The idiom Tom, Dick and Harry is so much part of our common language, that we sometimes forget its context and meaning for others. We've started to compile a list of the usage of Tom Dick and Harry in the English language, as well as a few handy translations for our overseas visitors.
We'd love to hear from you too if you have a Tom Dick and Harry story we can use on the site.
In particular we would like as many idiomatic translations of Tom Dick and Harry as possible. So if you know what you would say in German, French, Russian or any other language please drop us a line .
As many as possible will be published on these pages, and the best stories and the most unusual idioms will earn prizes!
We are grateful to Mr Ray Dunsdon of Cornwall, when researching his family tree, found this tale of three brothers named Tom, Dick and Harry:
The Dunsdon brothers, Tom, Dick and Harry were from Fulbrook which is just outside Burford and part of the Burford Parish, they were also known as "The Burford Highwaymen". The brothers began their life of crime by robbing farmers of stock and money as they travelled to market, they would hide the stolen livestock in the local Wychwood Forest.
They were rumoured to be responsible for robbing the Gloucester to Oxford coach. The oldest brother Dick disappeared after a failed robbery at Tangley Hall, 2 miles outside Burford. The brothers attempted to rob the place but the owners had been tipped off and as Dick put his arm through an opening in the door to remove the bolt the people waiting inside grabbed his arm and tied it to the bolt so that Dick could not pull it back out. Dick shouted to his brothers "cut! cut!" and one of his brothers drew his sword and severed off his arm at the elbow.
As they fled they are rumoured to have gone to the Merrymouth Inn where their requests for help were refused and they then shot the innkeeper and left him for dead. The brothers fled and Dick was never seen or heard of again and is believed to have died of his injuries. Tom and Harry were captured after attending the Burford Whitsuntide Festival in Capps Lodge, after an altercation with a man called William Harding who was shot by Harry in the chest, The landlord and several others apprehended the fugitives and delivered them to the Gloucestershire gaol (jail).
Some weeks later Harding died and the brothers were tried for his murder and convicted. The sentence on these "desperate fellows who had long been a terror to the country where they lived" as the judge summed it up was death by hanging and their bodies to be hung in chains thereafter. Their bodies were hanged from a gibbet tree on the edge of the forest which was once their refuge. This tree is still there today.
The picture is of the very tree at Fulbrook
where the brothers met their end.
Click on the photograph to open a
new window in Wikepedia Commons.
Here are some examples of Tom Dick and Harry translated into various languages....please feel free to comment if you disagree or feel the meaning is not quite right.
Dr. Ir. W Huijsen has contributed the following to our list of namesakes in other cultures.
The Chinese equivalent for the idiom "Tom, Dick and Harry" is 张三，李四，王五
(Zhāng Sān , Lǐ Sì , Wáng Wǔ). A fourth may be added: 赵六 Zhào Lìu.
Funny thing is that, in each name, the second character is a numeral / ordinal number:
三=3，四=4，五=5, 六=6. This probably refers to the ordinal number for children. E.g. 张三 is the third child.
The fact that counting does not start with 1 or 2 stresses that the persons referred to are not very important.
Idiom translation into German: HInz und Kunz - but we're looking for one with three names too. *
Alternative idiom translation into German: Krethi und Plethi (from the 1920s) *
*we are grateful to Michael from Germany for his help in correcting this entry
Idiom translation into French: Pierre, Paul ou Jacques
Alternative idiom translation into French: Monsieur TousLeMonde
Idiom translation into Italian: Tizio, Caio e Sempronio
We are thankful to Mr Klaas Knillis Hofstra for the following:
The equivalent of Tom, Dick and Harry in Dutch is:
Jan, Piet en Klaas (literal: John, Peter and Nicholas (or Claus as in Santa Claus)), meaning the same: ordinary or common people, not specifically named or mentioned.
Greetings from The Netherlands.
Fact & Film: Tom Dick and Harry are the names of the three escape tunnels dug at Stalag Luft III, featured in the 1963 film, The Great Escape
Film: Tom Dick and Harry released in 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures, staring Ginger Rogers
Film: Tom Dick and Harry released in 2006 as a Bollywood comedy