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Folklore: History of Dear John Letter

GUEST,allan s. 12 Feb 07 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Jim 12 Feb 07 - 03:31 PM
Amos 12 Feb 07 - 03:35 PM
Amos 12 Feb 07 - 03:43 PM
Barry Finn 12 Feb 07 - 04:54 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 12 Feb 07 - 07:35 PM
Dave Hanson 13 Feb 07 - 04:15 AM
JennieG 13 Feb 07 - 04:42 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Feb 07 - 05:20 PM
JennieG 14 Feb 07 - 01:55 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Feb 07 - 01:46 PM
Louie Roy 14 Feb 07 - 10:36 PM
GUEST,Malavika 06 Dec 10 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Victor Marques 12 Dec 10 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,Grishka 12 Dec 10 - 04:09 PM
Louie Roy 12 Dec 10 - 04:39 PM
GUEST,Jerry 15 Feb 11 - 08:39 AM
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Subject: HISTORY OF DEAR JOHN LETTER
From: GUEST,allan s.
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 03:28 PM

The newest method for ending a relationship is to send an E-Mail.
The newscasters think this is dreadfull and impersonal.
Does anyone know the history of the expression "Dear John letter"? I trace it back to WW2 when a service man received a letter from a girl friend or wife who was nolonger interested in continuing their relationship, or marrage. It usually came as a shock to the recipient.
I also remember a country/western with the words "Dear John I fetched your saddle home"
Any ideas?


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Subject: RE: HISTORY OF DEAR JOHN LETTER
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 03:31 PM

Did you hear about the guy whose wife ran away with a tractor salesman?

He got a John Deere letter.


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Subject: RE: HISTORY OF DEAR JOHN LETTER
From: Amos
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 03:35 PM

"Dear John" letters (as an expression) date in my memory back to WWII, as you say.

It would be interesting to knwo where the phrase was first recorded as a generic type of communication breaking off an engagement with a soldier overseas.

A


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Subject: RE: HISTORY OF DEAR JOHN LETTER
From: Amos
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 03:43 PM

Wikipedia concurs:

Etymology
While the exact origins of the phrase are unknown, it is commonly believed to have been invented by Americans during World War II. Large numbers of American troops were stationed overseas for many months or years, and as time passed many of their wives or girlfriends decided to begin a relationship with a new man rather than wait for their old one to return. As letters to servicemen from wives or girlfriends back home would typically contain affectionate language, a serviceman receiving a note beginning with a curt "Dear John" (as opposed to the expected "Dear Johnny", "My dearest John" or simply "Darling" for example) would instantly be aware of the letter's purpose.

There are a number of theories on why the name John is used rather than any other. For starters, John was a common name in America at the time. John is also the name used in many other terms that refer to an anonymous man or men, such as "John Doe" or "John Q. Public". Further, there existed prior to World War II a radio programme starring Irene Rich which was presented as a letter written by a gossipy female character to her never-identified romantic interest. It was both titled and opened with the words "Dear John", and may have contributed to the genesis of the term.

Retrieved from "http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Dear_John_letter"

And here's another take:

"The expression seems from the evidence to have been invented by Americans during the Second World War. At this time, thousands of US servicemen were stationed overseas for long periods; many of them found that absence didn't make the heart grow fonder. The unhappy news was necessarily communicated in a letter. A writer in the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY, summed it up in August 1945:

"Dear John," the letter began. "I have found someone else whom I think the world of. I think the only way out is for us to get a divorce," it said. They usually began like that, those letters that told of infidelity on the part of the wives of servicemen... The men called them "Dear Johns".
Why Dear John? That isn't entirely clear but a couple of pointers give a plausible basis for it. John was a common generic name for a man at this period (think also of terms like John Doe for an unknown party to a legal action). Such letters were necessarily written in a formal way, since any note of affection would obviously have been out of place. So a serviceman getting a letter from his wife or girlfriend that started so stiffly knew at once that a certain kind of bad news had arrived.

Several subscribers have mentioned a song on the theme of receiving a "Dear John" letter, suggesting it was the origin of the phrase. However, online sources say it appeared only in 1953, several years after the phrase had become established. A more plausible source was suggested by Dick Kovar — in a pre-World War Two radio programme called Dear John, starring Irene Rich, which was presented as a letter by a gossipy female character to her never-identified romantic interest and which opened with these words. Proving a link is likely to be impossible, but it's conceivable this played a part in the genesis of the term.

