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From where comes the phrase '...every Tom, Dick, and Harry'?

Question #23420. Asked by Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Related Trivia Topics: Linguistics   Idioms and Proverbs  
Answer has 2 votes
TabbyTom avatar

Answer has 2 votes.
The phrase seems to have arisen because Tom, Dick and Harry used to be very common names and, individually or collectively, they seemed to typify the common man. It probably acquired its present form in the 18th or early 19th century.

In the song at the end of Shakespeare's 'Love's Labour's Lost', we have 'Dicke the Shepheard blowes his {naile;} And Tom beares Logges into the hall.' In 'Henry IV Part 1', the Prince says 'I am sworn brother to a leash of Drawers, and can call them by their names, as Tom, Dicke, and Francis.' An 18th-century song has the lines 'Farewell, Tom, Dick, and Harry: Farewell, Moll, Nell, and Sue.' In the he collected works of President John Adams comes 'Tom, Dick, and Harry were not to censure them and their Council.' From then on there are plenty of instances of the phrase 'Tom, Dick and/or Harry' in its current sense.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary.

Oct 20 2002, 3:15 PM
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