Who the heck is Johnny?

This week I removed the phase Johnny on the spot from my current work in progress. If you know anything about me, you know I live and breathe clichés. I love the way they roll off the tongue and how they get right to the heart of the matter with as few words as possible. The problem was, I didn’t really know what Johnny on the spot meant.

Here’s what I learned. The phrase is used most of the time to refer to an unusually alert man or boy, capable of decisive action, ready to seize an opportunity or deal with an emergency, who is always there at the right time. How’s that for a mouthful?

It can also be used to refer to a person who is habitually early, an early riser, the first arrival on the scene, or someone on time but not early. Quite a versatile little cliché, don’t you think?

English: The New York Times building in New Yo...

The name John or Johnny referred to a fellow or chap in seventeenth century Britain, and became a man-about-town in the 1880s. The first noted appearance of Johnny on the spot was reportedly in 1895 in an issue of the New York Times.

Johnny apparently got about town pretty quickly, and was soon joined by John Doe, John Henry, Dear John, Johnny Appleseed, stage-door-Johnny, and John Q. Public. Johnny also referred to a short muslin gown that tied in the back, worn in hospitals. One enterprising entrepreneur started a business called Johnny on the Spot and is now a leader in portable restroom rentals!

Español: Johnny-deppGotta hit the john? Hit the spot? Spot on? Then there’s John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, and let’s not forget Johnny Depp! Well, he’s pretty much a household word, but I digress!

The point is, clichés are awesome! What’s your favorite?


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4 Responses to Who the heck is Johnny?

  1. Oh my, Dixie! I have to pick just one cliche? They are a part of life and as a writer, they slip off the fingers with a little too much ease. One writing class I took suggested trying to do cliche twisters. For example, on an early draft of one book, I wrote someone “burned the bridge.” I changed it to this: “Ouch. Seemed her flippant remarks in the parking lot caused a roadblock on the bridge leading to Duncan Jamieson. ”
    Loved your “Johnny” post! Very funny, indeed!

  2. Love it! It certainly takes a lot of words to replace a cliche! Maybe that’s why I get so lazy and pepper my conversation with them. Thanks for coming by, Sharon! I’m still thinking about THE HOURGLASS! Great book!

  3. Paty Jager says:

    Great post! I’m a Johnny on the spot person. 😉 Cliches are a “dime a dozen” and so easy to use when you should be more creative like Sharon. But then there are times when a cliche can tell a lot about a character and then I think they should be used.

    Hope life is treating you well!

  4. Hi Paty! Or we could say we can get twelve short, succinct phrases for only ten copper coins. Um…I’m not very good at this! Thanks for dropping by. I want to hear all about the conference in Colorado.

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