Does johnny-on-the-spot refer to a person or a porta-potty? Or both? The term johnny-on-the-spot, meaning a fellow who helpfully shows up at just the right instant, dates to the 1870s. But in the early 1900s, the john became a common euphemism for the outhouse. Today, there are several companies called Johnny On The Spot that rent and install temporary outhouses and display that name on their doors. The Dictionary of American Regional English has entries for Mrs. Jones, Miss Janet, Mrs. Murphy, and Neighbor Jones, all of which are euphemisms for outhouse or toilet. We’ve discussed others before, like going to see a man about a horse. It’s part of a tradition of not explicitly referring to the place where we urinate and defecate. But please, go ahead and share with us your favorite bathroom euphemisms! This is part of a complete episode.
- Abso-Bloomin-Lutely (episode #1526) 06/03/2019: The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also,... [more]
- Niblings and Nieflings (episode #1525) 05/14/2019: How do actors bring Shakespeare's lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people... [more]
- Kite in a Phone Booth (episode #1524) 04/29/2019: Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. They refer to a stunt, for example, as a gag. Across... [more]
- Kids Are Asking (episode #1523) 04/11/2019: Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk about finding information... [more]
- Strawberry Moon (episode #1522) 04/08/2019: We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools — and many of you replied with a resounding "Yes!" You... [more]