So long. Farewell. Auf Wiedersehn. Gooodbye. No, I’m not taking leave of the world or my senses or the blog. But I have noticed that a phrase I thought was a North-Eastern one, traceable to the South Shields area in particular, is in fact a great deal more endemic than I thought. And it is going to become even more widespread.

I first noticed it when I was in Sunderland last year, when every other person, as I left their vicinity (vicinity – not a word one hears much outside the police station and the courts), or came to the end of a phone call, seemed to say, not Goodbye or Adios or Ciao or On your bike but ‘See you later’, sometimes in a formal fashion, as in ‘I’ll see you later’. A little while later, I caught my brother saying it at the end of a phone call – but then it says Sunderland on his birth certificate too (until last week, I had never actually seen my birth certificate, the long version, when it dropped out of my father’s papers).

But I see now that, as you leave Morrison’s, the Northern supermarket chain which has now spread right across the south by gobbling up Safeway and other enterprises (they have nobbled, thank goodness, the local Somerfield), there is a big sign at the exit, as there doubtless is at every exit from Morrison’s. It says ‘See you later!’ So it has now become, or is on the way to becoming, a national phrase. Some said it on a phone-in the other day, and they were Northern: but perhaps it’s come from somewhere else. (I know Bill Haley and many others sang ‘See you later, alligator’, but they didn’t mean ‘Goodbye’.)

And I can add to that, that the phrase used in the North-East for ‘All right’, which is a bit of an old chestnut, but one back in vogue, if an old chestnut can be in vogue without seeming to be a mixed metaphor, which is ‘Hoaky-coaky’, is also becoming a national pandemic.

See you later.


2 Responses to Valedictions

  1. The Tasmanian philosopher says:

    I have, in Australia, been using ‘see you later’ or, often, ‘see ya’ all my life. It is ubiquitous here. I can remember when I was hitchhiking as a older teenager/young adult thinking about the fact that, when I got out from a lift, I and the driver would often say ‘see you later’ to each other – with not a snowball’s chance in hell that it would ever actually happen.

    And can you explain just why Bill Haley wasn’t using “see you later, alligator” to mean goodbye?


  2. Bill says:

    Aha, it is an Australian import! I agree that ‘See ya’ has been a constant. But the ‘later’ is a new one here, at least in extent.

    When Bill Haley sings ‘See you later’, he is pretty explicit that it will be ‘in a while’. (Worryingly for my argument, I think he might actually finish by singing ‘Goodbye’, although that’s just God be with you….) When people say or said ‘Goodbye’, they implied that they were acknowledging your departure. ‘See you later’ now means that, whereas I think it meant ‘In a short time we will see each other again, unless we are in the outback’

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