"Johnny Foreigner"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 27 14:09:23 UTC 2013

"Johnny Foreigner" / "johnny foreigner"

Yet another Downton Abbey anachronism (S03E04, set in 1920):

"There seems to be something of the Johnny Foreigner about Catholics."

Not in OED. The 2008 New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says:

Johnny Foreigner _noun_ anyone who is not British UK, 1990

Here it is from 1984 and a likely 1983. (See also Johnny Turk (OED 1919.)


The earliest verifiable example I found is in the Guardian newspaper in late 1984.

Why must training for tomorrow be a dead turn-off?
Torode, John
The Guardian (1959-2003); Dec 3, 1984;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003)
pg. 18

Mr. King's message was that Johnny Foreigner does it better than us. In Germany, in Japan and in the United States, these bottlenecks just do not happen.


The earliest probable example I found is in a fictional "Dear Bill" letter from Dennis Thatcher published in the satirical Private Eye, written by Richard Ingrams and John Wells. Here's a Google Books snippet:

Private Eye - Issues 550-575 - Page 70
1983 - Snippet view

... prop him up in the House to wave the flag for Queen and Country and he cuts a pretty sorry figure. No wonder Johnny Foreigner lays in supplies of the stale bread rolls whenever he appears over the horizon.

The same letter also shows up in a snippet in a collection of Dear Bill letters next to the text "4 NOVEMBER 1983":

Richard Ingrams and John Wells, ill. by George Adamson (1984). Bottoms up! Further letters of Denis Thatcher. Private Eye Productions. ISBN 0-233-97701-5. (Letters from 6 May 1983 – 4 May 1984)



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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