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Language Journal No.1 Have a good one! – have a good… what?

Have a good one! – have a good… what?

The first class in the USA ends and the professor smiles and says ‘Have a good one’! It took me a while to figure out what he meant. Wasn’t the phrase ‘Have a good day’? When did it change and why? What was wrong with ‘Have a good/nice day’?  What does ‘one’ refer to anyway? Maybe as a non-native speaker and a person who lives in a country different from the USA, I did not have the chance to come across this phrase. I did not hear it during my stay in the UK and it is not mentioned in any text book I read!  I explored the online dictionaries a little bit and I discovered that the phrase is actually in the dictionary. Oh, how ignorant I may be, I said to myself.

Longman dictionary defines the phrase as ‘American English used to say goodbye and to wish someone a good day’. It all makes sense now! In order to make it shorter and to blend ‘goodbye’ and ‘have a good day’ they came up with ‘have a good one’. That is so creative and a real time saver. Furthermore, the online Urban dictionary provides several definitions which are more or less similar. The first one defines it as ‘A cool way of saying goodbye and have a nice day at the same time. It’s friendly, but you can also use it with people you don’t really know’. I like this definition; it says that my teacher is cool, and I strongly agree with that one. The second one provides the definition ‘Something you say to someone you don’t know at all or you don’t want to know at all.’ Ok, this one is a little confusing, and maybe the Urban dictionary is not a strongly reliable source, but I wonder, can I use this phrase with my friends, professors or only with random people I come across daily?

I cannot delve into deeper linguistic analysis of the phrase, but it is interesting because it raises the questions:  How much do English learners actually know about the language and its conversational use until they come in a native speaking country? Should these phrases be included, and very often, updated in the text books for English learners? How can we bring learners from other countries closer to the everyday spoken language?  I simply thought it is something worth saying and analyzing in the future.


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