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"plain jane"

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 10, 2006

In Reply to: "Plain jane" posted by Bob on October 09, 2006

: : does anyone know where the saying "plain jane" originates from? Is it from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte?

: Two different dictionaries offer first uses, but both in the 20th century. See

The Oxford English Dictionary cites it from 1912. Jane Eyre seems a very unlikely source. "Jane" is not infrequently made to do duty for the generic female, as in "Jane Doe." "Jane" makes a useful counterpoise to "John," also not infrequently made to stand for a whole gender, even a whole population, as in "John Q. Public."