TOMFOOLERY

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TOMFOOLERY

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Jun 11, 2004 8:53 am

WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF "TOMFOOLERY"
SOME RESULTS OF DISCUSSIONS WITH FRIENDS: MISCHIEF OF TOM MCEWAN (MONGOOSE) AND HIS DRAG RACING OPPONENT "THE SNAKE," TOM SAWYER & HUCK FINN ESCADES, SHAKESPERIAN TIMES?
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TOMFOOLERY

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jun 11, 2004 9:08 am

Results of discussions with friends: none of the above.
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Random House’s Word Maven:

TOMFOOLERY is 'foolish or silly behavior.'

‘Tomfoolery’ is, as you might guess, the behavior of a ‘tomfool,’ that is, a foolish or stupid person; a silly fool.

(I love this part.) A ‘tomfool’ was originally ‘Tom Fool,’ with ‘Tom,’ a nickname from ‘Thomas,’ being a stereotypical male given name. ‘Tom’ was often used in personification before nouns, thus ‘Tom Long’ ‘a person who takes a long time to tell a story', or ‘Tom Piper’ 'a piper' (this one is found in Spenser). ‘Tom Fool’ is thus a sort of fourteenth-century equivalent of our modern ‘Joe Cool.’ [[I am not familiar with this interpretation of Joe Cool. I thought that Joe Cool was the guy who was trying to act ‘cool’ – the basis of the whole R.J. Reynolds Tobacco character in the dark glasses, ‘Joe Camel.’ Doesn’t strike me as being synonymous with the stupid person, buffoon, blockhead implication]]

As a (fictitious) proper name, ‘Tom Fool’ is first recorded in the fourteenth century in the sense of'a person who plays the part of a fool in various dramas; ‘buffoon’ appears by the seventeenth century. The generic sense 'a foolish person' is first recorded in the early eighteenth century.

The noun ‘tomfoolery,’ an intensification the existing ‘foolery,’ is first recorded in the early nineteenth century.
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Random House Unabridged Dictionary

TOMFOOLERY 1)Foolish or silly behavior; tomfoolishness. 2) A silly act, matter, or thing.Synonyms foolishness, silliness, horseplay, monkeyshines.[1805–15; TOMFOOL + -ERY]

TOM FOOL 1) noun: A grossly foolish or stupid person; a silly fool. 2) adjective: Being or characteristic of a tomfool. [1325–75, Middle English ‘Thome fole’ Tom Fool]
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Merriam Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary: Middle English ‘Thome Fole,’ name given to half-wits, ‘Thome’ (nickname for ‘Thomas’ + ‘fol, ‘fole’ fool) <indulge in ‘tomfoolery’> <racehorses and football and ‘tomfooleries’ of that sort>
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Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins:

TOMFOOLERY nowadays simply implies ‘nonsense, silly behavior.’ But back in medieval times it was considered great sport to watch the antics of insane people in asylums like Bedlam in London. The nicknames ‘Tom o’ Bedlam’ and ‘Tom Fool’ were often used for male inmates who were favorites of the audience. Over the centuries the word ‘tomfoolery’ evolved, eventually acquiring the relatively innocuous meaning it has today.
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Ken G - April 26, 2002
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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