‘Joe Bloggs’: meaning and history

Like Jack, pet form of JohnJoe, familiar abbreviation of Joseph, is colloquially used as a generic term for a lada fellowa chap.

And, like Joe BlowJoe Citizen, Joe Doakes and Joe Six-Pack in American English, Joe Soap and Joe Bloggs in British English are generic names for an average man.
—Cf. also Onion Johnny.

These are the earliest occurrences of Joe Bloggs that I have found—but it is sometimes difficult to determine whether it is used as a generic name for an average man:

1-: From the beginning of the review of Mr. What’s His Name, a stage play produced at Wyndham’s Theatre—review by ‘Our Captious Critic’, published in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (London, England) of Saturday 2nd July 1927 (it is a humorous review, and Mellifluous Alouette is of course a fictional, comic name):

Dramatists in search of arresting situations love to employ the case where loss of memory arises from some physical and mental shock. The war gave them more excuse than ever for this ruse although, fertile of ideas as they were, they failed to imagine their characters indulging in such ingenious crimes as have been attributed to shell shock during this last nine years by gentlemen standing in the dock. Cases strange as when, for instance, a Mr. Mellifluous Alouette would grow so enamoured of the name of Joe Bloggs, Esquire, that nothing would satisfy him but writing it at the foot of a cheque. A singular perversion, invariably to the profit of the perverted.

2-: Joe Bloggs was the name of various local characters in short stories set in Yorkshire, England, written by “The Outcast” and published in the Shipley Times and Express (Shipley, Yorkshire, England) in the 1920s and 1930s:

2.1-: The following is from the story titled Buying a Greyhound, published on Saturday 27th August 1927:

“Come on, let’s go and interview this dog chap.” So we toddled off, and shortly found ourselves rapping at the gentleman’s door.
Bloggs, his name was, Joe Bloggs, and when he saw Percy he grinned, and said, “Tha’s cummed to see t’ pup Ah reckon.”
[…] Mr Bloggs was not a nice-looking man. He had too many whiskers, far too many, and his face reminded me of a skin rug that we had when I was a lad, and he looked, too, as though he would as soon fight as have his dinner. But here again appearances were deceitful, for he was quite a good chap.

2.2-: In another story, A New Year’s Party, published on Saturday 3rd January 1931, Joe Bloggs is an entirely different man:

Luckily, at that moment, the arrival of Bob’s brother-in-law stopped his (Bob’s) rather indelicate remarks […].
Now, Mrs Wibble had been a Miss Bloggs, and the name of Robert’s brother-in-law was Joe Bloggs, and he was—so Bob put it to me on the quiet—“a chap ’at it ’ud ha’ paid ’is feyther to ha’ drahnded, an’ kep’ a pig a’stead 1.” so you may imagine that Mr Bloggs was not at all a nice man, and to make matters worse, I saw as soon as ever he entered the room that he had sojourned too long at “The Blue Bell.”

1 a chap that it would have paid his father to have drowned, and kept a pig instead

2.3-: Joe Bloggs is a guileless gardener in The Fairies, published on Thursday 13th April 1933:

When I was a lad I used to believe in fairies to some extent. […]
It was this touching innocence of mine that led to the little adventure, that it is now my purpose to relate, an adventure that I shared with another small boy as innocent as myself.
My father, in those clays, employed a gardener, whom, I think, must have been descended in an unbroken line, from Ananias 2, and one day he told me and my bosom pal, Sam Briggs, a most wonderful story about Hope Hill.
I expect you will know Hope Hill? That lump of ground on the other side of the Aire Valley 3 from Wrose Hill, but a good deal nearer to Bingley.
Well, Joe Bloggs, the gardener, told us that the rounded crest of Hope Hill was a favourite resort of fairies from midnight to cock-crow.
“Hi, lads,” he added, “an’ I’ve seed ’em misen.”
“Go on, Joe,” said Sam, his eyes standing out like hat-pegs, “go on, I don’t believe you ever have,” and I, feeling that as Joe was pa’s gardener, I could be more definite, as it were remarked simply,
“You’re a liar, Joe.”
“Oh, am I? clever britches,” said Joe indignantly, “well, all I know is that one summer neet, a gooid mony years ago, I wor goin’ ’ome to Eldwick, wheer I lived i’ them days, ’avin’ bin dahn i’ Bingla’, an’ ’as it wor sich a grand neet I thowt I w’o’d tak a walk o’er t’ top o’ t’ hill […] when orl of a sudden I seed t’ fairies! […] They stood ’appen a foot ’igh, an’ they ’ad wands i’ their ’ands. Arf a duzzen of ’em ther’ was, an’ they made a ring rahnd me, an’ donced away.”
[…] Well, looking back on Joe’s narrative from the wisdom of riper years, I will be charitable, and say that perchance he was not lying, and he had merely sojourned too long in “The Brown Cow,” and had simply imagined what he thought he saw. Ale was ale in those days, I believe.
[…] Joe […] departed to get on with what he called his work, and what my father used to call, if I remember rightly, his exhibition of living statuary.

2 In the Acts of the Apostles, Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck dead because they lied.
3 The River Aire is a major river in Yorkshire.

3-: Kingsley Brady used Joe Bloggs on two occasions in his column Smile With Me, published in The Rugby Advertiser (Rugby, Warwickshire, England):

3.1-: On Friday 7th September 1928:

LOCAL ITEMS

[…]
A REGULAR PROCEEDING.
Mr. Joe Bloggs backed the wrong horse yesterday.

3.2-: On Friday 31st January 1930:

Sir Rupert and Lady Redhead, whose pearl necklace has been stolen, decide to visit the home of John Brown, who stole it but was acquitted owing to lack of evidence, in order to buy it back. […]

Pass The Pearls, Please.
A Frightfully Involved Story
By Sophie Spinningtop.
Chapters 8,764 to 8,769.

“Come right in. Make yourself at ’ome. Take a seat. ’Ave a gin?”
Sir Rupert accepted the seat and refused the gin.
“About that necklace you stole. It belongs to my wife. I want it.”
“You can’t ’ave it. I’ve presented it to my young lady.”
“Your young lady!”
[…]
“There—there is the necklace!” [Sir Rupert] shrieked, pointing to it on the neck of Ruby Flatfoot, who had just entered the room. “There it is, on the neck of that shameless hussy.”
“She ain’t a shameless hussy,” said John. “She’s my little bit of all right.” He turned to Ruby, who stood blinking in the gaslight. “This gentleman wants to buy your necklace, angel-face. ’Ow much shall we sell it for?”
“I ain’t selling it,” said Ruby.
“Not selling it?” asked John, surprised. “Why not?”
“’Cos it ain’t mine to sell.”
“But I gave it to you!”
“Yes, but not to sell. And it wasn’t yours to give. You had stolen it. But the jury said you hadn’t stolen it, so I took it, because if I hadn’t, I’d have made the court contemptible. Those was your exact words.”
Lady Rupert Redhead came into the room.
“What has happened?” she asked. “I became tired of waiting for you in the car. Have you retrieved my necklace yet?”
“Your necklace?” said her husband bitterly. “It seems to me that it is no-one’s necklace. That woman is wearing it, although she says it is not hers. She says it not ours either. Whose necklace is it?—That’s what I want to know.”
“Yes. Whose necklace is it?” repeated John.
“That’s an easy question to answer,” said a tall, fair, smartly dressed man, striding across the room and taking the necklace from Ruby’s neck. He had just entered unnoticed. “That’s a very easy question to answer. This necklace belongs to Messrs. Joe Bloggs and Company, Limited, of Hatton Garden. And I have been sent to recover it, repeated requests for payment of the last instalment having been ignored. And according to the terms of the hire-purchase agreement, the goods remain the property of Joe Bloggs. Thank you. Good evening.”

4-: In The Wendy Hut, published in the Children’s Corner of the Evening Herald (Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland), Joe Bloggs was the name:
– of a boxing instructor in Leather-Fists!, a story published from Monday 21st to Saturday 26th April 1930;
– of one of the young heroes’ servant in Kings of the River, a story published from Monday 19th to Saturday 24th May 1930.

5-: From the Evening Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England) of Tuesday 13th December 1932:

Wilfred Lloyd, 6, East-view, Hanley, was fined £5 and ordered to pay 24s. 6d. costs at Hanley Police Court to-day for driving a car without due care and attention on the night of November 26th. […]
[…]
Thomas Beckett, of Parliament-row, Hanley, said that about 11.15 p.m. he was driving down Bucknall New-road at about 15 to 20 m.p.h. He saw a car in front of him, and when he was 10 or 15 yards away it suddenly turned to the right, without any warning, towards a garage on the offside of the road. He braked, but skidded, and there was a collision. There were two men and a lady in defendant’s car, and neither of the men would admit being the driver. Witness asked eight or nine times for the driver’s name and address, and eventually the defendant said it was “Joe Bloggs,” of West End, Stoke. Both the men appeared to have had drink. They treated the whole affair very lightly. Defendant and the lady went away, and it was from the other man that he eventually ascertained defendant’s name and address.

6-: From Mrs Baxter’s Society Gossip, by L. B. Smith, published in The Worthing Herald (Worthing, Sussex, England) of Saturday 24th December 1932:

Talkin’ o’ the Flower Show, feelin’ ’as been runnin’ high in the neighbour’ood about the baby competition. The ’appiest lookin’ baby was to ’ave the prize, and they was just goin’ to begin when Joe Bloggs ’urries up, carrying ’is seventh. Now Joe’s face ain’t so much a face as a mistake, and directly ’e appears the other nine babies ’as a look at ’im and starts to ’owl, and no wonder. ’Is own baby didn’t ’owl, bein’ used to Joe, which gave ’im an unfair advantage. The nine mothers didn’t ’alf protest, but there bein’ no rule against fathers showin’ their babies, what could the judges do but give Joe’s kid the prize, miserable lookin’ brat though it be.

7-: From Echoes and Gossip of the Day, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Wednesday 22nd September 1937:

Public Retirement
It is the ambition of many persons to keep a country pub. An ex-Prime Minister’s daughter has achieved this ambition, and a well-known actress is seeking an opening. There are fewer public-houses and many candidates. A nice country pub that provides a living is soon snapped up. Not long ago it was customary for professional footballers and cricketers to retire to public-houses. When Father Time ordered Joe Bloggs to take off his football boots nobody was surprised to find Joe Bloggs installed as mine host at the Hare and Hounds. It seemed in the natural order of things. Joe played his games over again among the pints, and the customers joined in.

8-: From Weather in the News, published in the Lancashire Daily Post (Preston, Lancashire, England) of Monday 23rd October 1944:

The partial relaxation of the ban on weather news is a step towards the removal of what has been one of the headaches of the newspaper man in the past five years.
[…]
Football, cricket, and sport generally are inextricably bound up with the weather. It was a tricky business writing about a match and carefully avoiding to say if the going was heavy, or the ground hard—the pitch a “sticky” one, or a batsman’s paradise.
The withholding of these facts did not help to explain (or excuse) the failure of Joe Bloggs to score that vital goal; the sudden failure of the demon bowler who had been skittling everybody’s wickets.

 

steve-cooper-actor

Steve Cooper, playing Joe Bloggs in Monopoleyes, a play written by Will Travis, directed by Susan Mcardle and Paul Brannigan, and produced by Stolen Thread Productions Ltd, was interviewed on 25th October 2016:

“You play Joe Bloggs – could you tell us a bit about your character and what your thoughts are on it?”
“Like the play says, Joe is an Everyman. Nothing special about him. He’s just trying to get through the day and support his family with as much humour and good grace as he can muster. He’s frustrated at his inability to do the basics. A good soul who can’t get an even break.”