Long time no see.

alahay

Senior Member
US
Phoenicia
Topic question: Long time no see. Is it used? Isn't it wrong?
Added by Cagey, moderator

Do you natives use that expression? Isn't that supposed to be wrong? thanks!
 
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  • la grive solitaire

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    Yes to both of your questions. :) Despite not being grammaticaly correct, the expression "Long time, no see!" is used all the time in English as a greeting to someone you haven't seen for a while.
     

    ElaineG

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    "Long time no see" was borrowed from Pidgin English.
    That's fascinating; I never knew it was a literal translation of Chinese characters. Thanks for that link, Jana. That explains its ungrammatic quality, but yes, as la grive noted, "long time no see" is used constantly in informal speech and will not raise any eyebrows (same for "no can do", another example from the Wiki article).
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Very interesting. I think we get most of our expressions that aren't grammaticaly correct from people learning English, although I could be wrong.

    -M
     

    alahay

    Senior Member
    US
    Phoenicia
    Moogey said:
    Very interesting. I think we get most of our expressions that aren't grammaticaly correct from people learning English, although I could be wrong.

    -M
    What's more interesting is that you know they're wrong and you still use them! :D
     

    Moogey

    Senior Member
    USA English
    alahay said:
    What's more interesting is that you know it's wrong and you still use it! :D
    :D Well usually, we here these incorrect expressions as kids, start to use them, then grow up and realize they're actually incorrect, but we keep using them because we're used to them and because everybody understands them!

    -M
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Moogey said:
    Very interesting. I think we get most of our expressions that aren't grammaticaly correct from people learning English, although I could be wrong.

    -M
    I think you are. Speakers of pidgin English are not learners; they speak a different variety of English.

    Furthermore, what about "it's me"? Technically speaking, that's incorrect grammatically, but hardly anyone would say "it's I" - and I don't suspect we got that from a learner. :)
     

    schmooze

    Member
    Australia - English
    Yeah, Alahay, a lot of people use it where I come from - unfortunately !
    I think it goes with the ubiquitous attitude :I-want-to-get-my-message-across-in-as-few-words-as-possible.
    Well, at least the words are whole ..and not acronyms. UGH !!
    schmooze
     

    alahay

    Senior Member
    US
    Phoenicia
    I can imagine the scenario of the emergence of this phrase:

    Anglophone: It has been quite some time since we haven't seen each other!
    Exophone: WHAT? :confused:
    Anglophone: LONG TIME, NO SEE!
    Exophone: Ahhh, long time no see too :)

    N.B. with exophone i mean a non-native-english speaker!
     

    Savoir

    Senior Member
    HK
    People in HK here are very interested in this phrase; they think it comes from China, Chinese, and people who directly translated the Chinese equivalent into English. What do native English speakers think? I know this is a common phrase in UK and American English, but people here are asking about its origin. Some people even think it's incorrect, not knowing it's common in spoken native English.

    I'd like to see the largest no. of opinions possible. Thanks very much.:)
     

    Kenneth Garland

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I thought it was from direct translation of a native American locution. But the idea is still the same - English speakers heard a direct translation from another language and thought it slightly quaint and attractive, also a useful short phrase for use in speech.

    It's no uncommon, but perhaps getting a little old-fashioned nowadays. There may be a feeling that it's slightly racist, in that it pokes fun at the way non-English speakers speak.
     

    kertek

    Senior Member
    UK English
    According to Wikipedia, it does indeed come from Chinese.

    This is a common expression, and I had never considered that it might be poking fun at foreigners' English. All the expressions on this page, including "long time no see" strike me as slightly cheesy and overly-idiomatic, but that's a personal opinion. I wonder now if that nuance is connected to their colonial usage...

    Here are two more interesting articles on the subject.
     

    Savoir

    Senior Member
    HK
    Thank you very much, ArtemisTwo, Kenneth Garland, kertek.:)

    No doubt, "Long Time No See" is a direct translation of 很久不見, both mandarin and cantonese. People are asking this question since they're not aware of its common use in English, but surprised at its close resemblance to Chinese grammar, and those who are aware of its commonness don't ever suspect it comes from pidgin English.

    While it may be a common expression of native English speakers, Chinese would stop using it since it comes from pidgin English, which is a natural response out of cultural differences.

    Kertek, the 5-minute linguist is a great site, many of the topics I glanced over are interesting, since they've always been on my mind, but the dates seem a little old to me, 2005. I hope it still gets updated with new articles.
     

    ernest_

    Senior Member
    Catalan, Spain
    "long time no see"

    Do you use this expression?
    Do you put on a funny voice when you say it or you use your normal intonation?

    Thanks!
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    "long time no see"

    Do you use this expression?
    Do you put on a funny voice when you say it or you use your normal intonation?

    Thanks!
    "Long time no see" is a word for word translation from Chinese, which is why some people put on a Chinese accent or expression when they say it.
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    "long time no see"

    Do you use this expression?
    Do you put on a funny voice when you say it or you use your normal intonation?

    Thanks!
    I use this expression, it is fairly common in the Northeast. I have never heard anyone use a funny voice - by which I assume you mean some sort of imitation of pidgin English? I don't think many Americans think about, or even know, that pidgin English is the source of of this phrase- perhaps in Hawaii. Imitating a pidgin English accent might very well be taken as mocking, at the very least as a bit odd - I certainly would take it that way.
     

    ernest_

    Senior Member
    Catalan, Spain
    I use this expression, it is fairly common in the Northeast. I have never heard anyone use a funny voice - by which I assume you mean some sort of imitation of pidgin English? I don't think many Americans think about, or even know, that pidgin English of this phrase- perhaps in Hawaii. Imitating a pidgin English accent might very well be taken as mocking, at the very least as a bit odd - I certainly would take it that way.
    Hi Lizzey! I didn't mean like pidgin English, but more like sort of singing. As some people do, instead of saying 'hello!' plain and simple, they say HUL-LEH-EU! or something like this :) theatrical, likes.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I think you are. Speakers of pidgin English are not learners; they speak a different variety of English.
    I would not count pidgin English, or creole languages based on an English-based pidgin, as being English at all (in other words, they're not varieties of English). It's only when an English-based creole language has become decreolized, which, according to one theory, was what happened with African American Vernacular English, that it could be considered a dialect of English.

