Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Poor Jack or John
We have “john-dory,” a “jack” (pike), a “jack shark,” and a “jack of Dover.” Probably the word Jack is a mere play on the word “Hake,” and John a substitute for Jack.
“ 'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor-john.”- Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, i. 1.
We have a similar perversion in the school-boy proof that a pigeon-pie is a fish-pie. A pigeon-pie is a pie-john, and a pie-john is a jack-pie, and a jack-pie is a fish-pie.
OED:Poor John, n. 1. a. Fish, usually hake, salted and dried for food; a fish preserved in this way. Now hist.1589...1657 R. LIGON True Hist. Barbados 113 Two barrels of salt Fish, and 500 poore-Johns, which we have from New England. 1695
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