04 September 2017

Dear John Letter

«The phrase 'Dear John letter' has come to mean a letter ending a relationship. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term probably originated during World War II and referred to letters from wives and sweethearts announcing the relationship was over.
In most [prisoner-of-war] camps such letters were pinned up on the camp notice board for all the inmates to see -not to be cruel,but so a rough and ready form of group therapy could follow. Some of the letters are quite staggering in their honesty:
  • 'Sorry. Married your father. Mother.'
  • 'I'm so glad you were shot down, before flying became dangerous.'
  • 'do't bother to hurry home as I am living with an American and having a lovely time. Iam having his baby soon but forgive me as mother has done. Ted is sending you cigarette parcels.'»
Liz Williams, Kind Regards: The Lost Art of Letter Writing


«Almost as feared as the enemy bullet was the 'Dear John' letter. [...] Hardly a week went by without somebody getting one. Mail call was often referred to as the 'Dear John' roundup. I always wondered if the people back home who wrote them had any idea how psychological devastating they were.»
Steven Curtis


  1. And with the decline of snail mail, I imagine it's now "Dear John" text messages. I think those would be less traumatizing. With "Dear John" letters, the recipient would agonize also over the knowledge that the sender was well under way with their new life without the receiver knowing for a month or more.

    1. I hadn't thought of that, maybe you're right. But a breakup by text... that's dreadful, too! :|


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