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Ask the PatientsCommentaryPrimary CareWomen's Health

The Johnny: Over a Century of Embarrassment

By March 18, 2013February 21st, 20202 Comments

In the Beginning: The johnny, common in Boston hospitals from c.1900 (1), was invented by Dr. Seymour Butts (2). Really. It is a one-size, fits none (3) ass-inine butt of jokes (4), a constant reminder of our frailties and fears. Re-butt-als welcome.

Worst Experience: The worst  johnnies I’ve ever had to deal with I encountered at the office of Dr. Oblivious (name changed).  They were made of paper so thin that the first one tore almost in half as I tried to unfold it. I found where they were kept and took another. I opened it carefully, managing not to tear it.  I got one arm in but it didn’t go far enough around for me to be able to get the other arm in.  Now I am overweight, but I still fit in misses petite sizes and Dr. Oblivious must have had many patients larger than I am.  So I took another, joined the two with those terrible ties that I can’t match up and tie behind my back and wore one on one arm, one on the other and tied the two together in front. First time I didn’t have to remember whether the opening was supposed to be in the front or back.

Laughter Helps: Before my next appointment with Dr. Oblivious, I described the problem to Dr. Kanner and he presented me with my very own cloth johnny. At the appointment, Dr. Oblivious’s nurse handed me a paper johnny and left me to change. When she returned and saw me in my cloth johnny, she doubled over with laughter. I said, “I didn’t like yours last time so I brought my own. “You brought your own,” she said, amid more gales of laughter.  After she left I could hear the laughter spreading down the corridor as the story was retold.

At my next appointment a different nurse handed me a paper johnny to change into. Once again I changed into my OHC johnny. When the nurse came back and saw me she said, “I heard about someone else doing that once before.” “That was me,” I said.

Persistence Wins: I brought my cloth johnny to my last visit to Dr. Oblivious but I didn’t need to use it.  This time I was given a cloth johnny to change into.

Your Stories? I’m sure many of you have johnny stories. Please share. Also any other thoughts on the true origin of the term, “johnny.” For example, if Dr. Butts did invent the garment, why wasn’t it named after him?




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