Tag Archives: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Johnny on the Spot

Volume 3. Issue 7.

What was said? We need a printer in Chicago… Johnny on the spot. You got it?

Did someone really say that? Yes, when working on a proposal and we needed to make sure we had a print house ready to meet our oddest and slightly unrealistic demands.

What does it mean? A person who is on hand and ready to perform a service or respond to an emergency (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Origin: The phrase dates back to 1896 and was the subject of an article in the New York Sun titled “Johnny on the Spot: A New Phrase Which Has Become Popular in New York.” The article details the expression that had become very popular in NYC. According to the writer, the phrase is from a slightly longer version, ‘Johnny is always on the spot when wanted.’ … where Johnny refers to a general male (like John Doe). Although, the author does venture to provide a little more detail on who Johnny is: “a man or youth who may be relied upon to be at a certain stated place when wanted… an individual who is prompt and farseeing, alive to his own interests and keenly sensible of means for promoting his own advantage is a ‘Johnny on the spot.’”

The original article was syndicated and below is the reprint found in the San Francisco Call from April 1896

The original article was syndicated and below is the reprint found in the San Francisco Call from April 1896

Side Note:  There are few companies appropriately named “Johnny on the Spot” in the US. They are suppliers of portable restrooms / bathrooms and are on-hand and ready to preform a service / respond to an emergency!

Portable Toilet

Talk about a Johnny on the Spot!

Sources:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/johnny-on-the-spot
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-joh3.htm
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_etymology_of_Johnny_on_the_spot

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