Last Saturday was the 75th birthday of Popeye, a gnarly, one-eyed cartoon character who butchered the English language. The Popeye comic strip contributed several words to our language - as best I can tell, more words than any other strip except Li'l Abner. This seems an appropriate week to enjoy words that came from the comics. (I should add that all the etymologies I give are supported, but not all are universally accepted.)
wimpy – weak and ineffectual
After J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye strip by Elzie Segar. You'll see Wimpy on the right below.
Many of Segar's characters were inspired by residents of his home town of Chester, Illinois (which, by the way, is very near C J Strolin). The inspiration for Wimpy was William "Windy Bill" Schuchert, hamburger-loving owner of the local opera house and Segar's first boss.
worrywart or worry wart - one who tends to worry unduly, especially about unimportant things from The Worry Wart, character in the Out Our Way comic strip by U.S. cartoonist J.R. Williams (1888-1957). Interestingly, it seems the character in the strip was not a worrywart, but rather a lad who gave others ample reason to worry about him.
quote:While anything can be overdone, in general obsessing about details is important. No, you don't want to get a reputation as a prissy worrywart, but worrying about details in private isn't a bad idea at all. Truth is, process beats substance. You may think you're the world's greatest speaker with a message of the utmost urgency, but if the auditorium's air conditioner is on the fritz and the sound system is singing static -- well, forget it. - Tom Peters, The Pursuit of Wow!
The picture doesn't seem to be showing, so here is the link.
I was in London for the 2003 New Year's Day parade... my son's high school band was marching. Parents and other chaperones had signed up to be balloon handlers... and the balloon we were handed? None other than "Dagwood"... our teenagers weren't sure who he was. Dagwood was inflated, we all got a 5-minute lesson and off we went, bye-bye Westminster Cathedral - hello Leicester Square. We swooped and swayed, and the crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed with each close shave... But what's a balloon on your head, when it is 45 degrees and raining and you're standing on the street watching a parade!! The Londoners and all the groups of other persuasion were happy and kind to Americans who couldn't keep an "erected" balloon...
Dagwood sandwiches would be popular in London, I'm sure... if England would import Hellman's Mayonnaise, to ease the trip down.
Chris Strolin introduced me to this... he is busy this weekend slicing watermelon for a seed-spitting contest.
We are soooo glad you have joined us! We used to have someone from Georgia, but she left because she no longer had computer access. We miss her very much! It is great to have another Georgian. As for CJ's weekend, we had a contest going on about that. I can see that my guess was wrong!
quote:Originally posted by Kalleh: We are soooo glad you have joined us! Ditto here.
We used to have someone from Georgia, but she left because she no longer had computer access. We miss her very much! It is great to have another Georgian. Can I assume that you are not referring to TrossL here? Born & raised elsewhere she now lives in Georgia and, to the best of my knowledge, has experienced no recent difficulties with computer access. She has recently gotten a new job which has severely limited her on-line time.
As for CJ's weekend, we had a contest going on about that. I can see that my guess was wrong! What makes you assume KHC is correct? Actually, your PM guess was closer. Answer elswhere.
And KHC: I realize what your name represents (two out of three letters, anyway) but every time I see it I can't help but think "Kentucky Hardboiled Chicken" which, come to think of it, is entirely appropriate since you definitely seem to be a good egg.
I was referring to wildflower child, CJ. But, yes, of course, TrossL is from Georgia, too! I miss her, though she does pop by every so often.
I must say, KHC, having another woman here is great! You might find it interesting to read our recent thread on "gender differences," regarding the use of "lady." While I like "lady," it seems that there are a lot of women out there who don't.
The Popeye comic strip featured a bizarre pet named Eugene the Jeep. Eugene, being partly from the fourth dimension, had strange powers: he could go anywhere (by teleporting) and could walk through walls. His sole vocalization was the sound "jeep".
Eugene, who first appeared on March 13th or 20th, 1936 (the sources differ), is pictured elow. You'll also find him in the forefront of the picture that illustrated our word "wimpy".
Five years later the US army introduced a new vehicle, called the GP (for General Purpose) vehicle. Like Eugene the Jeep, the GP could go anywhere, and the initials when stated sound much like Eugene's cry. Quite naturally, the vehicle became known as the jeep.
jeep – a small, durable, general-purpose motor vehicle
zilch - nothing; a quantity so insignificant as to amount to nothing
Origin obscure, but may well be from the comic name Zilch in the 1930's humor magazine Ballyhoo.Quinion discusses the origin well, and you'll see it prominently in this hilarious Ballyhooeditorial that seem equally applicable today.
In my book someone was described as a "milquetoast." First, I have always thought it to be "milktoast" (soggy and bland); that's another mondegreen for me, I guess! Secondly, when I looked up "milquetoast" (hoping the author, not me, was wrong!), I found that the word comes from Casper Milquetoast, a comic character created by Harold Tucker Webster. I'm obviously not familiar with it. Am I the only one?
quote:Originally posted by Kalleh: In my book someone was described as a "milquetoast." First, I have always thought it to be "milktoast" (soggy and bland); that's another mondegreen for me, I guess! Secondly, when I looked up "milquetoast" (hoping the author, not me, was wrong!), I found that the word comes from Casper Milquetoast, a comic character created by Harold Tucker Webster. I'm obviously not familiar with it. Am I the only one?
I dont know the character but I'd say there's a very good chance that you aren't all that wrong and that the writer himself formed the name as a homophone for milktoast.
A link on the Web page referenced by wordnerd led me to a page on Keeping up with the Joneses.
quote:During the 1950s, Britain's Daily Mirror, where Jane and Andy Capp began, ran a new strip called Keeping Up with the Joneses. It took none of the characters, none of the style, nothing at all from the original, except its title — which obviously came from the popular expression, not Pop Momand's work. Even the theme of Jones envy was much more pronounced, a major motivating factor for the protagonists, rather than just a small foible alluded to now and again. It wasn't even a comedy, but a soap opera.
But why should the new one resemble the original? There's no reason to suppose the people involved even knew of it. The phrase was more popular than ever, but very few people by that time were aware of its origin in a comic strip.
I have a vague memory of the Mirror strip, and had assumed the saying came from there. It was quite a surprise to find it originated in an unconnected American strip some forty years earlier.
Let's finish this theme, and get back on track with the words of the day.
goon - a thug hired to intimidate or harm opponents, particulary as a strikebreaker; also, a stupid or oafish person [The former sense may trace to Alice the Goon, slow-witted muscular character (though gentle) in the Popeye comics]
yellow journalism - sensationalistic journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers [From the use of yellow ink in printing the "Yellow Kid" cartoon strip in the New York World, a newspaper noted for sensationalism. The original related to 1898 agitation for war with Spain]