Goodby to all that
October 25, 2011 11:05 AM   Subscribe

When (and why/how) did "good-by" fall out of use as an variant on "goodbye"?

Goodbye, as is somewhat commonly known, is a contraction of "God be with ye." Cite.

Through the middle part of the 20th century, one encounters "good-by" as an accepted alternate spelling. See, e.g., Robert Frost, Good-by and Keep Cold (1920), John D. MacDonald, The Deep Blue Good-by (1964), but also earlier Emerson, Good-by (1899) and plenty other examples on Google Books.

I don't have OED access, sadly--Fowler's suggests that "good-by" is an Americanism, but doesn't add further commentary. This is consistent with the examples above.

When did this spelling fall out of general acceptance? People may still be using it, but MS Word, for instance, thinks it's a misspelling. Was there a style/usage guide or dictionary published in the 1960s/70s that was a fulcrum for change in orthography, or is this just the product of gradual development languages are always undergoing?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the why, but if you use Google's "ngram viewer" it looks like "goodbye" started being used around 1850 and eclipsed "good by" around 1930.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

According to this article the AP Style was "goodby" on Jan 29, 1982 when the last issue of the Philadelpia Bulletin was published.
posted by Jahaza at 12:07 PM on October 25, 2011

And in the 2005 edition of the AP Stylebook it's "goodbye".
posted by Jahaza at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2011

It's perfectly normal for words to start out hyphenated and gradually lose the hyphens; cf. "base-ball."
posted by languagehat at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2011

Interesting stuff! I've never seen the ngram viewer--that's really cool.

And I love the quote in Jahaza's first link: "F--- the AP style book!" he exploded. "In this paper, the last we ever publish, we'll spell 'goodbye' right." The "e" was duly added.

So--somewhere between 1982 and 2005, the AP changed from "goodby" to "goodbye." Presumably, other works were making similar changes in that period (I'm actually surprised it was so late). (LH--glad to see you stop in. I'm more interested in the appearance of the e than the use of the hyphen.)

Of course, I understand that words, and orthographies change over time--witness "Internet" becoming "internet" as the term became more common. But goodby/good-by was the prevalent, even dominant, American form of a word used every day by millions; it seems strange to see the preferred usage change so recently. But sic transit, etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:49 PM on October 25, 2011

I'm not surprised the AP was so late. They tend to stick to their guns. I wouldn't use them as a signal of when overall usage changed.

I would hazard a guess, given that the ngram viewer -- itself a somewhat unreliable tool -- indicates goodbye taking the lead around 1940, that a significant factor in solidifying consensus on the e spelling was the 1939 movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which would have been on movie marquees across the country. Incidentally, the 1934 novel had both e and hyphen, but dropped the latter as a movie (the use of the comma seems similarly inconsistent).

Was there a style/usage guide or dictionary published in the 1960s/70s that was a fulcrum for change in orthography

Funny you should ask. The publication of Webster's Third New International Dictionary in 1961 marked the real beginning of descriptivism as a force in English language lexicography. As such, somewhat prescriptivist redoubts as the AP Stylebook began to lose their importance. Not that this answers your question, so much.

But despite the AP's standardization, it's probable that newspaper style -- factual yet readable -- played a large role in things like hyphen elimination. The extra e question may be more about distinguishing the pronunciation, or could be influenced by such factors as casual usage of "bye-bye" and "bye", not to mention the increasing importance of "bye" as a sports term.
posted by dhartung at 10:32 PM on October 25, 2011

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