Monday, August 20, 2012

Never can say "good-bye."

I never cease to be fascinated by the way Mr. Sherlock Holmes says “good-bye."

One commonly thinks of “good-bye” as the end of a conversation or visit, a parting word on the way out – the capper, the end, finis! But with Holmes, that is hardly ever the case. When you hear Sherlock Holmes say “good-bye,” it’s time to listen just a little bit longer. With Sherlock Holmes, there’s always something more to come.

"Goodbye. I shall drop you a line before I leave.”

"Goodbye, and I trust that we shall have nothing but good news from you.”

"Goodbye, and be brave, for if you will do what I have told you, you may rest assured that we shall soon drive away the dangers that threaten you.”

Sherlock Holmes can hold an entire monologue after his “goodbye.” Why does he do it?
I suspect that Holmes is used to his brain operating at a speed most people can’t keep up with. His “goodbye” is simply an early warning that he is about to leave, as well as clue for his more dozey clients to perk up and hear one last injunction. But he also uses a similar technique on his brother Mycroft, who should be up to speed more than anyone. And more significantly, he also does it to babies, who couldn’t be expected to make heads nor tales of it:  “Good-bye, little man. You have made a strange start in life."

It’s pure Holmes. One last piece of advice before leaving. It has a kindly, almost fatherly, tone to it that defies the opinion of those who consider Holmes a cold, uncaring misogynist.
Personally, I tend to go with “See you later.” But Holmes, perhaps wanting to let his future appearances come as a surprise, gives a sense of continuity to the end of his visit without making any promises. In fact, usually he’s putting any responsibility on the other person. Except in the case of Mycroft, where Holmes is specifically denying any future responsibility: “Goodbye Mycroft. I shall let you have a report before evening, but I warn you in advance that you have little to expect.”

"Goodbye, and . . .” is such a small aspect of Sherlock Holmes, yet a detail that intrigues. Lately I’ve learned that a big part of improv technique is replying with the phrase “Yes, and . . .”  Leave it to Sherlock Holmes to come up with his own purposeful variant of even such a thing as that.

Goodbye, and do stop by the blog again when you get a chance! 

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