Concept Investigation by Kalina Varbanova F69600
- Oxford Dictionary:
cheers – exclamation; 1 a word people say to each other as they lift up their glasses to drink; 2 (BrE, informal) thank you; 3 (BrE, informal goodbye
- Merriam Webster
- used as a toast to wish everyone happiness
- used as an informal way to say thank you
- used as an informal way to say goodbye
- Cambridge Dictionary
- a friendly expression said just before you drink an alcoholic drink
- used to mean thank you
- used to mean goodbye
- Urban Dictionary
- a very common word, used mostly in the UK, which has four different meanings:
- You’re welcome!
- Said before drinking.
Origin of the word “cheer”: In old French, chiere meant “face”, which was derived from the Latin word cara, which came from the Greek kara, meaning “head”. The first meaning was “face”, which later resulted in the sense of “expression” and “mood”, and later it was specifically about “good mood”. The word “cheer” came to be in Middle English.
“Cheers” in most countries is used when people are having a toast while drinking. The myth around the act itself is that in the past, people had a fear of being poisoned, and when their glasses, or rather mugs, would clink, the liquid would spill into the other cup, resulting in the poisoner poisoning himself as well. However, as I discovered during my investigation, the first use of the word “cheers” was in 1919, and it was used when drinking, according to Merriam Webster.
In some countries such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the United States, people use it with other meanings as well. For example, in Britain you could hear "cheers" said quite often, but that does not mean you should drink. They use it instead of "thank you" and "goodbye". For people who are not aware of that it would seem very odd to hear someone saying "cheers" when you have, for example, opened the door for them. I will share a personal experience on the subject. I knew the use of "cheers" in England, and while I was there I decided to sound more British, therefore before leaving the lift, I would say "cheers" if someone was riding it with me. Later I was discussing the use of the word with a friend who has gone to England more often than I have, and she told me that her English friend used it instead of "thank you". I felt a bit nervous, because I thought I had mistaken the use, and have been thanking random strangers for riding the lift with me. Later I looked through the dictionary, and to my relief I discovered I had been using it correctly all along.
According to the online newspaper “Telegraph”, people in Britain nowadays have abandoned the use of “thank you”. The newspaper ranked all the different words that they have substituted “thank you” for, and “cheers” was on the first position. Other terms were “ta”, “fab”, “lovely”, and so on. The reason for this seems to be that they find saying “thank you” to be very formal, and prefer all of the informalities above. “Telegraph” also mentioned that about 80% of the non-British people describe Britons as rude. Personally, I think this is because they have not grown accustomed to their use of informal words, as I found them extremely polite and very nice.
However, as I was reading up on the subject in forums, I found something that baffled me. Many native British people claim that they have not heard the word “cheers” used instead of “thank you” or “goodbye”, at least not until they went to University for example. That claim puzzled me, because I thought “how can they have been living their entire life in England, and have never heard it, when I went for only five days and had an earful of it?”. In my opinion, geography plays a big part in the usage of words, or “slang”.
I have chosen two dialogues from famous TV series that include the use of “cheers”. The first one is from the British, and one of my personal favourites, Doctor Who, and it takes place in London.
“Elton: (voice-over) I’d been trained for this. Victor Kennedy’s classes covered basic surveillance and espionage. Step one: engage your target. Find some excuse to start a conversation. But how was I gonna do this? How?
Jackie: Excuse me love, you couldn’t give us a quid for two fifties, could you?
Elton: Yeah… Just a…. ah, ta-da!
Jackie: Oh, lovely! Cheers.”
Here it is used as a “thank you”. The other example I have chosen is from House M.D., which is an American TV series, but one of the main characters, Dr. Chace, is an Australian, who has also studied in Britain, for which he was mocked by Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie – British.
“Dr. House: Guess I deserved it.
- Chase: Well, if I thought that, I wouldn’t be apologizing.
- House: Your fist slipped?
- Chase: Everyone kept bugging me, asking if I was okay.
- House: So you busted my nose to keep people off your back?
- Chase: Pretty much.
- House: Making people even more worried about you.
- Chase: Maybe, but at least they’re not talking to me about it.
- House: … Fair enough.
- Chase: Cheers.”
In this case it is used as “goodbye”, as Dr. Chase leaves the office after saying “cheers”.
To conclude, “cheers” is the equivalent of “good health”, and in my humble opinion it is perfectly acceptable to say it as a form of farewell or gratitude. Its use certainly originated as part of the social gatherings of drinking, and its other many uses came recently, perhaps sometime around the 1970s. However, you need not be British or all the other nationalities I have listed in the beginning, to use “cheers” as much as you want.