What Does Johnny on the Spot Mean?

Johnny on the Spot Meaning

Definition: Someone who is available to carry out a task when needed; someone who is present at a crucial time.

The idiom Johnny on the spot refers to someone who is readily available to fulfill a need—especially during a time of urgency.

For example, a mother looking for a babysitter might ask her neighbor who is always available at a moment’s notice. This person is a Johnny on the spot.

Another example is that of a manufacturing company. If a company needs paint before it can ship a product out, and the paint delivery boy comes just in the nick of time, he is a Johnny on the spot.

This phrase may or may not be hyphenated. It can also be a noun or an adjective.

For example, someone can be a Johnny on the spot, as we saw in the above examples.

Someone can also be Johnny on the spot. For example,

  • Don’t be late for work tomorrow. We need to leave on time. I need you here Johnny-on-the-spot.

Origin of Johnny on the Spot

define johnny on the spotAn early source of the phrase appears in George Ade’s 1896 Artie:

  • I could see that a Johnny-on-the-spot…was trying to keep cases on her.

Another appearance comes from the same year, in an 1896 edition of the New York Sun. The article in which it appeared was titled, “JOHNNY ON THE SPOT: A New Phrase Which Has Become Popular in New York.” This suggests it was popular before the New York Sun published the article. However, no earlier instances of the phrase in print have been identified, and its etymology is unclear.

Examples of Johnny on the Spot

johnny on the spot originCarl has always hired his friend, Moe, to fix anything that breaks in his house. In this exchange, Carl has asked him to come over right away to fix a leaking pipe. However, Moe is busy, and becomes frustrated when Carl insists. He tells Carl he is not his Johnny on the spot.

Carl: Can you please come fix this pipe? I’m afraid it’s going to damage the floor. Then we’ll have to hire someone to replace the whole thing.

Moe: I already told you, I can’t right now. I’m getting ready for my sister’s wedding.

Carl: Please? It will only take five minutes.

Moe: No, it won’t. You’ll need to hire someone to fix it for you this time. I’m not your Johnny on the spot. I can’t always come rushing to you every time you need me to fix something.

More Examples

  • Since last week, Roberts has been manning her little mobile one-stop shop. The volunteer work brings out her motherly instincts, she said. And sure enough, when a firefighter from Greater Naples Fire Rescue stopped by the tent Tuesday afternoon, she was Johnny-on-the-spot. – USA Today
  • Dallas Morning News sports editor Damon Marx saw Anderson and Durant shaking hands after Game 4, took a picture of that, then posted it on Twitter. Broussard took a picture of that picture, then sent it out as if he had taken it, as if he again had been Johnny-on-the-spot. – NY Post

Summary

The English idiom Johnny on the spot refers to someone who is available to do something when needed.

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