Etymology of Joe Sixpack

Does anyone know the origin of Sarah Palin’s favorite term for Everyman, John Q Public?

I know that it was used by long-time San Francisco Chronicle columnist Art Hoppe, in the 60s & 70s – but I have no idea if it was original with him.

I’ve heard it used by George Carlin–not in a flattering way. Actually, until Sarah Palin, I’d never heard it used in a way that could possibly be thought flattering.

I’m not sure whether you’re looking for Joe Sixpack or John Q. Public.

I can find Joe Sixpack first gaining a foothold in the mid-1970s. If you can cite a Hoppe column from even the late 1960s, I’d be greatful.
John Q. Public goes at least back to the 1930s.

I always wondered why “Q.”? If you’re going for a generic name, why the wacky middle initial?

INteresting observation. Acutally, John Public was more common in the early 1930s. I’ll have a look around my books tonight after work and see if I can find a possible answer.

It’s short for John Quincy Public.

I’ve thought about this from time to time. The first thing that comes to mind is that the first five letters of the alphabet sound funny. ‘John A. Public’? What, there’s only one of him? ‘John B. Public’? And John B Quick!. ‘C’ = ‘see’, ‘D’ = ‘the’, and ‘John E’ sounds like ‘Johnny’.

I wonder if someone just started through the alphabet and said, ‘To heck with it! I’m choosing Q! No one can ma a joke out of Q!’ Or (and I assume this is more likely) ‘John Quincy’ had been a well-known name combination for quite a long time when the phrase originated.

I think its origins stem from the same vague mists of time as Jesus H. Christ.

But that one is right there on the cross: “Inri,” which is obviously just a poor spelling of “Henry.” Jesus Henry Christ.

(Before someone leaps in to educate me, no, I don’t really believe this, and yes, I know what the acronym stands for.)

When I hear ‘John Q. Public’ I think of a mid-Twentieth Century man in a suit and a fedora. (Nothing wrong with that. I wear a fedora from time to time.) I think of Ward Cleaver, a man with an office job and a house and a family. Watching old movies, even bums and hobos wore at least the remnants of suits. Nowadays people are much more casual. We have one-stop shopping at Wal-Mart instead of having to go to different shops. Our entertainment often depicts a ‘typical family’ as ‘looser’ than the ‘nuclear family’ of the '50s; often as dysfunctional.

ISTM that at some point someone wanted to describe the Typical American as a blue-collar worker who works hard and then relaxes by sitting around drinking beer. Archie Bunker in jeans and a T-shirt. ‘John Q. Public’ just didn’t fit the paradigm. ‘Joe Schmo’ has a negative connotation (at least to me); dim-witted or something. ‘Joe Sixpack’ seems to fit the image of the typical American blue-collar worker of the late-20th and early-21st Centuries.

The “H” is for Hallmark, right?


If I were someone who considered myself to be a ‘John Q Public’ type, I’d be a bit miffed that Gov. Palin was implying I was an alcoholic.

Joe Sixpack. It would’ve been clearer if I’d said “Everyman**/**John Q Public”

Everyman goes back to the early 1900’s:
Everyman’s Library was founded on February 15, 1906 with the publication by Joseph Dent (1849-1926) of fifty titles.

The Q in John Q Public has always seemed to me to be the alphabetical equivalent of a wildcard, like an asterisk. Because nobody (OK, except oddballs with names like Quentin and Queenie) has Q as an initial. It is not clear to me why “John Quincy” should be a common given name combination, the sixth president of the United States notwithstanding.

Wikipedia has a nice list of everyman names of many lands at .

It goes back at least 500 years before that.

Interestingly, though, Archie Bunker himself was still on the older side of that sartorial divide. In those days, I imagine a blue-collar working man of his age would not wear jeans unless he was on the job or on the way to or from. And maybe not even on the way to and from, because he would have changed into overalls or something at the plant.

Actually in Archie’s case, even less likely: “Edith, for the 100th time, I don’t woik down theah, I’m the foreman.”

I always thought “Joe Sixpack” was an insulting term, coming from what the Republicans like to call elitists. I hope we don’t keep hearing it.