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Raise Your Pint-Stowp

One of the world's most known unknown songs is about to make its annual sweep around the world as Jan. 1 arrives on many calendars. Many attempting to sing along will be reduced to nonsense mumbles and desperate lip synching to get through it. So as my last simple offering from this column for 2004, I am providing you with the song's words and (in parentheses) some of the Scottish to American-English definitions. So clip this column out, make copies for friends, practice it a bit, and keep it with you so when midnight on Friday rolls by you'll be able to whip out the words.
"Auld Lang Syne" is a unique song in that so many people don't know the words. This is understandable since it has retained its 18th-century Scottish words as preserved by the poet Robert Burns who lived in the latter half of that century. It was Burns who first published the song in 1796; it came out a few months after the poet died. Burns never claimed authorship and always attributed it to the oral traditions of Scottish singers who came long before him.
The song would not become an annual American hit for over 130 years, when Guy Lombardo's 1930 big-band radio broadcast of "Auld Lang Syne" made it an instant audio fixture of New Year's in this country. This simple Scottish country tune--with its focus on the difficult relationship we humans have with the passage of time, and confronting our mortality--would quickly spread via radio and become an international once-a-year hit. The melancholy air about the song is ultimately overcome by a hopeful sense of ongoing connectedness and the importance of memories. And with all that has happened in the world in the last year we can sure use some such hopefulness.
So here are the words--use them well:

Should auld (old) acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days o' lang (long) syne (ago)?

And for auld lang syne, my jo (an expression of good will),
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak (take) a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll (you shall) be your pint-stowp (tankard)!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa (two) hae (have) run about the braes (hills)
and pu'd (pulled) the gowans (wild daisies) fine
But we've wandered mony (many) a weary foot
Sin (since) auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl't (paddled) in the burn (stream)
Frae (from) morning sun till dine (noon)
But seas between us baith (broad) hae roar'd
sin auld lang syne.


And there's a hand, my trusty fiere (friend)!
And gie's (give me) a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willy (good will) waught (long drink)
For auld lang syne!

And for auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

--Tom Nattell

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