Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Episode 201: Let Bygones be Bygones


This week Shauna and Dan practice forgiveness as they explore the phrase, Let Bygones be Bygones. Bonus: Truth bombs from lyrical genius Tupac Shakur and Cobra mercenary Major Bludd. Plus... unicycles? #BunnyTrails

Copyright 2023 by The Readiness Corner, LLC - All Rights Reserved


 Click to read the shownotes

Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast
Episode 201: Let Bygones be Bygones
Record Date: July 23, 2023
Air Date: July 26, 2023


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase.

I’m Dan Pugh

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook
Have you ever held a grudge against someone and realized later that it just wasn’t worth it? Perhaps the harm they did you was relatively minor, accidental, or maybe simply a difference of opinion that you took too seriously… it may be best to move on and just let bygones be bygones.


What does it mean to let bygones be bygones?

Here is a definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Let bygones be bygones: to forgive someone for something done or for a disagreement and to forget about it.
Example: I know we've had our fights over the years, but I think it's time we let bygones be bygones..
End Quote

I think this definition from Cambridge Dictionary provides a little more on the usage of the phrase.

used to tell someone that they should forget about unpleasant things that happened in the past, and especially to forgive and forget something bad that someone has done to them:

Just let bygones be bygones and be friends again.

Why can't you let bygones be bygones and put it all behind you?

My mother thinks I should let bygones be bygones but I'm struggling with it.

After all these years, surely it's time to let bygones be bygones.

If she's willing, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones.
End Quote

One thing I like about these examples is that it shows the usage ranging in the applicable timeframe.

Just because you lost me as a friend, doesn't mean you gained me as an enemy. I'm bigger than that, I still wanna see you eat, just not at my table.
End Quote

-Tupac Shakur

Some people use this phrase almost immediately after a situation has been resolved or has simply dissipated. Essentially, now that the circumstances have changed, everyone can and/or should move on, let things go, forgive and forget, etc.

Others may use the phrase only in instances when a great deal of time has passed since the situation or issue occurred. Personally, I use this form more - or at least that’s how I think of this phrase.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase is sometimes used in the form: bygones are bygones, which is more common in the UK.

Throughout its use, including the early usage, I found bygones be bygones to be the more common version.  

One of our favorite word nerds and researchers to reference here at Bunny Trails does an excellent job explaining the origin of this phrase which is directly tied to the meaning of the words it is comprised of. Here is an excerpt from the post by Phrasefinder, Gary Martin on

In the 15th century, a bygone was simply 'a thing that has gone by', that is, a thing of the past. Shakespeare used it with that meaning in The Winters Tale, 1611:

This satisfaction, The by-gone-day proclaym'd, say this to him.

As time progressed, 'bygones' came to refer specifically to past events that had an unpleasant tinge to them; for example, quarrels or debts. The Scottish churchman Samuel Rutherford recorded that usage of the phrase in a letter during his detention in Aberdeen in 1636. In the letter he regrets the follies of his youth and acknowledges his debt to God in showing him the error of his ways:

"Pray that byegones betwixt me and my Lord may be byegones."

So, there is a little more to the phrase 'let bygones be bygones' than to the more literal 'let sleeping dogs lie' or the old proverb 'let all things past, pass' that was recorded by John Heywood in his 1562 edition of A Dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. 'Let bygones be bygones' uses both meanings of the word 'bygones' and means, in extended form, 'let the unpleasantness between us become a thing of the past'.
End Quote

Here is an example from the 1700s. This is an interesting reference as the actual date of publication is up for debate. There is likely a typo in the originally printed book which reads a publication date of 1633. However, the credited author was born in 1656 and the title page references the year 1706. So, we’re going to place this in the early 1700s for our purposes.

This is from the work by John HAMILTON (2nd Baron Belhaven.) titled
Lord BEILHAVEN's Memorable Speeches In the last PARLIAMENT of SCOTLAND, holden at Edinburgh, in November 1706.
On the Subject-Matter of the then projected UNION of Both Kingdoms. Wherein (among many other Remarkable Particulars) the slavish Homage and Respect that the People of SCOTLAND should, on the Event of such UNION, be in Time oblig'd to pay to every Petty English Excitement, is expressly predicted.

For the Love of GOD, then, My Lord, for the Safety and Welfare of our ancient Kingdom, whose sad Circumstances, I hope, we shall yet convert unto Prosperity and Happiness ! We want no Means, if we Unite. GOD blesseth the Peacemakers; We want neither Men nor Sufficiency of all manner of Things necessary, to make a Nation happy: All depends upon Management, Concordia res parvae crescunt. I fear not these Articles, tho' they were ten times worse than they are; if we once cordially forgive one another, and that according to our Proverb, Bygones be bygones, and fair Play in time to come. For my Part, in the sight of GOD, and in the presence of this honourable House, I heartily forgive every Man; and beg, That they may do the same
End quote

The latin phrase included there
Concordia res parvae crescunt.
Translates as "Small things grow by concord" or "In harmony, small things grow."

