Modern goodbye

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Tom Reilly (Letters, 3 September) asks: “Would a secularist care to answer this question: when with a group of fellows and on parting, does anyone say goodbye?”

Why should they not? I take it he has in mind the idea that “goodbye” began as “God be with you”.

But words change their meaning. They do not automatically contain, as an ineluctable part of their present meaning, what they meant in the dim past.

When Melville spoke of a king as “God’s silly vassal”, he didn’t mean what “silly” means now, and it’s silly to think otherwise and to think that secularists can’t without inconsistency say “Goodbye”. Goodbye.

Paul Brownsey

Larchfield Road