Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tommy n.2

[orig. milit. jargon tommy, the bread supplied as part of rations. This in turn had evolved from orig. 18C brown george to brown tommy to tommy brown and thence to its abbr. Note that St Thomas’ Day, on which bread was distributed by charities, preceded the milit. coinage]

1. (a loaf of) bread.

implied in brown tommy
[UK] (ref. to 1783) in W. Cobbett Rural Rides (1885) II 353: It is [...] ascribed to the army; for, when I was a recruit at Chatham barracks, in the year 1783, we had brown bread served out to us twice in the week. And for what reason God knows, we used to call it tommy. And the sergeants, when they called us out to get our bread, used to tell us to come and get our tommy. Anyone that could get white bread, called it bread; but the brown stuff that we got in lieu of our pay, was called tommy.
[US]Ladies’ Repository (N.Y.) Oct. VIII:37 317/1: Tommy, Bread.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 July 2/7: May you never [...] be grubbed upon measly pork and weevily Tommy.
[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 127: Coffee wirrout tommy don’t make much of a breakfast.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 326: Tommy bread, ― food generally. Sometimes applied by workmen to the supply of food which they carry in a bag or handkerchief as their daily allowance. tommy-bag is the term for the bag or handkerchief in which the ‘daily bread’ is carried.
[UK]D.W. Barrett Life and Work among Navvies 36: When you meet a mate on tramp [...] give him, if you like, some ‘tommy.’.
[UK]Leicester Chron. 19 July 12/1: The skilly’s sour, and the tommy as black as your hat.
[UK]Marvel XIV:343 June 15: Won’t yer give us a bit of tommy or a cold spud [...] ?
[UK]E. Blair ‘Spike’ in Adelphi Apr. in Complete Works X (1998) 200: George, a dirty old tramp [...] grumbled about a parcel of tommy that he had lost on the road.
[UK]B. McGhee Cut and Run (1963) 104: [Prisoners] are handed [...] a mug of muddy tea that looks as if it’s been stood in, plus two slices of ‘tommy.’.

2. solid food in general.

[UK]Disraeli Sybil Bk III 8: All I have got is tommy, and what shall it be, bacon or cheese?
[UK]Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XXIX 508: Halliwell sets down the word tommy, meaning provisions, as belonging to various dialects. It is now current among the ‘navvy’ class in general, and seems to belong especially to the Irish.
[UK]J. Runciman Chequers 207: To-morrow’s Christmas Day, and no tommy to eat – let be the pudden!
[UK]E. Pugh Man of Straw 28: How thin and white she is. Don’t have enough tommy, very likely.
[UK]Magnet 22 Feb. 9: I’m not going to ask them to let me share their tommy.
[UK]Gem 30 Sept. 5: You don’t mean to say that you’ve scoffed all the tommy, you unearthly porpoise!
[UK]M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 6: I sip my brew and munch my tommy.
[UK]J. Worby Spiv’s Progress 9: Stop and have a bit of tommy .
[UK]L.T.C. Rolt Sleep No More (1994) 2: At midday they knocked off for a bite of ‘Tommy.’.

3. (Aus./N.Z.) bread baked with sugar and currants.

Ohinemurri Gaz. (NZ) 21 May 3/3: A supply of water and ‘browney’ (bread) was placed within its reach.
[UK]C. Tomalin Venturesome Tom 54: We gave him a night’s shakedown, a good breakfast and a parcel of ‘tommy’ to carry away with him.
[NZ] (ref. to 1890–1910) L.G.D. Acland Early Canterbury Runs (1951) 365: Brownie – Bread baked with currants and sugar. Sometimes called Tommy.

In compounds

tommy shop (n.)

1. a food shop owned by an employer, who issues his workers vouchers, which can only be used at that shop; thus attrib. Tommy (shop) system, Tommy shopkeeper.

