June 30, 2012
John Q. Public (noun)
\JAHN-KYOO-PUB-lik\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : a member of the public or the community : person, citizen2 : the public or the community thought of as a person
How do you use it?
The manager announced to the employees that in order to better serve John Q. Public, the store would be open twenty-four hours a day.
Are you a word wiz?

When "John Q. Public" made its print debut in the late 1930s, it joined a long line of names used in English for any member of the public. Which of these other names do you think was also used this way?

About 10 years before "John Q. Public" appeared, "John Citizen" started showing up in British writings as a nickname for the average joe. Both "John Q. Public" and "John Citizen" are youngsters compared to "John Doe." That term has been used for an anonymous or average man since the mid-1600s. Initially, such terms were mostly male, but that changed with the arrival of "Jane Doe" in the 1930s. "Joan Citizen" appeared in the 1940s, but "Jane Q. Public" didn't find her way into English texts until the mid-1980s. By the way, some think the "Q" was inspired by our sixth president, John Quincy Adams.
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