Whence the beatings?
March 30, 2007 2:21 PM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the phrase "the beatings will continue until morale improves". Google has failed me on this, only the hive mind will save me.
posted by bumpkin to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Legend has it that 'The beatings will continue until morale improves' was either on a sign posted on a Japanese Navy destroyer late in WWII or part of a report transmitted by a Japanese admiral in 1945."*
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on March 30, 2007

Also -- "The beatings will continue until morale improves - attributed to the Commander of the Japanese Submarine Force."* #

"The statement is attributed to Japanese Imperial navy officer who commanded the Submarine fleet during world war 2. During the mid to later years of the war, The IJN suffered losses similar to those suffered by the Kriegsmarine at the same time. This famously led to Japanese sub captains finding any excuse not to engage the enemy. The beatings referred to are not literal physical beatings. It's still an absurd statement in its literal significance."*
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on March 30, 2007

It's also been featured in the Simpsons, which may have helped elevate its meme-status.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:36 PM on March 30, 2007

ericb: What source are you quoting?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2007

I think Ericb's sources are in the starred and hashed links at the end of the quote, crouton?
posted by SpecialK at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2007

Thanks, SpecialK, for some reason I didn't see those.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:23 PM on March 30, 2007

It's also been featured in the Simpsons, which may have helped elevate its meme-status.

Then it must be a Matt Groening thing, because he's featured the quote in his earlier "Life is Hell" comic strips, too.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:47 PM on March 30, 2007

I believe that the phrase first surfaced, as a Xeroxed spoof of a 'motivational poster', in the computer science department of Evergreen State College circa 1981-1982.
Since Matt Groening did attend Evergreen around this time - and took at least 2 CompSci courses to fulfill his BA requirements - and the Pacific Northwest has a sizeable Japanese community, quite probably including veterans of the Japanese Imperial Navy, this could be what links these disparate origins.
posted by Flashman at 4:57 PM on March 30, 2007

I thought this was a mutiny on the bounty thing...
posted by Happy Dave at 7:17 PM on March 30, 2007

None of the sources linked above offer any supporting evidence, so at best they're apocryphal.

Although it could, of course, have existed much earlier, the earliest use I've been able to find of a common variant is this:

1967 Winnipeg Free Press (Mar. 30) "Reinstate Admiral, Dief Urges" p. 12: Mr. Diefenbaker said senior retired officers who testified before the Commons defence committee all warned that unification will be detrimental to the morale and effectiveness of the armed forces. "In the last few weeks, HMCS Saguenay in its daily orders, and I have them here, has stated that leave will end 'until morale improves.'"

The article starts on the front page and is datelined Ottawa. "Dief" is short for Diefenbaker. The article is about control of the Liberal party and the dismissal/reinstatement of Navy Admiral William Landymore, who was fired over his resistance to an effort to unify Canada's three military services.

There are many common variants of what will continue: leave, shore leave, floggings, and firings seeming most common.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:24 AM on March 31, 2007

I thought this was a mutiny on the bounty thing...

I have received two t-shirts which feature this phrase surrounding a Jolly Rodgers style skull and crossbones. So you aren't the only one who associates it with the high-seas buccaneer days.

Ironically, one of these shirts was given to me by one of my employees.

And coincidently, I'm wearing it even as I type this message.

posted by quin at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2007

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