Good riddance to bad rubbish!

The saying “good riddance”, meaning “pleasure on being rid of some annoyance – usually an individual” is a phrase most people are familiar to.

But in the 16th century “riddance” wasn’t always of a good kind – it basically meant “deliverance from” or “getting rid of”.

A riddance can be of many kinds, it can be a “gentle riddance” as in Shakespeares “Merchant of Venice”. It was Shakespeare that first coined the combination of “riddance” and “good” as far as we know, in the line from “Troilus and Cressida” (1606):

Thersites: I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come any more to your tents: I will keep where there is wit stirring and leave the faction of fools. [Exits]

Patroclus: A good riddance!

But we find this little word in even earlier sources, in John Rastells little sarcastic love poem “Away mouring” written in 1525:

I haue her lost,
For all my cost,
Yet for all that I trowe
I haue perchaunce,
A fayre ryddaunce,
And am quyt of a shrew.

Lets just hope that the lady that Rastell is so bitter over truly was such a “fair riddance” as he’s implying.

I’ll end this little entry and conclude that the Devil himself just might sigh with relief and mumble “good riddance” as soon as he gets this angry witch of his back:

"Witch attacking the devil with a spindle", Jakob Binck (1528)

“Witch attacking the devil with a spindle”, Jakob Binck (1528)

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