Where does the term Pommie come from?

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nomblepomble | 05:47 Fri 28th Apr 2006 | History
16 Answers
Why do the English get called Pommes by Australians?

I heard its an acronym for Prisoners of Her Majesty (P.O.H.M) and is thus relating to Australians leaving the homeland and being set free from the Queen...

Or does it relate to the early English settlers who came to Australia as convicts and therefore actually refers to modern day Australians not the English?



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No-one is sure, but best explanation seems to be a derivation from pomegranate, jokey version of immigrant. The POHM story is a bogus folk etymology, in the same fantasy class as PortOutStarboardHome and WilyOrientalGentleman...

Pom/pommie/pommy are not acronyms, as many claim and as Mike points out above.. Nobody knows for sure what the etymology of �pom/my/mie' is, but neither The Oxford English Dictionary (TOED) nor the Australian National Dictionary (AND) even mentions the idea that it might have anything to do with prisoners or acronyms involving prisoners - eg from Prisoner of Mother England.
Here are a few key historical facts...a) 'Pommy' appeared nowhere in print before 1915 and b) �Pom' then appeared four years later. Both meant �a British soldier'. c) If �pommy/pom' had anything whatever to do with prisoners or acronyms, why did theses words not appear on paper anywhere until 130 years after Australia became a penal colony and about three generations after the last convicts were sent to New South Wales?
Both the OED and the AND say the source is obscure, but suggest �pommy' might be associated with 'pomegranate' - as Mike also said above - a concept first outlined in 1923, within a decade of the word's first appearance in print.
TOED claims this to be (quote): "the most widely-accepted" etymology, which makes sense for two reasons...a)pomegranate very roughly rhymes with 'immigrant' and hence, "immygran(i)t/pommygranate" was possibly a jokey catcall first used by schoolboys - and b) the pomegranate is a bright red fruit resembling the sunburnt skin of newcomers to Australia.
Unfortunately, neither TOED nor AND is available free online, but if you click here you will find a reliable web-page on the matter. It was produced by the noted etymologist/lexicographer, Michael Quinion. He, too, dismisses the acronymaniacs' ideas, so it is pretty clear - despite there being no total proof - that �pomegranate' is the way to go...Forget the convicts!

Prisoners Of Mother England.

Relates to the fact that the first settlers were convicts.

Aw for goodness' sake!
Some days don't you just want to say "Why bother", Q?
Indeed, C! I suppose that - as they say - the one great benefit of banging one's head against a brick wall is how nice it feels when you stop. As you yourself said recently elsewhere...Go figure!
just to make clear, it is indeed an Australian term for the English (possibly British, though they don't normally think of Scots as Poms). Transportation of convicts to Australia began back in the 18th century (once America was no longer available), long before Victoria was born, so the Prisoner of Her Majesty idea doesn't work out.
jno - what about HIS majesty? It's still the same letters! However, having read Quizmonster reply could it not come from Tommy which I think was a nickname for a British soldier in the First World War?
true, Your Royal Majesty Spudqueen!

Given that Bill came from William and Will and that Peggy came from Margaret and Meggie, you're right, Spudqueen, Pommy could easily have come about as a slight modification of Tommy. The problem is that there is no evidence that it did so. All we do know, as I said above, is that when first recorded it meant a British a Tommy.
The one thing all linguistic experts seem to be agreed upon is that it has nothing whatever to do with acronyms or convicts. Yet, as we see right here in this thread, these absurd ideas just will not go away!
There are, for example, people around who believe that "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" or "Fornication Under Command of the King" are the acronymic source of our best-known four-letter word! "Posh", too, as Mike pointed out above, has been shown conclusively not to be an acronym, but that will seemingly never end the persistent belief that it is.
I suppose all one can do is go on pointing out the improbability or even impossibility of such notions.

Well I am no poet .. but pomegranate/immigrant ????? MInd you we used to say 'Junior Dramatics' as a code for 'is my mascara smudged' at school so I suppose anything's possible.
What's the problem, Lady? The words 'pom - ee - gran - it' and 'imm - ee - gran - it' seem like a perfectly good rhyme to me, bearing in mind that such catcalls and slogans don't always have to obey the normal rules of English. What about the old advert exhorting us to "Drinka pinta milka day", for example?
aha you are showing your age now !! Yes point taken QM :)
It could even relate to the fact that Pommie could be derived from the French 'Pomme'. Apple. What relevance that is, I have no idea, but the words are very similar!
The way it was told to me many years back was that this was a way in which the Australians referred to people who remained in England as the REAL prisoners of mother England, the Aussies were in fact the"released".

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