Tom, Dick and Harry

I wanted to use the phrase ‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’ in a Regency-era book, but was afraid it sounded too modern, and so embarked on a quest. Here are the results.

The online UK Phrase Finder site cites Sir David Lyndesay, 1555, who refers to Jack and Tom; as well as Shakespeare who in ‘Love’s Labor Lost’, 1588, gives us Dick and Tom.

Partridge’s Dictionary of Unconventional English refers to ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ as meaning the common run of men and women, but not before 1815, and also refers to:
Jack and Tom, Tom and Tib – seventeenth century
Jack, Tom, Will and Dick – 1604
Tom, Jack and Dick – 1622
Tom, Dick and Francis – 1596
Dick, Tom and Jack – 1660
Jack, Tom and Harry – 1693

My own favorite is from the 1734 Vocal Miscellany (ed. 2):
‘Farewell, Tom, Dick and Harry,
farewell, Moll, Nell and Sue.’

I used Jack, Tom and Harry.

All of which is an excellent example of how we writers fritter away our time.

Published in: on May 16, 2008 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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