"Pom" does not mean "Prisoners of His Majesty"

Adam   Thursday, March 04, 2004, 19:40 GMT
Pommy" (or "pom" or "pommie") is a primarily Australian (and largely derisive) slang term used to indicate a recent immigrant from Great Britain, or a Brit in general. The origins of "pommy" having been lost in the mists of time, someone needed to cook up an etymology for it, preferably one equal to the pejorative sense of the word. Accordingly, we now have the story that criminals transported to Australia were designated "Prisoners of His Majesty" or "Prisoners of Mother England" (some versions claim the convicts bore one of these legends printed on the backs of their shirts), and thus the acronym "POHM" or "POME" eventually evolved into the slang term "pom" or "pommy."

This amusing anecdote is doubtful as anything more than a fanciful invention, as acronymic origins antedating the mid-twentieth century are automatically suspect, and the use of "pommy" has been recorded at least as far back as 1915. Moreover, nobody has yet turned up corroborating evidence that "Prisoner of His Majesty" or "Prisoners of Mother England" were actually common designations for criminals transported to Australia. The best guess at this time is that "pommy" was based on the word "pomegranate" -- either because the redness of the fruit supposedly matched the typically florid British complexion, or because (like "Johnny Grant") it was used as rhyming slang for "immigrant."
Jim   Thursday, March 04, 2004, 23:38 GMT
I think that the second etymology sounds more plausible. Though perhaps we'll never know. What I don't agree with is that the word is "largely derisive". Somewhat, yes, but not largely: it's more friendly than anything.
Jeff   Wednesday, March 10, 2004, 12:52 GMT
As a POM living is Australia I find the term POMMIE is always used derisively the same as wog and leb, Aussies as usual fail to see this.
greth   Wednesday, March 10, 2004, 18:39 GMT
thanks for the info
Jim   Friday, March 12, 2004, 06:12 GMT
Aw, shut up, Jeff, y' winging pom ... well, maybe largely, but not entirely derisive.