While this early 1700s work is not the origination of the phrase, it was the subject of the phrase found in print numerous times. And with this event being so largely impactful throughout the English-speaking world at that time, it definitely popularized the phrase.

The next work also discusses this. It is from the 1789 publication of the
Act, declaration and testimony for the doctrine, worship and government of the Church of Scotland ... By some Ministers associate together for the exercise of church government…

Next day, May 17th 1739, the eight Brethren (of which number the Presbytery then consisted) were called in before the Assembly, and the Moderator told them, that though they were called to answer to a libel,-yet he was warranted in the name of the Assembly to acquaint them,—That the Assembly were willing to receive them with open arms, if they would return into the bosom of the Church, and let all bygones be bygones.
End Quote

The next item is from a piece titled St. Mark’s Eve in the Phoenix gazette, January 12, 1830, out of Alexandria, now D.C.
Their feeling towards each other was that of an impatient host: with regard to an unwelcome guest, showing scarcely a bare civility while in expectation of his stay, but overloading him with hospitality when made certain of his departure. In this manner they went on for some six months, and tho' without any addition of love between them, and as much selfishness as ever, yet living in a subservience to the comforts and inclinations of each other, sometimes not to be found even among couples of sincerer affections.
There were as many causes for quarrels as ever, but every day it became less worth while to quarrel: so letting bygones be bygones, they were. indifferent to the present, and thought only of the future, considering each other (to adopt the common phrase) 'as good as dead'
End Quote

Up next we have an item from The Arkansas advocate August 07, 1835, Image from Little Rock, A.T. Arkansas.
We cannot notice the gabbling of an anon-y mous goose- no matter in what paper. We would simply hint that " bygones had better be bygones, "or we might unfold, not one tale, but several. The gamblers have disappeared and if they return, prosecution and conviction await them. The attack upon us has failed to have its effect upon the election.
End Quote

This next item was published in dozens of papers in the late 1800s and through the early 1900s. We will read it from The New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania Times, in the March 19, 1878 edition, from New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania.
Select Poetry.
Let bygones be bygones; if bygones were clouded
By aught that occasioned a pang of regret,
Oh, let them in darkest oblivion be shrouded ;
"Tis wise and *tis kind to forgive and forget.
Let bygones be bygones, and good be extracted
From ills over which it is folly to fret;
The wisest of mortals have foolishly acted-
The kindest are those who forgive and forget.
Let bygones be bygones; oh cherish no longer
The thought that the sun of affection has set:
Eclipsed for a moment, its rays will be stronger
If you, like a Christian, forgive and forget.
Let bygones be bygones; your heart will be lighter,
When kindness of yours with reception has met;
The flame of your love will be purer and brighter,
If, God-like, you strive to forgive and forget.
Let bygones be bygones, oh, purge out the leaven
Of malice, and try an example to set
To others, who craving the mercy of heaven,
Are sadly too slow to forgive and forget.
Let bygones be bygones; remember how deeply
To heaven's forbearance we all are in debt;
They value God’s infinite goodness too cheaply
Who heed not the precept, "Forgive and forget."
End Quote

Now let’s look at an item from The Nonpartisan Leader, August 31, 1916, out of Fargo, N.D.
THE ARTIST'S sketch above carries out the idea we suggested last week.
Out from the secret ambush of the Old Gang, where Big Business lurks and issues his orders, extends the long arm of the Political Fixer, the diplomatic agent of Big Business. He wants to make friends with the farmer, he says.
He will let bygones be bygones and he will "harmonize" himself with the farmers movement.
End Quote

It might be obvious from this short excerpt but there was quite a bit of sarcasm in this one.

Our phrase made it into the comic section of the May 18, 1935 edition of The Daily Alaska empire out of Juneau, Alaska. The strip is called Apple Mary by Martha Orr.

This comic begins with a woman discussing her daughter and claiming she’d never get in the way of her happiness and goes on to express who she’d like her daughter to be interested in romantically.

Two men are in another room and one hears the voices and says,
End Quote

At the end of the comic the other gentleman tries to comfort the man stating,
I heard everything she said, an’ don’t worry, Bill. At the rate she’s changin’ her mind ‘bout people she’ll be callin’ you ‘pal’, yet.
End Quote

And now, let’s move to our modern uses, right after we say thank you to our sponsors.

A Quick Thank You
This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

Here’s a snapshot of what a typical week looks like on the feed.

