same old

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Jun 23 06:16:27 UTC 2001

Here is an interesting Web item:

-- at the site of the Class of 1954, Yokohama American High School
(presumably catering largely to children of US servicemen?). Judging from
the lexicon choice and the misspellings, the familiarity with Japanese may
have been superficial (even from my superficial viewpoint), but all the
entries appear to be genuine Japanese ... except for one, "samo samo" =
"the same or alike". Presumably this is the same ol' "same ol' same ol'",
perceived by Americans living in Japan in 1950-1954 as being Japanese!

Japanese dictionaries do not show any comparable expression, and
correspondents including educated native Japanese do not recognize this.

I note that "same-o same-o" or "same ol' same ol'" was spoken in a passage
of "jive" (dialect) in the comedy movie "Airplane" (1980): (humorous)
subtitles were provided, apparently equating this with "similar". I
remember when I saw the movie this expression was already familiar to me
but I probably didn't see the movie until approx. 1986.

One might ask why a common 1950's East Asian US military expression would
come to be perceived as "jive" by 1980: are there parallels? I await
Jonathon Green's input on pre-WWII "black" use.

Likely just a coincidence, but "samo samo" apparently exists as a dialectal
variant of "sama sama" = "same"/"together" in Malay (maybe this is one of
the reasons Somebody-or-other speculated that Malay was Indo-European, back
in the day?). I suppose this is "sah-mo sah-mo", not "say-mo say-mo".

Philippine 'pidgin' might be friendly to "same-o same-o", and this might be
considered as a possible origin. The later-ubiquitous "gook" and
"boondocks" apparently came out of the Philippines, the center of East
Asian US military presence pre-WWII (I think). [Tagalog is of course a
relative of Malay, FWIW.]

-- Doug Wilson

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