same old

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jun 19 18:42:04 UTC 2001

>... your version is consistent with Jesse's, if we assume that
>the original (Korean War era?) "same-o same-o" was reanalyzed on
>re-entry Stateside into "same-old same-old" which would then have
>been subject to the phonological shifts you mention to turn back into
>"same o(l') same o(l')" for speakers in the relevant isogloss(es).

Looking at the other side of the coin ...

Assuming (I don't believe this necessarily) that the item in question came
from US military in Korea (whether or not a homophonous expression
independently existed in the US earlier) ...

Under this assumption the Korean military 'pidgin' "same-oh same-oh" is
presumably a reduplication. There are many analogous 'pidgin'
reduplications (here is a reference mentioning Thaiglish "same-same":

What is reduplicated here? Presumably "same-oh" = "same old". [Certainly
"same old" -- often pronounced "same oh" -- has existed since time
immemorial as an abbreviation of "same old shit"?]

The alternative explanation, that "same-oh" = "same", seems unlikely for
three reasons: (1) according to Jesse, "same-same" also existed in the same
milieu; (2) Korean phonetics does not favor this equivalence [I'm speaking
from relative ignorance on this one, but perhaps some expert can provide
better info.]; (3) the dominant foreign influence on Korean War US military
English was not Korean but Japanese (continuous with the Occupation), the
phonetics of which would probably not support this augmentation (Japanese
'pidgin' "seimu-seimu" if it existed would > "same-same" in English, I think).

So even if the East Asian military origin is established, I think there is
reason to equate the "oh" with "old" etymologically.

To refute my callow speculation, one need only show a few analogous
examples of an extraneous "oh" appearing in Korean War era "bamboo English".

-- Doug Wilson

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