Johnny Turk

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Senior Member
Humphrey: I've always had a soft spot for Johnny Turk.
PM: Johnny Turk? You're on first name terms, then ...

The dialogue is excertpted from Yes Prime Minister, which is a British TV series.

I wonder why Turk is referred to Johnny Turk there. Is it a pejorative phrase?

  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    What is the broader context for this exchange? It does sound racist, thought not exactly pejorative, just rude to have a nickname for a race of people.

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    > Is it a pejorative phrase?

    Yes, I suppose it would strike modern sensibilities as being vaguely racist, or at the very least belittling.

    The writers are referencing the phrase 'Johnny foreigner', which at the time was a catch-all term for non-British people (or maybe even non-whites).

    In this case this case the foreigner in question happened to be Turkish. Humphrey professes a liking for Turks ('a soft spot for Johnny Turk') - that is, Turks in general.

    The PM, either out of ignorance or irony responds suggesting that he's understood that Humphrey knows someone whose name is Johnny (first name terms).

    The comedy of misunderstandings.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Originally, 'Johnny Turk' was the slang name given to Turkish soldiers by Australian soldiers in World War 1.

    I agree with suzi br - it's not exactly perorative. It's a little more complicated.

    In 2006, Major-General McLachlan defended the right of some descendants of Turkish soldiers to march on Anzac Day. he said "Yes, Turks had been the enemy, but they were a very honourable enemy."

    There was a "special relationship" with Turkey — strengthened by the belief that "Johnny Turk" had fought fair on the battlefield.

    Quoted from the



    Senior Member
    English - British
    Is it a fact that the expression 'Johnny Turk' is the original one and not simply an adaptation of 'Johnny foreigner'?
    I would be inclined to agree with Beryl from Northallerton. I would have thought the Australians were adopting a phrase formed by the British from the existing expression 'Johnny foreigner'.

    As regards 'Yes, Prime Minister', another point is that this excerpt is reversing the usual difference between ministers and civil servants. Politicians traditionally complain that the Foreign Office takes the side of the foreigner.
    When Churchill offered Selwyn Lloyd the post of Foreign Secretary, he is said to have replied:
    'But Prime Minister, I do not speak any foreign languages, I have never been abroad and I don't like foreigners!'
    'Excellent qualifications for the job!' replied Churchill (who wanted the FO under firm control) and the appointment was confirmed.
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