November 23, 2005

long time no see

Posted in Idioms at 10:38 am by Feng

When I stayed in Singapore years ago, I used to going go (thanks to Saar) to an Indian stall in a hawker center to buy breakfast. The stall owner must know my face very well, because after I moved to another place and came back to the same stall a year later, he exclaimed with excitement: “long time not no see” (thanks to Saar). I was amazed; this expression has the typical hallmark of Chinese-styled English. A more grammatically correct equivalent may be “haven’t seen you for ages” . But I learned today that “long time not no see” is a native English phrase, originated in 1800s during the Chinese/Westerners trade exchange. It is now widely used in English-speaking countries.



  1. Someone near said,

    – Hmm… “hawker”, this is a new word for me. thanks.
    – I think it should be “long time no see”, right?
    – You should say “I used to go to…”
    – look up Chinglish

  2. Feng said,

    – Hmm… “hawker?, this is a new word for me. thanks.

    hawker center is perhaps one of the most commly used words in Singapore

    – I think it should be “long time no see?, right?

    yes. “long time no see” is the right one, although the other phrase is also seen sometimes

    – You should say “I used to go to…?

    agree. I meant to use “be used to doing sth”, or “used to do sth”. But as you pointed out that “used to doing sth” is wrong.

    Good comments, and credits for you 🙂

  3. Mike said,

    Hey Feng!!

    What is your first name? Feng is a family name!!!

    I lived in China for 2 years….but I don’t speak Chinese…(Shame on me)!!
    Well I know a little but, I feel I should know more.


  4. Vincent said,

    hi, Mike,
    Feng and Hao can also be family name or given name. There’re hundreds of common family names used today, but those words could also be used in given name, no clear division between them.
    I go round here be searching “long time no see”, it’s surprised to find it’s used from 1800s…

  5. paul said,

    Actually “long time no see” was had been recorded in some English books long ago, but English-speaking people just started using it more, especially in friendly greeting since the 90s.
    Not only in Hindu but in Bengali, Tamil and Vietnamese…. people also used this phrase centuries ago – translate native language (word by word) into English with exact meaning and in the same order.

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