Douglas Adams evidently named Paul Neil Milne Johnstone the worst poet in the universe in the original Hitchiker's Guide radio broadcast. Why him? Evidently they went to school together, but I still don't understand exactly what motivated Douglas Adams to name him the worst poet. Also, how did Johnstone react to that?


1 Answer 1


It seems likely that Adams was just taking an opportunity to get one more adolescent dig in at an old friend and rival, who thus got to be immortalized as the "worst poet in the universe." Sources claim that Adams was a regular contributor to Johnstone's high school English zine, and that the two of them jointly received a prize in English while attending the Brentwood School in Essex. The poem attributed to him in the book as an example of his wretchedness was actually written by him (I'm guessing as another high school joke). An old schoolmate of both of them remembers Johnstone as "unbearably pompous for a 19-year old" but Adams as only slightly less so.

His name was disguised in the print editions of The Hitchhiker's Guide as "Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings," after he complained, apparently not because of being called the "worst poet" but because his complete actual home address was included in the original broadcast (which seems like a reasonable concern).

So in other words, Adams was both trolling Johnstone and doxing him, doubtlessly for his own personal amusement. Would any one among us do less for an old high-school friend?

The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool.
They lay. They rotted. They turned
Around occassionally.
Bits of flesh dropped off them from
Time to time.
And sank into the pool's mire.
They also smelt a great deal.

by Paul Neil Milne Johnstone
AKA Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings

  • That poem sounds like a cross between "This is Just to Say" and a piece of Damien Hirst 'art'.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:35

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