Rag, Tag and Bobtail

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Rag, Tag and Bobtail : Phrases


A common rabble - the hoi polloi.



Those UK folk of a certain age will remember Rag, Tag and Bobtail as characters from the eponymous BBC children's television programme. On the face of it we could be forgiven for thinking that the names were made up for the show, but, like Andy Pandy - which is clearly influenced by the name namby-pamby, Rag, Tag and Bobtail derives from an earlier phrase.

A bobtail was 17th century slang for a cur or contemptible rascal. A tag was a piece of torn, hanging-down cloth. Those were combined with rag to form the earlier version of the phrase - tag, rag and bobtail. This was recorded by Samuel Pepys in his Diary for 6th March 1659:

"The dining-room... was full of tag, rag, and bobtail, dancing, singing, and drinking."

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