On Mondays we have a conversation about what everyone is reading
On Tuesdays the new episode comes out, a full 24 hours before it airs for everyone else
Wednesdays see all the links and cool things we talked about on the show
Thursday is our Patron’s only poll
And on Friday the lightly edited, rarely censored Behind the Scenes video airs, which always includes a little about our week before the show and a cool feature after the show

Plus all the things that made the cutting room floor from that week’s podcast. Available to all Patrons for just $3 per month.

We’ve got some pretty cool stuff at higher levels, too, like Original Digital Artwork once a month, made by Shauna, and awesome name recognition like Pat Rowe gets every episode. And our top spot is currently occupied by the amazing Mary Halsig Lopez.

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon.


Modern Uses

This phrase shows up in art, literature, and music of the modern era.

For example, here are some of the lyrics from the 2003 song by Blackstreet titled, Bygones.

When will this ever end?
I thought that you forgave me then
So why do we argue so? I wanna know
Listen, we both made some mistakes
That caused our hearts to break
But we must learn to forgive and love again, yeah

There are some things I wish that I could change, oh yes I do
But if we’re going to move forward let bygones be bygones, so long
I don’t wanna talk about it, let bygones be bygones, so long
I don’t wanna talk about it, let bygones be bygones
Bygones, oh yeah
End Quote

Let Bygones Be Bygones is a 2006 novel by Nicole La Chica. Here is a short synopsis

The story of a Spanish-Burmese-Filipino Family--their journey from Spain to Singapore. Their dark family secrets that cause relationship struggles. The final lessons of life, death and love.
End Quote

Christopher Caldwell posted a book review on May 29, 2015 titled
Letting Bygones Be Bygones - A review of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity, by Christian G. Appy
I’ll just read the intro of this review and you can go check it out if it’s your sort of thing.

On the day after the United States won the Gulf War in 1991, with the desert highway north of Kuwait City still strewn with charred Iraqi tanks, George H.W. Bush addressed a group of young visitors. “It’s a proud day for America,” the president said. “And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” He was referring to a problem that had embarrassed the country since it fled Vietnam in defeat and disgrace almost two decades earlier. America claimed a role as the world’s leading democracy that required it to throw its weight around militarily. Yet in the wake of Vietnam, its democratic electorate—diffident, skeptical and repentant—refused to authorize such a role. That problem, Bush was saying, was solved.
Time proved him wrong.
End Quote

Bygone Lady Painting by Daria Maier from Moldova is a 2016 piece described as
Painting of an old lady from Moldova. Made using watercolor on paper.
End Quote

While this isn’t exactly our phrase, I felt like it really captures at least one meaning of bygone. And I just really like it.

Possibly the most well-known individual to use this phrase is the rapper and apparently everyone’s favorite uncle? … Snoop Dogg. Snoop uses the phrase as the title of his 2019 song, Let Bygones be Bygones.
Um, I mean you still got a good relationship with him today?
Me and Suge cool as a mother.f*
I am cool with Suge I am cool with Master P, Dr. Dre
I'm cool with everybody
Yeah I mean how could you not be cool with Snoop?
But I had to go get that cool with him
I had to go sit down with Suge
End quote

Wrap up:
As I’ve gotten older, I realized the value of letting things go. By that, I mean the petty squabbles or even relationships where the value doesn’t hold up. I’m not sure I actually say it a lot. But the times when the concept is one I’ve applied to my own life, it was when whatever grievance I may have had was a long time ago and holding on to any ill feelings about it only served to hurt me… either because the situation was resolved and I simply have remaining emotions about it or because the person is no longer in my life and the issue was not one that requires any sort of action. So it’s best for me to just forget about it or at least let go of my negative emotions regarding it. It’s a much happier and healthier way to exist.  

That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, send us an email:, or comment on our website


It’s patron poll time!

Recently we posed this question to our Patrons:

Which of these human-powered wheeled devices can you operate??

We gave further clarification that It's okay if you haven't done it in years, so long as you were once pretty good at it.

Bicycle had the most votes, followed by Roller skates, then scooter, rollerblades, and skateboard… none of our patrons (nor either of us) are talented at the unicycle.

I used to be great on a bike as a kid. And decent on skates. But nothing else. But I could ride with no hands and a few times I stood on the seat with no hands while riding. If I tried that now I would surely perish.


I loved speed-skating in my roller blades as a kid!

Mary said:

I have never tried a unicycle. Now, I don't think I will be doing scooters anytime soon. I had no idea how dangerous they were until they started riding them all over the city! LOL I really enjoyed my rollerblading days, especially in the basement with my girls. There were cement floors and we pushed everything against the walls and would fly, grabbing the pole to spin ourselves around. We laughed so hard.
End Quote

As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember,

Words belong to their users.

No comments:

Post a Comment