Tommy, Tommy Atkins

The great joy of running this website is that now and again you discover a term that simultaneously connects with great historical figures and events and reveals how language, the most human of inventions, works. The British slang term for a soldier, Tommy, is just such a word. It is short for Tommy Atkins, and the word’s history, both purported and real, pulls in both the great, i.e., the Duke of Wellington, and the small, i.e., an example of how to fill out a government form correctly.

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