Johnny shirt

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


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 
understood phrase.
    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 
Johnny shirt.

© Copyright 2003 The Medical Post. All rights reserved.


For the rest of the article see the URL given above.

-- Mark
[This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]

More information about the Ads-l mailing list