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A "Dear John letter" is a letter written to a husband or boyfriend to inform him their relationship is over, usually because the author has found another lover. Dear John Letters are often written out of an inability or unwillingness to inform the man in person. The reverse situation, in which someone writes to his wife or girlfriend to break off the relationship, is referred to as a "Dear Jane letter."

Origins

While the exact origins of the phrase are unknown, it is commonly believed to have been coined by Americans during World War II. Large numbers of American troops were stationed overseas for many months or years, and as time passed many of their wives or girlfriends decided to begin a relationship with a new man rather than wait for their old one to return.

As letters to servicemen from wives or girlfriends back home would typically contain affectionate language (such as "Dear Johnny", "My dearest John", or simply "Darling"), a serviceman receiving a note beginning with a curt "Dear John" would instantly be aware of the letter's purpose.

A writer in the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY, summed it up in August 1945:

"Dear John," the letter began. "I have found someone else whom I think the world of. I think the only way out is for us to get a divorce," it said. They usually began like that, those letters that told of infidelity on the part of the wives of servicemen... The men called them "Dear Johns".

There are a number of theories on why the name John is used rather than any other. John was a common name in America at the time the term was coined. John is also the name used in many other terms that refer to an anonymous man or men, such as "John Doe" or "John Smith".

The phrase That's all she wrote is believed to have originated from Dear John letters. These letters would contain either the words "Dear John" and abruptly terminate, or only contain the words "Dear John, Goodbye." The phrase "That's all she wrote" is used to indicate the end of story or an abrupt end of story, especially when the reader has a desire to know more, but the writer does not want to fulfill that desire.

See also

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

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Noun

Singular
Dear John letter

Plural
Dear John letters

Dear John letter (plural Dear John letters)

  1. A letter from a romantic partner, informing that the relationship is over. Usually precipitated by the instigator's meeting a third party.
    He was still carrying the Dear John letter he got from his high school sweetheart in Vietnam thirty years later.

Etymology

While the exact origins of the phrase are unknown, it is commonly believed to have been invented by Americans during World War II. Large numbers of American troops were stationed overseas for many months or years, and as time passed many of their wives or girlfriends decided to begin a relationship with a new man rather than wait for their old one to return. As letters to servicemen from wives or girlfriends back home would typically contain affectionate language, a serviceman receiving a note beginning with a curt "Dear John" (as opposed to the expected "Dear Johnny", "My dearest John" or simply "Darling" for example) would instantly be aware of the letter's purpose.

There are a number of theories on why the name John is used rather than any other. For starters, John was a common name in America at the time. John is also the name used in many other terms that refer to an anonymous man or men, such as "John Doe" or "John Q. Public". Further, there existed prior to World War II a radio programme starring Irene Rich which was presented as a letter written by a gossipy female character to her never-identified romantic interest. It was both titled and opened with the words "Dear John", and may have contributed to the genesis of the term.








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