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Passions in Poetry

Tom Foolery

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Senior Member
since 01-30-2000
Posts 621
Recess, OfYourMind

0 posted 05-13-2004 10:30 AM       View Profile for mariee66   Email mariee66   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for mariee66

Ever wonder where words/phrases originate from?  Here's a tough one (in my mind)--What is the origin of the phrase Tom Foolery?  

Was it performers in the insane asylum coming from Bethlehem during the Middle Ages?  
How about an American word meaning being conned into giving money to a complete stranger?  
Maybe it comes from Spanish origins, meaning a game involving five pińatas in a fiesta?!  
Or could it be from a comic strip called Joe Palooka, an inferior boxer?

The answer is one of those...Can you guess correctly?

Member Patricius
since 06-19-2003
Posts 13093

1 posted 05-13-2004 10:54 AM       View Profile for LeeJ   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for LeeJ

Hiya Marie and Good Morning

Welp, since most cliches believe it or not, come from Biblical times...I would have to pick the first answer you gave us???  

Junior Member
since 09-10-2003
Posts 18
Thoroughly Abroad

2 posted 05-13-2004 12:06 PM       View Profile for Errandghost   Email Errandghost   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Errandghost

It comes from a bit of a tradition  

Tom and Jack

The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable by E. Cobham Brewer says:

"Between “Tom” and “Jack” there is a vast difference. “Jack” is the sharp, shrewd, active fellow, but Tom the honest dullard. Counterfeits are “Jack,” but Toms are simply bulky examples of the ordinary sort, as Tomtoes. No one would think of calling the thick-headed, ponderous male cat a Jack, nor the pert, dexterous, thieving daw a “Tom.” The former is instinctively called a Tom-cat, and the latter a Jack-daw. The subject of “Jack” has been already set forth. (See Jack. ) Let us now see how Tom is used:-

   Tom o' Bedlam (q.v.). A mendicant who levies charity on the plea of insanity.
   Tom-cat. The male cat.
   Tom Drum's entertainment. A very clumsy sort of horse-play.
   Tom Farthing. A born fool.
   Tom Fool. A clumsy, witless fool, fond of stupid practical jokes, but very different from a “Jack Pudding,” who is a wit and bit of a conjurer.
   Tom Long. A lazy, dilatory sluggard.
   Tom Lony. A simpleton.
   Tom Noddy. A puffing, fuming, stupid creature, no more like a “Jack-a-dandy” than Bill Sikes to Sam Weller.
   Tom Noodle. A mere nincompoop.
   Tom the Piper's son. A poor stupid thief who got well basted, and blubbered like a booby.
   Tom Thumb.A man cut short or stinted of his fair proportions. (For the Tom Thumb of nursery delight, see next page.
   Tom Tidler. An occupant who finds it no easy matter to keep his own against sharper rivals. (See Tom Tidler's Ground.)
   Tom Tiller. A hen-pecked husband.
   Tom Tinker. The brawny, heavy blacksmith, with none of the wit and fun of a “Jack Tar,” who can tell a yarn to astonish all his native village.
   Tom Tit. The “Tom Thumb” of birds.
   Tom-Toe. The clumsy, bulky toe, “bulk without spirit vast.” Why the great toe? “For that being one o' the lowest, basest, poorest of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost.” (Shakespeare: Coriolanus, i. 1.)
   Tom Tug. A waterman, who bears the same relation to a Jack Tar as a carthorse to an Arab. (See Tom Tug.)
   Great Tom of Lincoln. A bell weighing 5 tons 8 cwt.
   Mighty Tom of Oxford. A bell weighing 7 tons 12 cwt.
   Old Tom. A heavy, strong, intoxicating sort of gin.
   Long Tom. A huge water-jug.

Tom Fool's Colours Red and yellow, or scarlet and yellow, the colours of the ancient motley.

Tom Foolery The coarse, witless jokes of a Tom Fool"
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