There was a man whose name was Lang
And he had a neon sign
And Lang, he was very old
So they called it Old Lang’s Sign
Okay, so that’s not exactly how the song goes. But that’s the version I learned in junior high and you must admit, it makes more sense. How many people know the real words? And how many of those people know what they mean?
I haven’t been to the land of kilts and golf, deserted castles and mythical monsters that live in lakes. Even so my lack of ability to speak Scottish – yes, I do consider it to be a foreign language, has haunted me throughout my travels:
- First there was the jolly, friendly taxi driver in the city of Dunedin, New Zealand. The city was settled by Scotts. I couldn’t make out a word the woman said.
- One of my English students in China said he and his mother would like to take me out to dinner. The mother spoke flawless English and the three of us had a lovely meal. Afterwards I complemented her on her English. She reached into her purse, pulling out a piece of paper and asked, “Can you teach me to read the poem with feeling?” I couldn’t. It was something by Robert Burns and I didn’t understand a word of it! Very embarrassing.
- Then there’s my health insurance, which I’m purchasing from Cygna, a company in Scotland. So far, so good. I don’t have complaints. But I have had to call customer service a couple of times and I’ve considered asking if they have anyone there that speaks Spanish. Their English is completely beyond me.
So if there’s anyone out there who wonder what the heck Auld Lang Syne means, here is a translation.