|John or Jane Doe|
||After watching CSI last week - my children and I decided we wanted to know the origin of "John or Jane Doe".|
BREWERS DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE (1898) gives the following:|
Doe (1 syl). 'John Doe and Richard Roe' Any plaintiff and defendant in an action of ejectment. They were sham names used at one time to save certain "niceties of law," but the clumsy device was abolished in 1852. Any mere imaginary persons, or men of straw. John Doe, Richard Roe, John o'Noakes, and Tom Styles are the four sons of "Mrs. Harris," all bound apprecentices to the legal profession.
Harris, 'Mrs. Harris' An hypothetical lady, to whom Sarah Gamp referred for the corroboration of all her statements, and the bank on which she might draw to any extent for self-praise. (Dickens: Martin Chuzzlewit.) (See Brooks of Sheffield)
Brooks of Sheffield., An imaginary individual mentioned in David Copperfield (See Harris, Mrs)
Lewis Joplin II
||"Since John was such a common English name, it came to be used as the name of the average, typical fellow by the 14th century. By then 'John Doe' and 'Richard Roe' were already used as substitute names on legal documents in England to protect the identities of the two witnesses needed for every legal action (such as the Magna Charta in 1215). Later these two names were used in standardized court proceedings in which 'John Doe' stood for the plaintiff protesting eviction by a hypothetical 'Richard Roe,' the landlord defendant. Thus 'John Doe' became the common man. 'John' and 'Richard' were common first names in England, but where did the hypothetical last names 'Doe' and 'Roe' come from? Some say from 'doe' (venison) and 'roe' (fish), since these were the foods that typical Englishman liked best - but it could be that 'Doe' and 'Roe' were what landowners called men who poached deer and fish, and who would be just the kind of men willing to witness legal documents against the landowners and their landed rights." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).|