Posted by R. Berg on March 03, 2002
In Reply to: Long time no see posted by Marian on March 03, 2002
: I hear this phrase occasionally and use it myself to express pleasure at seeing someone that I've not seen for some time. I wonder if it's in widespread use and whether the origin is known.
Very widespread use, and yes. Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":
"Since the early 1900s. In Brit. usage, it derives from
Far East, specifically Chinese, pidgin; it came to UK by way of the Merchant Service,
reinforced by the RN. . . . It is in fact a literal translation of a very common
Chinese greeting, 'hao jiu mei jian.'
The US and Can. use of the phrase prob. comes from the same source but has been strongly influenced by two or three very widely distributed popular anecdotes. . . . The oldest printed record I have of it is afforded by Harry C. Witwer's 'Love and Learn,' 1924 (p. 73). Perhaps slightly on the wane since c. 1972. Nevertheless, this is one of the most widely used of all c.pp. whatsoever, despite the fact that many of us find it tiresome.
The US currency goes back to the late C19, to judge by the fact that the 'OED New Supp.' can cite a Red Indian as saying 'Long time no see you'. . . . There have been Chinese living and working up and down the West Coast of North America since the Gold Rush days of mid C19, and before."