Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Shane's Excellent New Words: Milquetoast.

I don't care too much for money; money can't buy me love.
-- Lennon/McCartney

Welcome to another installment of "Shane's Excellent New Words," which will be a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.


Because a healthy vocabulary isn't about trying to show you're smarter than the rest. To the contrary, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons. This week's word is milquetoast.


noun, (sometimes initial capital letter)

1. a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated: a milquetoast who's afraid to ask for a raise.

Also called Caspar Milquetoast.

Origin of milquetoast

1935-1940, Americanism; after Caspar Milquetoast, a character in The Timid Soul, comic strip by H. T. Webster (1885-1952), American cartoonist

The Online Etymology Dictionary (© 2010 Douglas Harper; same link as above) sheds further light.

n. "timid, meek person," 1938, from Caspar Milquetoast, character created by U.S. newspaper cartoonist H.T. Webster (1885-1952) in the strip "The Timid Soul," which ran from 1924 in the "New York World" and later the "Herald Tribune." By 1930 the name was being referenced as a type of the meek man. The form seems to be milktoast with an added French twist; cf. also milksop.

I'm afraid we've already exceeded city government's attention span, so let's close with another example of "milquetoast" in a sentence:

Tragically, such is the pervasiveness in City Hall of Mayor Gahan's suburban befuddlement that a milquetoast Jeff Speck plan probably is the best we can hope to achieve.

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