    So a borrowing from pidgin such as the word savvy (originating in a Portuguese-based pidgin but later used in English-based pidgins) or the expression long time no see (originating in an English-based pidgin) is in principle no different from a borrowing taken from German, Japanese, or any other foreign language.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    We use "long time no speak" too. I guess if you put it into a sentence it means "It's been a long time since we've spoken/seen each other." People say it sometimes.
     

    comsci

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    Any native of Mandarin Chinese, without having a good command of English, would and should be able to grasp the idea of "long time no see" due to the syntactical structure/patterns hidden in this phrase. Yet I'm struck with the fact that not all natives of English actually know of its origins. I've been told that it's of Chinese origin since day 1 when I first learned English. It's commonly known among Chinese community, at least to my knowledge.
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Hi Lizzey! I didn't mean like pidgin English, but more like sort of singing. As some people do, instead of saying 'hello!' plain and simple, they say HUL-LEH-EU! or something like this :) theatrical, likes.
    Ernest - I am so dumb on Mondays - thanks for explaining. I understand perfectly now.
    :eek:
     

    explat

    New Member
    English
    No, native English speakers DO NOT use this expression. Most would rather be caught dead. It is considered corny.
    As to Native Americans, did they ever? I assumed it originated from some old cowboy and Indians movie dialogue. But the Chinese origin sounds reasonable.
    The expression was fadishly popular in the early 1960s, and perhaps in the late 1950s as a Beatnik expression.
    It was already fading into obscurity when Woody Allen ridiculed the expression in his 1973 movie "Sleeper." After that came out, NOBODY used "Long time no see" anymore in the U.S. I have not heard it used in Canada. And I checked with a Brit, and she agreed that "Sleeper" killed it there, too.
    But the expression is still popular with non-native English speakers, especially in Asia, perhaps because the English curriculum is based on what someone learned in the 1960s, or perhaps because of a Chinese origin.
    Either way, do not use this expression in the West, unless you want to sound like an idiot.
    Hearing it makes me cringe.
     

    Tim~!

    Senior Member
    UK — English
    No, native English speakers DO NOT use this expression.
    So, what part of people already having said that they (native speakers of English) use the expression did you not understand? I'm not at all concerned that you spoke to a single Brit about the subject; individuals in this thread have already shown her comment to you to be inaccurate.

    I've heard it used dozens of times. I've probably used it dozens of times myself. I've heard people of all sorts of background greet others and me with it.

    *You* may not like it, *you* may consider it corny, but that's no justification whatsoever for contradicting others and answering the question with a blatantly false answer.
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Tim is absolutely correct. It is an expression in used frequently in everyday speech, and I have not noticed any signs of it disappearing from use.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Let's do a summary then.

    Native users of this expression said:
    - used all the time (US)
    - used constantly (US)
    - we keep hearing them (US)
    - a lot of people use it where I come from (South Australia)
    - It's not uncommon, but perhaps getting a little old-fashioned nowadays (UK)
    - This is a common expression (UK native, Brussels)
    - I do use is (UK native, Madrid)
    - I use it al the time (Canadian native, Valencia)
    - I use this expression, it is fairly common in the Northeast. (US)
    - I've heard it used dozens of times. (UK)
    - It is an expression in used frequently in everyday speech (Canada)

    Native non-user of this expression said:
    - No, native English speakers DO NOT use this expression. (Native, location undefined)

    That's fair enough - explat is entitled to his view.
    Makes me wonder, though, if he's so against this expression, why he searched for it ...
     

    Aimee J.

    Banned
    French - France
    Added to previous thread.
    Cagey, moderator.

    I have read that the expression “long time no see” is a widely used greeting by English speakers but is not grammatically correct.

    What is it about the expression that makes it ungrammatical?
     
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    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's not that it's "incorrect"; it's simply an idiomatic expression that doesn't obey the normal rules of English grammar. For one thing, it lacks an apparent grammatical subject.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    It is not a sentence. There is no subject and no main verb. It's just a bunch of words: a phrase.

    Grammar rules only apply to full sentences. They don't apply to phrases, titles, slogans, saying, captions, headlines, etc. So this is not "incorrect grammar" -- it is "not covered by grammar".

    "Long time no see." is a simplified form of "It has been a long time since I saw you." That is a correct sentence. That sentence is also a common greeting.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It is not a sentence. There is no subject and no main verb. It's just a bunch of words: a phrase.

    Grammar rules only apply to full sentences. They don't apply to phrases, titles, slogans, saying, captions, headlines, etc. So this is not "incorrect grammar" -- it is "not covered by grammar".

    [...]
    I see it slightly differently. We say "long time no see," not "long see no time" or "time see no long," so some kind of truncated grammar rules are in fact in operation. But they're not the stricter rules that we normally apply to declarative sentences.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/06/18/9-words-with-offensive-origins/

    2. long time no see
    Another phrase imitative of the syntax of pidgin English, long time no see was originally meant as a humorous interpretation of a Native American greeting, used after a prolonged separation. The current earliest citation recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) comes from W.F. Drannan’s book Thirty-one Years on Plains (1901): ‘When we rode up to him [sc. an American Indian] he said: ‘Good mornin. Long time no see you’.
     
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