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62483.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:44 am Reply with quote

‘Pom’, the Australian term for British immigrants, is short for:

a) Port of Melbourne
b) Prisoners of her Majesty
c) Pommes (de terre)
d) Pompey
e) Permit of Migration
f) Pomegranates

The vast range of possibilities thrown up for the origin of ‘Pom’ just shows how spectacularly myth and conjecture can envelope language.
As acronyms are a reasonably modern invention, the most likely answer in this case is (f), ‘Pomegranate’. D.H.Lawrence, referred to the tradition in his 1923 Australian novel, Kangaroo.
“Pommy,’ wrote Lawrence, ‘is supposed to be short for pomegranate. Pomegranate, pronounced invariably pommygranate, is a near enough rhyme to immigrant, in a naturally rhyming country. Furthermore, immigrants are known in their first months, before their blood ‘thins down’, by their round and ruddy cheeks. So we are told”.
Lawrence’s theory is lent credence by The Anzac Book, which was published several years earlier in 1916. The absence of any earlier references to the word suggests that the term dates to the latter stages of the nineteenth century, and not to the original
Other slang words for the British include: Rosbif (‘Roast Beef’: French), Rooinek (‘Red Neck’: Afrikaans), Tommy (American World War I soldiers), and Limey (American and Canadian sailors).

(expanded from Gray, '05)


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