Until God

‘Adieu’ in French doesn’t simply mean goodbye, it means goodbye forever. One of the things I love about French as a language is this need for the dramatic farewell. ‘Until God’ – because we’re not going to see each other again before then.

Of course we often don’t know when we’re saying goodbye for the last time. Every farewell has the potential to be farewell forever.

Say ‘farewell forever’ in English, and most people will hear melodrama. It’s not the sort of thing we have a cultural habit of saying seriously. That’s true of all big, dramatic emotional expression. In this language, we find it hard to take big things seriously – we hear irony, fuss-making, silliness. Say ‘this is goodbye forever’ and most people probably won’t believe you.

There are of course times when ‘goodbye forever’ is necessary. Some people, and some situations are intolerable to the point whereby leaving and never coming back is really the only sensible thing to do. Having ‘goodbye forever’ heard in that context might help others take onboard how serious it is, which could in turn lead to change. If not for me, then for the person who comes into the same situation after me.

Because of course it is personal, and not broadly hypothetical as I write this post today. I didn’t say ‘goodbye forever’ but I doubt what I did say will be heard as it was meant. I’ve made choices that mean there are people I will probably never see again, and to whom I said goodbye in person not knowing then that it was most likely an ‘adieu’.

Would a change of language have changed anything? Would the enormity and finality of ‘adieu’ have shaken people up to take me seriously? Maybe. Maybe not. English lacks the words for some situations, and as speakers of this language, we lack the mental framework for dealing with emotionally serious situations.

Until God, then, for some of this. (Curiously, ‘adios’ in Spanish has the same literal meaning but not the connotation of finality.)

Which as a Maybeist, is a fairly weird thing for me to say anyway, because I have no gods. There will be no afterlife for me that has everyone I care about in it where people can be re-united and past wrongs overcome. If it doesn’t happen in this life, it doesn’t happen, most likely.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Until God

  • treegod

    Good bye comes from “God be with you”. Adios (or adeu in Catalan) is just like a normal good bye, and perhaps has more a sense of “to God”. It is also said not just in parting but if you pass someone on the street.

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes! Painfully obvious now you’ve mentioned it, and ours is more akin to A Dios, it’s not loaded in the same way. Fascinating stuff, language. It’s a blessing, I guess, which has charm.

  • Sheila North

    When I read this, I remembered reading “Twenty Years After”, the last of the “Three Musketeer” books by Dumas. When D’Artagnan is dying, he says “Athos and Porthos, au revoir! Aramis, adieu forever!” Bad translation, I’ve just realised, as that means “Goodbye forever, I mean, really forever!”

    The first two musketeers stayed true to themselves. Aramis, however, was a bad boy.

    Apologies for going slightly off topic. I am sorry to hear you’ve had to say goodbye forever to some people.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I consider it to be time management. I have X amount of time, some people have a positive effect on me and some people have a negative effect on me. Both from a time stand point and a mental health stand point, it makes sense to spend more time with people who have a good effect on me, and limit my time , or even avoid completely, those people who have a negative affect on me. I do not believe in keeping myself in any situation that creates any unnecessary stress that can be avoided. I consider it a matter of emotional self defense.

  • lornasmithers

    Interesting, I recently read a book about the Eveny people of Siberia and they don’t even say goodbye for similar reasons or look back…

    That meaning certainly doesn’t come across in The Sound of Music!

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