same old

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jun 19 16:36:40 UTC 2001

>The assumption that "old" was progressively reduced to "oh" in this
>phrase is probably wrong. The original phrase (at least according
>to the evidence I've seen) was "same-oh same-oh", in a real or mock
>pidgin English among the U.S. military in East Asia; the "same ol(d),
>same ol(d)" version seems to be a later folk-etymologized form.

This doesn't seem right to me.

The 'pidgin' expression "same-same" (no "oh"s), in my (limited) personal
experience and in accounts of Vietnam, etc., just means "the same [as]". I
imagine "same-oh same-oh" (meaning "the same old tedious thing" or so) may
well have been used in East Asia by US military; but if so I suspect they
carried it from the US.

I can't remember whether I heard/said "same old same old" = "same-oh
same-oh" before 1980 myself, but it seems like a very apt variant of "same
old shit" or so, and I think that's where it came from.

Jonathon Green's dictionary claims this is from the 1930's, and originally
"black". This sounds believable to me.

What evidence is available?

-- Doug Wilson

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