Posted by ESC on February 18, 2005
In Reply to: Tom, Dick & Harry posted by Serge Liberman on February 18, 2005
: Any clues about the earliest uses of "Tom, Dick and Harry"? or, if they were actual people, who were they?
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).