Tom, Dick and Harry
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The phrase "Tom, Dick and Harry" is a placeholder for multiple unspecified people; "Tom, Dick or Harry" plays the same role for one unspecified person. The phrase most commonly occurs as "every Tom, Dick and Harry", meaning everyone, and "any Tom, Dick or Harry", meaning anyone, although Brewer defines the term to specify "a set of nobodies; persons of no note".
Similar expressions exist in other languages of the world, utilizing commonly used first or last names. The phrase is used in numerous works of fiction.
The origin of the phrase is unknown. The earliest known citation is from the 17th-century English theologian John Owen who used the words in 1657. Owen told a governing body at Oxford University that "our critical situation and our common interests were discussed out of journals and newspapers by every Tom, Dick and Harry." Pairs of common male names, particularly Jack and Tom, Dick and Tom, or Tom and Tib, were often used generically in Elizabethan times. For example a variation of the phrase can be found in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 (1597): "I am sworn brother to a leash of Drawers, and can call them by their names, as Tom, Dicke, and Francis."
Tom comes first and Harry last because in English usage, where three words are given in a series, the shortest-sounding word normally comes first, and the longest-sounding word comes last. Examples of this gradation include "tall, dark and handsome", "hook, line and sinker", "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"; and so on.
In medicine 
English-speaking medical students use the phrase in memorizing the order of an artery, and a nerve, and the three tendons of the flexor retinaculum in the lower leg: the T,D,a,n, and H of Tom, Dick and Harry correspond to tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, posterior tibial artery, tibial nerve, and flexor hallucis longus. This mnemonic is used to remember the order of the tendons from anterior to posterior at the level of the medial malleolus just posterior to the malleolus.
Cultural influences 
Tom, Dick and Harry is widely used throughout culture, it is beyond the scope of this article to list every passing mention. However, some notable instances include the three Galapagos Island tortoises brought back to England aboard the HMS Beagle by Charles Darwin in 1835, as documented in his book, The Voyage of the Beagle. They were named Tom, Dick and Harry. It was later discovered that "Harry" was a female and she was renamed "Harriet", and lived in captivity in Australia until her death in 2006, aged 175 years.
See also 
Notes and references 
- Shakespeare, William; Bevington, David (1998). Henry IV, Part 1. Oxford University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-19-283421-5.
- Partridge, Eric (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Taylor & Francis. p. 1981. ISBN 0-415-25938-X.
- Brewer, E. Cobham (1978). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Avenel Books. p. 1235. ISBN 0-517-25921-4.
- Other Tom Dick and Harrys
- Peter Toon, God’s Statesman, pg. 52.
- "Tom, Dick, and Harry", the Gramaphobia Blog, February 18, 2007
- Henry IV, Part 1, via Wikisource
- Thomas Mann, Joachim Neugroschel (editor). Death in Venice and other tales, Penguin Classics. Page ix
- "MedicalMnemonics". Medial malleolus: order of tendons, artery, nerve behind it. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
- Netter, Frank H. (2011) Atlas of Human Anatomy, 5th Ed. Saunder: Philadelphia.
- ANGIE GANGI (June 23, 2006). "Harriet the Tortoise Dies at 175". ABC News. Retrieved September 11, 2012.