Posted by ESC on December 11, 2000
In Reply to: Tom, Dick and Harry (Any ) posted by GeeCee on December 10, 2000
: Anyone know the origins of this phrase?I've heard a suspect story about an aviator named Richard Byrd and his 2 brothers, but it doesn't fit with the meaning of the phrase.
TOM, DICK AND HARRY - "This group of names signifying any indiscriminate collection of masculine representatives of 'hoi polloi' was a more or less haphazard choice. It probably started with names common in the sixteenth century. Thus Sir David Lyndesay, in 'Ane Dialog betwix Experience and ane Courteour' (c. 1555), has 'Wherefore to colliers, carters and cokes to Iack (Jack) and Tom my rime shall be directed.' And Shakespeare, in 'Love's Labour's Lost' , gives us in the closing song, 'And Dicke the Shepheard blowes his nails' and Tom beares Logges into the hall.' And 'Dick, Tom and Jack' served through the seventeenth century. But our present group was apparently an American selection. It appeared (according to George L. Kittredge's 'The Old Farmer and his Almanac,' 1904) in 'The Farmer's Almanack' for 1815: 'So he hired Tom, Dick and Harry, and at it they went.'" From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1955).