Western Australia is famous for many things but, up until now, it has not received credit for its greatest contribution to Australian culture. We invented the word ‘pommy’. Dictionaries like to say the origins of the word are obscure, but they aren’t. It started here.
On the goldfields they liked to play with words. Immigrants got called ‘Jimmy Grants’ because someone thought that was funny. Then it was taken too far. From ‘pomegranate’, Jimmy Grants became Pommygrants. And after that it quickly became the word Pomegranate itself, before getting shortened to Pommy. All this in Western Australia in the first years of the 20th century.
Dictionaries are also wrong when they claim Pommy first appeared during World War I. It is much earlier than that, and even appears in print in WA in January 1912 when immigrant British policemen were referred to as Pomegranate Johns, or Pommy for short. The word quickly spread around the whole country, and by 1913 the whining Poms were claiming it was a racially abusive word and should be banned. A joke from that year went like this:
A canvasser visited a house in Perth, and was referred by the good wife at the door to the “Old Man”, in the garden. He found that the “Old Man” was a Chinaman. “Do you mean to say you’ve married a Chinaman?” he said incredulously to the woman. “Why not?” she replied, “the woman next door married a Pommy.”
Before he died in 1950, John Jones of Leederville used to boast he had invented Pommy while perving on English girls on Hay Street. This is unlikely to be true, but does show that Western Australia has always claimed to be the origin for the word. It is time we were once again proud of our heritage.