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Old 07 September 2007, 06:00 PM
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Icon102 Peeping Tom

Comment: I was just reading about the term "peeping Tom" and how it originated and
I was wondering if you could confirm it's existence.

Apparently Lady Godiva asked her husband to cut taxes and he said the only
way he would is if she rode through the town naked. She surprisingly
agreed but ordered all the townspeople to stay in their homes and not peek
at her while she did this. All the them complied to this except one man
snuck a peek through a window, whose name was Tom. And that's how the
term "peeping Tom" starting. Do you know if this is true?
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  #2  
Old 09 September 2007, 10:03 PM
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Whalephant

Apparently, the Lady Godiva story may have roots in truth, although likely heavily embroidered after the fact.

I was taught the same thing, however: that the phrase "Peeping Tom" came from the Godiva story/myth.

It was also the basis for lots of cute puns in years gone by; but today, "Beijing Tom" just doesn't cut the mustard.

Silas
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  #3  
Old 10 September 2007, 04:40 PM
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I'd heard that, too, and that the Tom in question was a tailor. No idea where I read it, unless it was in one of Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's "Fairy Godmother" books.
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Old 11 September 2007, 12:15 AM
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Was the person really named Tom or was that just a generic name like John it used today.

I would supprize me if everyone knew who peeked if no one else did because no one saw them except may be the Lady Godiva and I suppect she would not like to call attention to the person that did if she even new his name. So his name was just Tom. Then again she may have later sent a gaurd to arrest the person in the house at the time to be punished.
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  #5  
Old 11 September 2007, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singing in the Drizzle View Post
Was the person really named Tom or was that just a generic name like John it used today.
I don't think there is any way to know in this case, but, yes, "Tom" was a fairly generic name. "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son," "Tom, Dick, and Harry," and "Tom O'Bedlam" all bear this out (a little.) Also "Tom Fool."

Silas
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Old 12 September 2007, 03:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singing in the Drizzle View Post
Was the person really named Tom or was that just a generic name like John it used today.

I would supprize me if everyone knew who peeked if no one else did because no one saw them except may be the Lady Godiva and I suppect she would not like to call attention to the person that did if she even new his name. So his name was just Tom. Then again she may have later sent a gaurd to arrest the person in the house at the time to be punished.
Legend says he was struck blind (by God I guess) as punishment.
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Old 04 October 2007, 04:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Apparently, the Lady Godiva story may have roots in truth, although likely heavily embroidered after the fact.

I was taught the same thing, however: that the phrase "Peeping Tom" came from the Godiva story/myth.

It was also the basis for lots of cute puns in years gone by; but today, "Beijing Tom" just doesn't cut the mustard.

Silas
Wouldn't the Beijing Tom thing work better if you made the other peeking instead of peeping?
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  #8  
Old 04 October 2007, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imjustasteph View Post
Wouldn't the Beijing Tom thing work better if you made the other peeking instead of peeping?
Beijing was called Peiping before it was called Peking.

Or something like that...
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  #9  
Old 05 October 2007, 03:05 PM
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My dear dad always told me since Lady Godiva rode sidesaddle, thats also where the phrase "Hooray for our side" came from. Course, he was a smartass.
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Old 05 October 2007, 03:07 PM
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Other details I have heard;
1. Tom was blinded by God through the keyhole.
2. Lady Godiva in fact promised to ride bareback through the city (Coventry), but was horribly misunderstood.
3. Lady Godiva in fact rode bareback through the city, but it was reported by the Daily Mail.
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  #11  
Old 06 October 2007, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawgiver View Post
My dear dad always told me since Lady Godiva rode sidesaddle...
Since she was naked I doubt that she had to use a sidesaddle (that probably wasn't even invented at the time).
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  #12  
Old 06 October 2007, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dog Friendly View Post
Beijing was called Peiping before it was called Peking.

Or something like that...
Oh...my Mario Is Missing game left that fact out....
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  #13  
Old 09 October 2007, 10:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
All the them complied to this except one man
snuck a peek through a window, whose name was Tom.

Tom had a window named Tom?
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  #14  
Old 09 October 2007, 10:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Apparently, the Lady Godiva story may have roots in truth, although likely heavily embroidered after the fact.

....
Oh, Silas, don't tell me the roots were dark. Leave me some illusions, man. Leave me some illusions.
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  #15  
Old 09 October 2007, 11:05 PM
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According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry in question was Leofric, in 1040. The story about Godiva riding naked through the streets ("her modesty preserved by her long hair") has been around at least since the early 13th century, because it was recorded by Roger of Wendover (died 1236) in Flores Historiarum. That version didn't include Peeping Tom, though - he was added in the time of Charles II it appears. The modern version of the story comes from Rapin's History of England (1723 - 27).

(I'm surprised that Coventry existed that long ago; The Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names gives the first recorded uses as "Couentre" in 1043 and "Couentreu" in 1046 - it means the tree of a man called Cofa, apparently. I could have guessed that.)

(eta) Yes, the story is that Leofric imposed heavy taxes and when Godiva protested, told her that he'd revoke them if she rode naked through the town.

Last edited by Richard W; 09 October 2007 at 11:11 PM.
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  #16  
Old 09 October 2007, 11:11 PM
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I rather like that Lady G. has "snow white legs" in the Flores Historiarum. Obviously she was pale and interesting.
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  #17  
Old 09 October 2007, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry in question was Leofric, in 1040. The story about Godiva riding naked through the streets ("her modesty preserved by her long hair") has been around at least since the early 13th century, because it was recorded by Roger of Wendover (died 1236) in Flores Historiarum. That version didn't include Peeping Tom, though - he was added in the time of Charles II it appears.
The Online Etymology Dictionary pretty much agrees, and adds that the Peeping Tom aspect was added by 1659.
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  #18  
Old 09 October 2007, 11:52 PM
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...The Domesday Book lists Coventry as being owned (in 1086 - 7) by Countess Godgifu; according to Anglo-Saxon England by Frank Stenton, Godgifu was the sister of King Edward the Confessor, but she was married to Drogo, Count of the Vexin in the 1040s so she's not Leofric's Godiva (if she's the same Godgifu that's mentioned in the Domesday Book at all). So the similar names are probably a coincidence, as far as I can see with my limited research - interesting, though. Leofric was one of Cnut's chief advisors towards the end of his reign, and also advised Edward the Confessor. He died in 1057.

(eta) Actually I suppose it's more likely that the Coventry Godgifu was just a different person from Godgifu, Countess of the Vexin.

Last edited by Richard W; 10 October 2007 at 12:00 AM.
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  #19  
Old 09 October 2007, 11:53 PM
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Godiva, was a lady, who through Coventry did ride,
To show to all the villagers, her lovely, bare, white hide.
The most observant man of all, an Engineer of course,
Was the only one who noticed that Godiva rode a horse.

From the "Plummer's Hymn", a tradition of Canadian Engineering students, sung to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
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  #20  
Old 10 October 2007, 12:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
I rather like that Lady G. has "snow white legs" in the Flores Historiarum. Obviously she was pale and interesting.
... You say this as if you're thoroughly familiar with the text; did you cheat somehow or is this just something that English professors tend to know? I was quoting Brewer but my edition doesn't mention snow white legs.
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