Posted by Shae on May 01, 2003
In Reply to: Tom posted by TheFallen on May 01, 2003
: : Does anyone know where the meaning 'Tom' comes from with regard to a lady of the night!
: "Tom" meaning a prostitute is a slang term used in London UK, and, if TV shows are to be believed, its usage is particularly prevalent in the Police Force.
: With such a London connection, the instant suspicion is that Cockney rhyming slang may be involved. Cockney rhyming slang definitely already has two other meanings for the word "tom", namely jewellery (from tomfoolery) and shit (from Tom Tit), which just goes to show that context is everything when trying to understand a Cockney. Some have claimed that "tom" meaning a prostitute derives from "Thomas More" equalling "whore".
: Another theory revolves round "tom" being an abbreviation of "tomboy", which used to carry a pejorative meaning of a bold or immodest woman, in contrast to today's sense of simply "boyish or boisterous girl".
: There may well be other possibilities, but given the fact that this is such a London term - and I've never heard it used anywhere else - I favour the rhyming slang theory.
Here are some relevant entries in Slang and Euphamism, A Dictionary, by Richard A. Spears, Signet Books, 1991:
Tom: a prostitute
Tomato: a prostitute (U.S. underworld, early 1900s)
Tomboy: a rude and sexually uncontrolled girl; a strumpet (Primarily British, 1500s - 1800s)
Tomrig: a girl or woman, especially one who is sexually loose (colloquial, early 1700s - 1900s)
Tom Tart: a sexually loose woman. Rhyming slang for "tart"