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I saw a comment of someone referring to tom-and-tanya-foolery as the gender-inclusive version of tomfoolery. I was completely unaware of tomfoolery having any gendered connotation at all.

Is this a common term, and does the word tomfoolery have a gendered origin?

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    That’s nutzoid. Tomfoolery does not suffer from gender bias. --tom – tchrist Apr 1 '14 at 22:55
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    𝔅𝔢𝔠𝔞𝔲𝔰𝔢 𝔲𝔫𝔦𝔠𝔬𝔯𝔫𝔰. – tchrist Apr 1 '14 at 23:09
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    Why is this being voted to close? This is a term someone used and I wanted to know if Tomfoolery had any historical contexted as a gendered term. Given the push towards gender-neutral terms in English (which I support) a definative answer would have been nice. – user53089 Apr 1 '14 at 23:12
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    Why assume that "Tom" refers to someone male? Talk about gender bias! ;-) – Drew Apr 2 '14 at 2:26
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    If discussing cats or turkeys, yes. – Oldcat Apr 2 '14 at 22:38
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Tomfoolery in modern English has no sense of gender beyond the name Tom being present in the word. It is a combination of tomfool + -ery

That said, it derives from Middle English Thome Fole: Tom the Fool.

From the Online Etymological Dictionary: Tomfool - "buffoon, clown," 1650, from M.E. Thom Foole, personification of a mentally deficient man (1338), see Tom + fool. Tomfoolery is recorded from 1812. (Sorry, the link on etymonline.com seems to be broken, I found this at the bottom of the Dictionary.com entry)

So, at some point it did refer to a man.

Personally, I think it is perfectly appropriate to refer to the actions of either men or women as tomfoolery.*


*Note: You may find people who insist on gender scrubbing or equality in terms like this, but my advice is to stop speaking to these people immediately. You will just be happier. Take my word for it....

  • I think the term should be banned because it exhibits prejudice against fools. – Hot Licks Oct 10 '16 at 21:48

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