Wednesday Words and Phrases: Dear John Letter

Dear John Letter

Dear John Letter

Let’s hope that none of you have received (or have sent) a Dear John letter. You probably already know that it usually means a break up that is carried out via the US Post Office.

The origin of the Dear John specifically could be traced back to WWII. An era when men and their families were separated by vast distances. For long periods of times. Normally when the men received their mail the letters would start with something recalling the emotion and longing of the long separation, “Dear Johnny”, “My Dearest Johnny” and sometimes just “Darling” or “My Love”. Something that showed familiarity. If one opened a letter and saw simply, “Dear John” the cold and formal heading would usually give the purpose of the letter away.

By the end of the war people had begun referring to any sort of break up letter as a Dear John. One of the first recorded uses of the phrase was in the March 21st, 1944 St. Petersburg Times¬†where a down and out soldier was described as having just received a “Dear John” letter. Pretty cool how a little turn of phrase has lasted this long as part of our language.