A nickname for the Brits

This is a bit of a meandering story, but if you stick with me I promise it makes sense!

I know you’re all expecting a post with lots of exciting pictures and details from the adventure we had this past weekend. Well … I hate to disappoint you, but we were pretty lame. 

On Friday night we were feeling a touch homesick, and so ventured out to the Outback in Romford. Yes, there are exactly 3 Outback Steakhouses in the UK, and luckily one of them is near public transit in London. So we went to have our first decent steak in the UK (note, the beef was Irish, not Scottish, and it was fantastic!). 

On Saturday we went out to a suburban mall. I’m sure Alex will post about his take on it, but the whole time I felt slightly disconcerted that we were actually in Ohio somewhere. Suffice it to say that malls suffer from an excess of similarity.

So! On to the title of the post. When we were looking up Outback, the URL for the site came up as www.outbackpom.com. And, if you’re anything like me, you stuttered over that because the P O M can look suspiciously like P O R N if you’re reading quickly! 

Luckily for us, POM is just a nickname for British people.

Wikipedia has an excellent article talking about all the different nicknames for the Brits, including limey, Tommy, and rosbif. Pom, or pommy, it turns out, is usually used by Australians and New Zealanders (and sometimes South Africa).  Some people consider the term to be offensive, but it was offically found non-derogatory by the Australian Advertising Standards Board in 2006.

But where does it come from?  The exact etymology is unclear. The OED suggests that pommy comes from pomegranate, which was used as a kind of rhyming slang (think cockney) for immigrant. Apparently there is a newspaper article from 1912 that says “The other day a Pummy Grant (assisted immigrant) was handed a bridle and told to catch a horse.”

There is another theory: that immigrants are called pommy (still short for pomegranate) because they would get horrible sunburns that turned their skin the color of the fruit.  There is no historical evidence for this, however.

A pomegranate. I imagine that a sunburn that turned you that particular red would be mighty painful!

One theory that has been proven false is the theory that POM stands for Prisoner of (His/Her) Majesty, and the initials were stitched onto their prison uniforms. While this makes for a great story considering the colonization of the antipodes,  it’s simply not true.

So there you have. We had a boring weekend, but learned a bit about what to call the locals. I’d like to write up a post about all the things the Brits call the Americans, but that wouldn’t make it past the censors!


Posted on 11/05/2010, in Silly British Things. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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