Friday, September 16, 2022


I had a pleasantly disorienting moment while doing yesterday’s Newsday crossword. The puzzle was by Stan Newman; the theme, “Famous Last Words.” 28-A, nine letters, “Last word (1920s).” The answer: ABYSSINIA.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang cites a 1934 dictionary of slang: “[College slang] Abyssinia, I’ll be seeing you.” The Oxford English Dictionary has a 1932 citation from the Chicago Tribune: “ [High school and college slang] Abyssinia, I'll be seeing you.” Maybe the class of ’32 took the expression with them to college. Both sources cite Jessica Mitford (1960): “You’ll find people generally say, ‘I’ll be seeing you’ instead of ‘goodbye’ . . . You may be able to raise a laugh by saying, ‘Abyssinia.’”

Uh, probably not. The only place names I can think of that now lend themselves to puns: Alaska, Delaware, Europe. The Boy Scouts have many more.

[Wikipedia: “Afroasiatic-speaking communities make up the majority of the population. Among these, Semitic speakers often collectively refer to themselves as the Habesha people. The Arabic form of this term (al-Ḥabasha) is the etymological basis of ‘Abyssinia,’ the former name of Ethiopia in English and other European languages.”]

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