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Same old same old

Posted by ESC on July 05, 2009 at 19:17

In Reply to: Same old same old posted by David FG on July 05, 2009 at 17:35:

: : : : Some one wanted to investigate the origin of the phrase "same old same old". Everyone seems to have gotten it wrong. It originated during the Korean War. American soldiers in foreign lands often try to make indigenous personnel use English phrases. When an American GI wanted a Korean subordinate to do something which was similar to something the Korean has already learned how to do, the American would use the expression "same-o, same-o. GI's returning to the States took the phrase with them but mainstream Americans missed the meaning entirely.

: : :
: : : Well, apart from anything else, why would an American use that expression? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to say, simply, 'same'?

: : : Why make a perfectly simple, clear word more difficult for another language speaker?

: : : DFG

: : DFG, such a usage might originate as part of a pidgin, but I question the explanation on other grounds: "same old same old" would have to be shown to go back as far as the 1950s. I haven't seen it that long, probably no earlier than the 1990s and maybe not before the current decade. ~rb

: Hmm. OK, I take your point.

: But I too had not heard the expression until a few years ago. It seems to have been one of those that appeared from nowhere, as it were, and is now everywhere.


RRC: In a quick search, I find it back to the early 1970's (notably, a song on Dr. John's 1973 album "In the Right Place"). Another problem with the story: The first sentence (try to make indigenous personnel use English phrases) seems to imply that "same-o, same-o" was an existing English phrase that the Americans were trying to teach the Koreans. The rest of the story then has nothing to do with that premise as it seems to say the phrase was invented there.

ESC: An entry for "same old rigmarole" refers to the newer "same old song and dance" and cites a 1979 magazine article. The entry goes on to say, "Still newer is the slangy 'same old, same old,' a description of anything that has been repeated too often." From "Facts on File Dictionary of Cliches," second edition, edited by Christine Ammer, Checkmark Books, New York, 2006, Page 370.

Throwing this into the mix. Another reference has an entry for the "same old seven and six." A retired colonel says that phrase is old as the hills - "I have heard this expression, which is very common in the military, all my life - practically since Robert E. Lee was a second lieutenant." It's a response to "How are things?" and means unlucky -- seven + six = 13. "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988), Page 505.