"Old soldiers never die ..."
Posted by Bob on January 11, 2002
In Reply to: "Old soldiers never die ..." posted by R Berg on January 11, 2002
: : : I have long been wondering about the origin of the often-used phrase "old ... never die; they just".
: : : In my school, there used to be an inscription saying "old teachers never die; they just lose their class".
: : : Would anyone know the origin of this phrase ? Did anyone famous utter it for the first time ?
: : : Thanks in advance for any help,
: : : D. Becker
: : Back in the early 1900s in Britain there was a phrase - still heard from time to time - 'old soldiers never die, they just fade away'. This may have come from a music hall song, but I'm far from sure. Just a suggestion as to a possible origin.
: From Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:
: "'old soldiers never die:
they simply fade away' has been extracted from the British Army's C20 parody of
the song 'Kind Thoughts Can Never Die' and the tune adopted from it . . . This
immortal ditty appeared in John Brophy and Eric Partridge, 'Songs and Slang of
the British Soldier: 1914-1918,' 1930, and has been preserved in 'The Long Trail,'
lamentably out of print in Britain, but to be reprinted in the US.
: It was 'given its first familiarity in US in a speech by General MacArthur on his recall from Korea; still not forgotten' (Prof. John W. Clark, 1977)."
The academic version was attributed to a Harvard dean in 1960-61, when alumnus John Kennedy was raiding Harvard for people to appoint to his government: "Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties."