Moll Flanders got her name because a moll was a street-fightin' whore. Not the other way round! And a moll was a moll simply because Mary
was by far the most popular name for a girl, so any woman you met was likely to be a Mary
herself or have a sister, a cousin or an aunt who was one; this made it the perfect choice for a runaway or anyone wanting to disappear in the city crowds. Just as there are plenty of Irish guys whose names are neither Pat
, but Pat
are what they are likely to be called; and finding an Irishman if all you know about him is that he was known as Pat
would be megatricky.
My unBritish impression is that as nicknames for Mary
might just be, and/or have been, somewhat higher on the social scale than Molly
. The Anthony
Powell novel called 'At Lady Molly
's' always gives me a slight jolt. But maybe we get it wrong in the (former) colonies, dahling.