Should auld acquaintance (or old lyrics) be forgot…

Contrary to what you sometimes hear, Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns (1759-1796) didn’t create the song “Auld Lang Syne.”

And, Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo didn’t start the tradition of singing the song at New Year’s Eve parties.

However, Burns did flesh out and popularize the lyrics of the song as we know it today (or, at least, kind of know it) in a poem he wrote in 1788.

And, Lombardo did popularize the tradition of playing and singing “Auld Lang Syne” (or, at least, trying to sing it) after counting down the final seconds to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

As explained by The Burns Encyclopedia, Burns based his poem on a traditional Scottish air (i.e., song) that he loved.

He kept some existing phrases, including “Auld lang syne” and “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,” then adapted and added to them, creating the lyrics of the version of the song that became famous worldwide.

Of course, since many of those words are in an old Scots dialect, few people can either remember or understand most of them.

The literal English translation of the phrase “Auld lang syne” is “old long since,” which means something like “old days long gone by” or, more simply put, “old days” or “old times.”

The basic gist of the famous first verse and chorus is that one should remember and think kindly about old times and old friends — and toast them with a drink.

In Scotland, the tradition of singing the song on various sentimental, ceremonial and holiday occasions dates back to before Burns’ time.

By the late 1800s, after Burns’ poem made the song familiar in other parts of the world, it was common for people in many English-speaking countries to sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve.

Mentions of this custom appear in old newsclips that date back to long before Guy Lombardo became associated with it. But he and his band did help cement the tradition into American culture.

According to most sources, Lombardo and The Royal Canadians first played “Auld Lang Syne” after the countdown to midnight on December 31, 1929 at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City. (Technically, it was January 1, 1930.)

They continued to perform the song on New Year’s programs that were broadcast live from New York, first on radio and then on television, until 1976 (the year before Lombardo died).

If you’d like to try to sing along when the song is played this New Year’s and need some help, the lyrics that come from Robert Burns’ poem are below.

The Wikipedia entry about “Auld Lang Syne” has a phonetic pronunciation guide for the Scots words in case you’re interested. Even if you’re sober, you’ll probably sound drunk when you try to pronounce them.

Cheers and Happy New Year from!

“Auld Lang Syne”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


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