“Long-time no see” - from Native Americans or Chinese? 
Posted: 06 April 2009 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In a TV show on the History channel, the origin of this phrase is attributed to Native Americans. 

However, another source suggests it comes from Chinese (I can confirm that Mandarin does have this phrase in the exact same word order). 

Which is correct?

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Posted: 06 April 2009 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED says, it’s a ‘jocular imitation of broken English’.  The first cite might be taken as lending support to a Native American use, but it’s also possible that native English-speakers made it up.

1900 W. F. DRANNAN 31 Yrs. on Plains (1901) xxxvii. 515 When we rode up to him [sc. an American Indian] he said: ‘Good mornin. Long time no see you.’

[ Edited: 06 April 2009 09:32 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 06 April 2009 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here’s another from 1900: Jeff W. Hayes Tale of the Sierras (published by F.W. Baltes and Company, Portland, Oregon) p. 93: Approaching the unsuspecting George, Mahala ejaculated in her guttural tones, distinguishable to all in the room: “Ugh, you squaw, she long time no see you; you go home mucha quick.”

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Posted: 06 April 2009 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m pretty sure it’s originally from Chinese.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article [disambiguation page: click on first link] pointing out that “It has been in British usage since the early 1900s, deriving from Far East, specifically Chinese, pidgin, coming to the UK by way of the Merchant Service, reinforced by the Royal Navy” and adding (quite correctly, in my view):

There have been Chinese living and working up and down the West Coast of North America since at least the Gold Rush days of mid 1800s, and before, so Chinese-English pidgin would have abounded around the time the expression appeared. The influence of Native American Pidgins on British English is much less likely.

[ Edited: 07 April 2009 05:13 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 07 April 2009 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Languagehat, your link needs editing - I think there should be brackets around “Phrase”.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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No, it’s the Expression Engine curse, it just can’t handle some Wikipedia links. If you use the bbcode link button above and paste the url in to the box Expression Engine spits it out at the other end minus the ‘(phrase)’, making it useless. One way round it is to not use bbcode but simply paste the link into your post with some bumf at the beginning to prevent EE converting it, thus:

ERASECAPShttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Time_No_See_(Phrase)

Get rid of the bumf then copy and paste it to the address box.

I’m not sure but didn’t Dr T find a more elegant solution a week or so back?

[ Edited: 07 April 2009 05:04 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 07 April 2009 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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That didn’t work (parens still got stripped), so I linked to the disambiguation page, from which it’s easy to get to the desired article.  How annoying!

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Posted: 07 April 2009 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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For what it’s worth, here’s a sighting from 1894.  (I included a bit more for the sake of context.) —Bonnie

Come to my tepee.  Long time no see.  Plenty game in mountains we kill deer and bear.

“LITTLE RAVEN.”

The was the interpretation that I put upon a piece of bark which I found at my cabin door in San Juan country in Colorado on returning from a short prospecting tour.  Little Raven was a subchief of the Utes, with whom I had taken several hunts, but I had neglected him for a year or more, and he took this means of letting me know that he had not forgotten me.

The message was written upon the inner bark of an aspen tree, the characters being made from a piece of charcoal.  It was not written as I have given it above, for the Indian, like the Chinese, writes backwards.  The literal translation would have been exactly backward, beginning with the name.

[From Clarence E. Edwards, “Stories without Words; Messages in Writing Sent by the Red Men; Interesting Description of the Way the Indians Make Pictographs,” The Boston Daily Globe, 18 February 1894, Pg. 9.]

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Posted: 07 April 2009 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Many thanks for your input & the link to Wikipedia.  It was helpful to hear your perspectives, because I didn’t have a credible source for either origin (Native American or Chinese). 

The Mandarin phrase “long time no see” ("hǎo jiǔ bu jiàn” (好久不见) is commonly used and I expect the Cantonese version is as well, so it makes sense that English imported it from Chinese. 

Most early American settlers from China were Cantonese speaking.  Now, Mandarin is becoming dominant in US Chinatowns.

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Posted: 18 December 2009 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Is “I love you long time” attributed to Chinese prostitutes wooing western customers broken English or a translation, dtx? Or was it made up by English speakers?

Chinese consists of many mutually unintelligible dialects and the Chinese government is promoting Mandarin as a lingua franca I believe.

[ Edited: 18 December 2009 06:50 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 18 December 2009 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I love you long time is broken English and I don’t think it’s particularly associated with Chinese. During my stint in the army the phrase was commonly placed in the mouths of Korean prostitutes by soldiers telling tales of their tours of duty in that country. (I was never stationed in Korea, so I have no first-hand knowledge.) Based on movies, an earlier generation would have put it in the mouths of Vietnamese prostitutes.

My question would be is the phrase actually used in the Asian sex trade, or is it an invention of men telling stories?

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Posted: 18 December 2009 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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In general, it’s a better idea to start a new thread for a new phrase rather than tacking it on to an old, vaguely related one.

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Posted: 19 December 2009 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Good point but hardly any of my original threads get any response, so my oriental loss-of-face is better concealed in places like this.

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