let bygones be done / let bygones be bygones

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let bygones be done / let bygones be bygones

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Nov 18, 2004 6:32 pm

Let Bygones Be Done

In the book I have been translating since a few months ago I came across an unusual expression: "Let bygones be done". All my dictionaries (more than just a few!) are clueless. The closest match was "let bygones be bygones", returned when I asked the Google definition of the term "bygones". However, I am not convinced that the Google has given me the correct answer. Please advise!

Thanks in advance.

Dragan Yonich, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro

Submitted by Dragan Jonich (Belgrade - Bulgaria)

Dragan, I’ve never heard ‘let bygone’s be done’ nor does it appear anyplace I’ve checked. But it would seem to mean the same thing as ‘let bygones be bygones.’ ‘Bygones’ are thing that are past, especially past disputes, errors, grievances, offenses, . . . – so forget past disagreements, let the past be the past, what’s done is done, start with a clean slate, forgive and forget, become reconciled. “The two men shook hands and agreed to let bygones be bygones and be friends again.” I would guess that the person who wrote ‘let bygones be done’ might have been fusing the two expressions ‘let bygones be bygones’ and ‘what’s done is done,’

The word BYGONES first appeared circa 1400 and came from Middle English (Scots dialect) ‘bygane,’ from ‘by,’ in the past + ‘gane,’ variant of ‘gon,’ past participle of ‘gon,’ to go. The expression LET BYGONES BE BYGONES (at least that’s how some translated it) dates back to the Greek Stoic philosopher and teacher (mainly in Rome) Epictetus who used it in his ‘Discourses’ in about 100 A.D. and the expression first appeared in English print in 1636.
<1452 “Any actions, causes or querrels BYGANE.”—in Tytler ‘History of Scotland’ (1864) by Earl Douglas, II. page 387>

<1611 “This satisfaction, The BY-GONE day proclaym'd, say this to him . . .”—“Winter’s Tale” by Shakespeare, I. ii>

<1636 “Pray . . . that BYGONES betwixt me and my Lord may BE BYGONES.”—‘Letters,’ by Rutherford, lxii (1862), I. page 162>.

<1837 “BYGONE SHALL BE BYGONE; the new Era shall begin!”—‘French Revolution’ (1871) by Carlyle, II, v. i. page 166>

<1942 “I’m perfectly willing to LET BYGONES BE BYGONES”—‘Murder Makes a Racket’ by M. V. Heberden>
(Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s and Random House Unabridged Dictionaries)

Ken G – July 29, 2004

Dear Ken, thanks a lot for your ample explanation of the term, which wasn't completely unfamiliar to me. I'm inclined to agree with you that the expression is, perhaps, fused with the one you suggested. Given the context, which is somewhat ambiguous, I think I'll have to write to the novelist and ask her what precisely she meant with this.

Dragan Yonich, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, not Bulgaria :)

P.S. to whom it may concern: Please include my country in the list, or allow the possibility that I enter it myself. It doesn't work with the present interface :) Bulgaria was chosen as the closest neighbour!

Response from Dragan Yonich (Belgrade - Bulgaria)
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