UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
No More Johnsons
More than 700 members of the Johnson Cognomen Confederacy, representing all 50 states and Puerto Rico, met yesterday
Confederacy founder A. R. Johnson told reporters that Johnson is the second most popular surname in the country and is shared by millions of hard-working, decent citizens. “These good people should not be subject to continued opprobrium because years ago, some unknown wag thought he was being droll,” Mr. Johnson said. “We Johnsons have endured this derisive advertence for decades, and it’s time to call a halt.”
Mr. Johnson (hereinafter referred to as A. R. as other Johnsons are cited in this article) added that he also would take no satisfaction should the long-established childhood monikers Peter or Willy gain greater eminence among adults—whether or not they are Johnsons. “I enjoy a bit of humor as much as the next man,” he said. “But we need to be more circumspect with our priapic allusions.”
Emil Johnson, a bar owner from Orrock, Minnesota, claims history is replete with notable Johnsons whose name has been tarnished with the appellation. “May I remind you that two U. S. Presidents, Andrew and Lyndon, were Johnsons.”
“Plus there’s the foundation of Robert Wood Johnson,” A. R. added. “And we have the safari folks, Martin and Osa Johnson, baseball’s Randy, literature’s Samuel and Ben. And let me say that while old Ben spelled his name without the h, the h is silent so who cares? In another direction there’s Liver Eating Johnson, who doesn’t merit regard for anything except his infamy, and of course the excellent film Jeremiah Johnson, based on him, starring Robert Redford. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the well-known Johnson & Johnson enterprise, and the great Olympian Rafer Johnson, who has had a junior high school named for him.
“Oh, I bet you didn’t know that Whoopi Goldberg is also a Johnson. She was born Caryn Elaine Johnson. And everyone knows of Howard, the motelier and restaurateur. Told Americans everything they needed to know about ice cream. All these and many more. My point: there are countless noteworthy Johnsons, and each time the body part is Johnsonized it impugns the character of every Johnson past, present and future. We want this issue rectified sooner than later.”
LeRoy Johnson-Johnson, an alternative systems analyst from Delaware Water Gap, Pa. , stated he hyphenates his last name in homage to both his mother’s Johnsons and his father’s Johnsons. “It’s my way of showing pride in the Johnson name, letting folks know that both my parents were Johnsons and proud descendants of Johnsons,” he said.
“I was among the many boys of my generation who called the dangler a peter. That was until a lad named Peter Johnson was in my seventh grade geography class. The kid was mercilessly teased. Never knew a Willy Johnson, but my half-brother Ralf did.” LeRoy sighed.
“Every time roll is taken in schoolrooms nationwide, and the name Peter Johnson or Willy Johnson is announced, other kids smirk. The conundrum is compounded when those chaps are either over or under-endowed. For the sake of all of us who bear the Johnson name I implore my fellow countrymen to desist.”
Meanwhile, Darwin L. Johnson, a retired mortician from Washington Court House, Ohio, holds an alternative view. A candidate for a seat on the Johnson Cognomen Confederacy board, Darwin says, “I’ve been a Johnson all my life, which is 70-plus years and would bring a lot of Johnson experience to the job, and maybe get them to rethink this notion.” He said he joined the Confederacy last April following a divorce. “I thought it would be a nice way to meet an available lady of my approximate age with matrimony in mind. And it would be easier for this lady if she needn’t consider a name change upon remarriage. But if she marries another Johnson—no problem.
“Actually I’ve never felt maligned about this Johnson business. I think many of us are amused if not honored by the reference. On the other hand my former wife’s nickname for my thingamajig was Mr. Fitzsimmons, which is what I came to call it myself. But if the confederacy feels a change is absolutely necessary, how about Mr. Fitzsimmons replacing the shopworn Johnson? My ex would be all for it, and I wouldn’t mind myself.”
The discussion continued throughout the day with other Johnsons suggesting further titles. Brenda Johnson, a blogger from Peru, New York, argued that rather than trying to get citizens to cease their whimsical citations, the confederacy itself should take up the cudgel as articulated by the former Mrs. Darwin L. Johnson and start using Mr. Fitzsimmons. “For one thing, it’ll take years for those Irish folks to get organized and come up with a different name. Second, I know my husband Earl, who’s not present, would enjoy the diminutive ‘Mr. Fitzsimmons.’ I didn’t mean to imply that his Mr. Fitzsimmons is diminutive, however. Far from it.”
Kaptain Kielbasa and King Ohyeah gained support among those who believed proper names should not be considered as replacements for the Johnson.
Before the convention adjourned to a catered spread at a Holiday Inn in nearby Terre Haute, a vote was taken. Mr. Fitzsimmons received the majority of ballots cast. A middle-aged male Johnson who preferred anonymity, said, “I’ll do my part, and insinuate Mr. Fitzsimmons into as many casual conversations as possible. I feel confident that if everyone here does the same, the public will come to accept the Fitzsimmons. Then hey, it ain’t your grandpa’s Johnson anymore.”Michael Fedo's books include "The Lynchings in Duluth," "The Man From Lake Wobegon," and the novel "Indians in the Arborvitae." His next book, "A Sawdust Heart: My Vaudeville Life in Medicine and Tent Shows" by Henry Wood as told to Michael Fedo will be published in 2111 by the University of Minnesota Press.
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