Chin chin

Please don’t ask how this started, because I can’t remember. Anyhow, the phrase chin chin, admittedly a little outmoded now, popped into my head. There are two distinct meanings in English. One is an alternative for “Cheers!” when drinking. This is also used, as cin cin or cincin, in Italian. I don’t know any other languages that use it.

The other meaning is “Goodbye”. It is used thus in the WW1 song Goodbye-ee:

Goodbye-ee, goodbye-ee,
Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eye-ee,
Tho’ it’s hard to part I know,
I’ll be tickled to death to go.
Don’t cry-ee, dont sigh-ee,
There’s a silver lining in the sky-ee,
Bonsoir, old thing, cheerio, chin, chin,
Nah-poo, toodle-oo, Goodbye-ee.

In case you are wondering, Nah-poo is obsolete army slang for “finished”. It is a corruption of French il n’y (en) a plus. In case you are still wondering, toodle-oo is also an old-fashioned farewell greeting, but of unknown origin. It has a variant toodle-pip. You may well have come across some of these words if you have read any of the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse.

Well, back to chin chin. I was mightily surprised to find that its origin is the Chinese word qǐng tɕiŋ, which means “please” or “to invite”.

8 thoughts on “Chin chin

  1. Jeeves’s first name was not revealed to the reading public for over 50 years (and in the last but one Jeeves and Wooster book). Without googling – does anyone know it?

  2. I don’t think I’ve read the end of the saga, so I don’t know either – but there is a biography of Jeeves by Cecil Northcote Parkinson, if that’s any help.

  3. Oops! That should have been “Cyril”, not “Cecil”. He wrote one of Hornblower as well.

  4. Hey! We also say “chin, chin” (as an alternative to the Spanish equivalent of “Cheers!”) when drinking, but it can sound a bit childish –or jocular. I thought it was an onomatopoeic word.

  5. My grandfather told me Na Poo was from the French N’ai puer, don’t be afraid and toodle loo was from tout a l’heure see you later

  6. “Toodle-oo” from “À toute à l’heure!”, I am very happy to believe, but my money would be on “il n’y (en) a plus” rather than “N’ai puer” (or “N’aie pas peur”) for “na(h)(-)poo”. Just my gut instinct.

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