"Old soldiers never die ..."

Posted by Bob on January 11, 2002

In Reply to: "Old soldiers never die ..." posted by R Berg on January 11, 2002

: : : I have long been wondering about the origin of the often-used phrase "old ... never die; they just".

: : : In my school, there used to be an inscription saying "old teachers never die; they just lose their class".

: : : Would anyone know the origin of this phrase ? Did anyone famous utter it for the first time ?

: : : Thanks in advance for any help,

: : : D. Becker

: : Back in the early 1900s in Britain there was a phrase - still heard from time to time - 'old soldiers never die, they just fade away'. This may have come from a music hall song, but I'm far from sure. Just a suggestion as to a possible origin.

: From Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

: "'old soldiers never die: they simply fade away' has been extracted from the British Army's C20 parody of the song 'Kind Thoughts Can Never Die' and the tune adopted from it . . . This immortal ditty appeared in John Brophy and Eric Partridge, 'Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918,' 1930, and has been preserved in 'The Long Trail,' lamentably out of print in Britain, but to be reprinted in the US.
: It was 'given its first familiarity in US in a speech by General MacArthur on his recall from Korea; still not forgotten' (Prof. John W. Clark, 1977)."

The academic version was attributed to a Harvard dean in 1960-61, when alumnus John Kennedy was raiding Harvard for people to appoint to his government: "Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties."