Minor British Institutions: Auld Lang Syne

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The Independent Online

What apter way than this for looking backwards and forwards through a dizzy mist of vigorously induced benevolence? A simple, forgiving tune; fine, dense and eminently slurrable dialect, as in: "We'll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne", which translates as a goodwill drink (waught: draught) for old times long since (gone). Its origins are lost amid Rabbie Burns, strong drink and folk memory: some even claim the tune is English.

Matters became further confused at the Millennium Dome in 2000 when the Queen, splendidly unamused, failed to link crossed arms with Tony Blair because, apparently, it was the wrong verse. I suggest you ignore such controversies and concentrate instead on extracting the maximum maudlin enjoyment out of the old song as it struggles into the air once more, because next you'll have to kiss everyone.

Happy New Year, and may your gude-willy waughts never wobble.