Mark A. Mandel
mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Tue Dec 7 16:25:22 UTC 2004
My sister, who is a medical transcriptionist, forwarded to me this article
from The Medical Post, a Canadian doctors' journal:
September 17, 2002 Volume 38 Issue 33
MY WORD, DOCTOR
Johnny, what's the origin of your shirt?
Your help is needed to unravel an East Coast saying
By Stewart Cameron
This column usually provides information on medical words, but this month
is different. I'm looking for your stories about a curious medical term.
Do you know what a "Johnny shirt" is? If so, you're in the minority. If
you live in the West and know what a Johnny shirt is, I'd like to hear from
This word is in common use in eastern Canada. For instance, everybody in
the Maritimes, medical profession and laity, knows it is a hospital gown,
the type which typically leaves some of the gluteal profile al fresco.
However, the phrase "Johnny shirt" is seldom heard outside the Maritimes.
This line of inquiry started recently when a nursing friend moved to
Virginia. She described a patient's dressing gown as a "Johnny shirt" and
was surprised to find her colleagues there were unaware of its meaning.
Having trained in Nova Scotia, she had assumed it was a universally
When I heard this story, I ran for the bookshelf. Sure enough, there are
absolutely no references to be found in standard dictionaries (at last
count, I had 13 at home). Certainly Dorland's does not mention it, nor the
authoritative Oxford English Dictionary.
The word is out there, though. Do an Internet search and it will turn up.
An inquiry for "Johnny shirt" on the AltaVista search engine turned up 39
citations (excluding those referring to merchandise on Johnny the Homicidal
Maniac, who seems to be popular with the teen crowd).
Google's search engine provided more stuff, including some that relate to
clothing. Several U.S. retailers do sell a type of cotton top called a
Johnny shirt, but it appears to be a soccer shirt.
While there are numerous references to the Johnny Shirt examination gown
on the Internet, the bulk of them are based in Atlantic Canada. The major
Nova Scotia daily, the Halifax Chronicle Herald, ran an article on a heart
transplant patient in 2001 which opened with a mention of the subject's
© Copyright 2003 The Medical Post. All rights reserved.
For the rest of the article see the URL given above.
[This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]
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