Daily Archives: August 6, 2009

Tom Foolery

Growing up, my dad would say to me, “I don’t want any tomfoolery”.  I always assumed this meant he didn’t want me to misbehave.  Technically, it refers to foolish behavior or nonsense (also good advice, I suppose). 

Its first recorded use was in 1812 and it stems from the Middle English Thom Foole, personification of a mentally deficient person.    Tom Foolery also happens to be the name of a musical revue based on the songs of Tom Lehrer that opened in London in the 1950s.   Lehrer, in addition to being a thirsty spirit, is a mathematician, teacher, composer, singer-songwriter, pianist and satirist who graduated from Harvard at the age of 18.  I’ve read that his favorite drink is a gin martini and he’s the self-proclaimed inventor of the Jell-O shot. 

One of the songs in the first act is titled, “Bright College Days” and Lehrer muses about college drinking:

Hearts full of youth, hearts full of truth
Six parts gin to one part vermouth

That sounds like tomfoolery to me.

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