"

A


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Subject: RE: HISTORY OF DEAR JOHN LETTER
From: Barry Finn
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 04:54 PM

Dear John, I'm gonna send your saddle home. Hank Williams

Dear John was also a very common term used in the prison system, according to my step pa & pa. That'd be not long after WWII.
My funny bone's iching today.

Barry


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Subject: RE: History of Dear John Letter
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 07:35 PM

Hell, all letters I receive are Dear John letters--or at least Dear Mr. Sunset Coast letters.   ;>]


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Subject: RE: History of Dear John Letter
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:15 AM

When I was a young soldier in the 1960s if any of the lads got a ' Dear John ' letter it was imeadiately pinned on the squadron notice board for all to read, end of problem.

eric


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Subject: RE: History of Dear John Letter
From: JennieG
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:42 AM

I remember an old song from the radio days of my childhood:

Dear John, oh how I hate to write,
Dear John, I must let you know tonight
That my love for you has gone....etc.

That's all I can remember, and when I have more time I will google it, unless someone else can come up with words and female singer?

Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:20 PM

Dates to 1942.
Campbell and Campbell, "War Paint" p. 206.

1947, Norman Mailer, "The Naked and the Dead," p. 143 Leave a girl friend behind? Get a Dear John?

1948, Taylor, "Language of WW2," p. 63. Name given by soldiers to letters from wives or sweethearts "calling it all off."

J. E. Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, vol. 1, p. 571.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: JennieG
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 01:55 AM

Found it!

DEAR JOHN
#1 country hit for Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky in 1953
-Words and Music by Billy Barton, Fuzzy Owen, and Lewis A. Talley

CHORUS
Dear John (Dear John)
Oh, how I hate to write
Dear John (Dear John)
I must let you know tonight
That my love for you has gone
There's no reason to go on
For tonight I wed another, dear John

SPOKEN: I was overseas in battle when the postman came to me
And he handed me a letter -
Aww, I was happy as I could be
You see, the fighting was all over and the battles, they'd all been won,
Then I opened up the letter and it started "Dear John."

Dear John (Dear John)
Oh, how I hate to write
Dear John (Dear John)
I must let you know tonight
That my love for you has gone
There's no reason to go on
For tonight I wed another, dear John

SPOKEN: Will you please send back my picture?
You see, my husband wants it now.
When I tell you who I'm wedding you won't care, dear, anyhow.
Now the ceremony has started and I'll wed your brother Don.
Please wish us happiness forever, dear John.

Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 01:46 PM

Thanks for digging that one out.

allmusic has 119 hits for "Dear John" and 42 for "Dear John Letter;" looks like everybody recorded it, but Shepherd and Husky seem to have been first off the post.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: Louie Roy
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 10:36 PM

There was also another record that came out in 1953 and it was called (The Answer To Dear John)and I believe Ferlin Husky did this one by himself.I had both of these records and on the Dear John recording after the line I must let you know tonight the correct words were (THAT MY LOVE FOR YOU HAS DIED LIKE GRASS UPON THE LAWN)and the start of the talking verse should be (I was over in Korea) Not over seas in battle.I have somewhere in my song books the words to Answer To Dear John and when I find them I will post.Both of these songs were written about a soldier in Korea not WW2 Louie Roy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: GUEST,Malavika
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 11:06 AM

Singers - Skeeter Davis and Bobby Bare

Skeeter ]
Dear John oh how I hate to write dear John I must let you know tonight
That my love for you has died away like grass upon the lawn
And tonight I wed another dear John
[ Bobby ]
I was overseas in battle when the postman came to me
He handed me a letter and I was just as happy as I could be
Cause the fighting was all over and the battles have all been won
But then I opened up the letter and that started dear John
Won't you please send back my picture my husband wants it now
When I tell you who I'm wedding you won't care dear anyhow
And it hurts me so to tell ye that my love for you has gone
But tonight I wed your brother dear John
[ Skeeter ]
And tonight I wed another dear John


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: GUEST,Victor Marques
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 01:17 PM

I´m portuguese and for me what matters is the song itself. I like to sing this song in the style of Pat Boone, one of the best voices all over the world.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 04:09 PM

The thread about expensive toilets should be mentioned as related.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: Louie Roy
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 04:39 PM

I finally found my recording to the answer to Dear John on a 78 I puchased in 1953 and I'll gladly email an MP3 to anyone who sends me their email address. Louie Roy


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Subject: RE: Folklore: History of Dear John Letter
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 15 Feb 11 - 08:39 AM

I love this song! I have several singer on this.

Can anyone tell me what does the phrase mean: Away like grass upon the lawn?

It confuses me?

Thank you!

Jerry


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