Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Milquetoast – Wacky Word Wednesday

For today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, we’ll take you back to a period of time when sliced bread and a glass of milk meant more than…well, sliced bread and a glass of milk!

Today’s Wacky Word definition from TermWiki.com:

milque·toast

[milk-tohst]

-noun

a timid, meek, or unassertive person

A cartoon depiction of milquetoast, a timid, meek, or unassertive person.

American comic creator H. T. Webster was born in 1885. By the time he was twenty, he was already publishing comics in Recreation magazine; by 1912, he was working for the New York Tribune as a daily cartoonist. H.T. Webster himself was sometimes called “The Mark Twain of American cartoonists” because of his humor and delivery.

From 1924, his most well known comic series, The Timid Soul, was introduced to the world after Webster transferred to New York World. He would work on The Timid Soul until his death in 1952.

The Timid Soul is about a man who “speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick,” essentially embodying a meek and unassertive person who usually ends up at a disadvantage.  The protagonist of this comic series was Mr. Caspar Milquetoast, characterized by his legendary passive demeanor and timid personality.

It is believed that Webster came up with the character’s name, “Milquetoast” from milk toast, the bland and undistinguished dish of sliced toast in a dish of milk that was given to invalids. Since then, milquetoast (and sometimes even Caspar Milquetoast’s name itself) has been used to describe people who demonstrate a little bit of Caspar Milquetoast personality in certain situations or as part of their natural behavior.

Milquetoast isn’t the only word derived from comics or cartoons. The most famous has to be Mickey Mouse, which many know as the iconic Disney character. Mickey Mouse, is also used to define something that is unimportant, trivial, or intellectually unchallenging. From cartoonist G. Baker, we also get the phrase sad sack, which is used to describe an extremely inept or clumsy person.

The question of the day, therefore, is which would you rather be: a milquetoast, Mickey Mouse, or sad sack?

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One Response

June 1, 2011
Lisa N.

this is too funny – having seeing Hangover II last night, this word is what the father-in-law needed to describe his future son-in-law!