[UK]Birmingham Jrnl 5 Dec. 1/6: Tommy Shops [...] To show whether or no ‘the workmen who receive their wages in goods or Tommy are the worse’, I will give a comparative view of the price of a few articles.
[UK]Birmingham Jrnl 5 Dec. 1/6: The cunning, over-reaching, greedy Tommy shopkeeper.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 410/1: There we had a tommy-shop, and we had to go there to get our bit of victuals.
[UK]Empire (Sydney) 2 Sept. 5/3: it is a manifest breach of right, an unjust aggression on the interests of a fellow man, when an employer compels those who serve him to take goods supplied by himself, at an exorbitant rate, instead of the money to which they are fairly entitled. [...] such a mode of extortion, commonly called the ‘Tommy truck system,’ has been practised to a great extent.
[Aus]Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.) 4 Feb. 2/3: It is likely that he will be subjected to considerable questioning to-night concerning [...] what is called the tommy shop system, at the works carried on by Mr. O’Keefe, at Preston Yale, where Mr. Burrowes has a store.
Ballarat Courier (Vic.) 16 Aug. 2/4: Hitherto, the popular belief has been that the ‘truck’ system consisted of orders being given by contractors to their men to obtain stores, &c., at what we believe is known as a ‘tommy shop,’ such shop being either the property of the contractors themselves, or owned at least by a trade connection.
[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 7 Jan. 7/7: I have bought a piece of bee from the ‘tommy shop’.
[Aus]Northern Star (Lismore, NSW) 4 Sep. 1/4: Mr. Grimes had prudently invested his money in an establishment which in some parts of England, would be called a Tommy shop - a store in which all manner of groceries and such like articles are to be purchased.
[Aus]Queanbeyan Age (NSW) 22 Jun. 2/4: There are thousands of the unemployed now working [...] for rations which are valued at about 1s 10d per man, and this has given rise to a nickname for the Ministry, who are called ‘The Tommy Shop Government,’ owing to their revival of the old English system of paying men in small rations.
Oakleigh Leader (Melbourne) 30 Nov. 3/6: He did not agree with contractors boarding their men. This was what is called the ‘Tommy’ or ‘Truck’ system, which had been adopted by some railway contractors.
[UK]London Dly News 29 Oct. 2/4: These constitute the royal Victualling Yard [...] or the Navvy ‘Tommy Shop’ in the lingo of our merry tars.

2. a bakery.

[UK] ‘Famine Fast Day’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 74: Th’ warehouses an th’ tommy shops aw breaking down wi’ stuff.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XXIX 508: The store belonging to an employer, where his workmen must take out part of their earnings in kind, especially in tommy or food, whence the name of tommy-shop.
[UK]D.W. Barrett Life and Work among Navvies 68: He opens a ‘tommy shop.’.
tommy truck (n.)

a conveyance bringing food to workmen.

London Daily News 29 Oct. 5/5: Many of them [i.e. navvies] eat eighteen pounds of beef in the week [...] and as we look at them the ‘tommy truck’ makes its appearance.

In phrases

brown tommy (n.)

brown bread.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Brown Tommy; ammunition bread for soldiers; or brown bread given to convicts at the hulks.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 147: The most delicate light french bread, now changed to brown tommy* [*Wholesome, but very coarse].
Devizes and Wiltshire Gaz. 6 Mar. 2/4: Look here — this is not brown tommy .
[UK]Western Times 13 Mar. 4/6: You would think so if you saw five or six rats staring at me while I was throwing them some of my brown tommy.
[UK]Sam Sly 17 Mar. 3/3: [P]referring ‘grub’ of their own providing to the ‘brown tommy’ and blue milk of the governors.
Godfrey Life of George Godfrey 15: I had no appetite for the brown ‘tommy.’.
soft tommy (n.)

white bread.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Tommy. Soft Tommy, bread is so called by Sailors to distinguish it from Biscuit.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: Soft Tommy, or white Tommy; bread is so called by sailors to distinguish it from biscuit.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Navy at Home I 3: She stowed away a certain quantity of new baked bread or soft Tommy.
Southern Star 10 May 8/1: A passenger on rather a long voyage [...] complained [...] oft the hard biscuit and the absence of ‘soft tommy’ (bread).
[US](con. 1843) Melville White-Jacket (1990) 133: Hence the various sea-rolls, made dishes, and Mediterranean pies, well known by man-of-war’s-men — Scouse, Lob-Scouse, Soft-Tack, Soft-Tommy, [...] and lastly, and least known, Dunderfunk.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 29: That jovial personage [...] promises Spooner ‘soft tommy’ when he gets to Quebec.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 240: Soft-tommy loaf-bread, in contradistinction to hard biscuit.
[US]Potter Jrnl & News (Coudersport, PA) 19 Apr. 1/5: We East India goers [...] called everything that was not hard tack soft tommy.
[UK]W.S. Gilbert H.M.S. Pinafore 3: I’ve treacle and toffee, and excellent coffee, / Soft tommy, and succulent chops.
[US]Argonia Clipper (KS) 7 Dec. 6/5: Ordinary loaves of white bread [...] are christened ‘soft tack,’ or ‘soft tommy’.

In exclamations