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.

  1. Bill Davis says:

    In the Philippines, it’s “CR” (or “Comfort Room.”)

    Some tribal languages make a verb out of the word “forest” to mean “do your business in the woods.”

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