase has entenred English that all teachers say it's acceptable in standard English.
    Someone even say that "geiliable", "niubility", "shability" etc. sentences formed humorously with Chinese roots + English desinences are acceptable...

    Or maybe can we consider a sort of "loanword"... or "calque"?
    "Director general" from French is also lacking in grammar.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't know how we could go about judging whether it is "acceptable" or not.
    I'm sure in formal settings and some circles it's best avoided, but I find it to be a very catchy and funny phrase, and tend to use it very often ;)

    It's not so much a 'loanword' or 'calque' to me, rather a simplification of the English language made by its non-native speakers, which has made its way into English and is now used by its native speakers. :D
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is a very widespread expression and could be be used in all but very formal situations.
    No ambassador would be likely to say it to the Queen, though one might well say it to a colleague or a politician.
    Prince Philip might say it to anyone, I imagine.
    It is a familiar expression, though, so it would not be likely to be used when a junior speaks respectfully to a senior person.
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    - It's long time that I haven't seen/met you
    - It's long time that we haven't seen/met (each other)
    - I haven't seen you for a long time!
    - We haven't seen (each other) for a long time!
    The first two sound awkward to me (it would be "a long time", but they sound awkward even with that correction). The last two are fine (the "each other" must be included in the last one).
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    I read on Wikipedia that it's a legend that it comes from Chinese pidgin. Actually it comes from the Native Americans speaking that way.

    @Parla:
    What about:
    - It's been a long time that I haven't seen/met you
    - It's been a long time that we haven't seen/met (each other)
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    What about:
    - It's been a long time that I haven't seen/met you
    - It's been a long time that we haven't seen/met (each other)
    "Long time no see" has become so emmbedded it is the only form I would use. Anything else doesn't come out of the brain.

    If you said either of your sentences to me, my first reaction would be of surprise: and: "ugh, what did you say?"

    GF..

    It is enough to say "It's been a long time".
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I think George French has answered your original question:
    It is enough to say "It's been a long time".
    In the situation of meeting someone, it would be obvious what this refers to.
    No need to mention "seeing".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    <Reply to deleted post removed.>

    I'd say "long time no see" is perfectly proper English:).
     
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    dRyW

    New Member
    Italian
    I don't know, I think I'd change the ending part and saying sth like 'Long time I'ven't seen you'.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I don't know, I think I'd change the ending part and saying sth like 'Long time I'ven't seen you'.
    "Long time no see" is a fixed expression. Your example cannot replace it, and would not be said by a native speaker in any case. If a person wanted to express a similar greeting without using the fixed expression, you would have to say something like, "Hello, [name of addressee]. I haven't seen you in a while."

    "Long time no see" is colloquial, but standard colloquial[1] in the sense of being informal standard spoken English, that is, an expression which educated speakers would use. No one would have occasion to use it in print unless they were quoting someone. It was originally jocular, but I think that in most cases it now is said without any intention to be jocular.

    [1]This expression, "standard colloquial," was used in The Pronunciation of Standard English in America, 1919, by linguist George Philip Krapp, an early proponent of the concept which we now call informal standard English.
     
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