Write Away: “Milquetoast”

This week, I’m sort of – maybe – interested in the word, “Milquetoast.” What does it mean?

  • Adjective: lacking in character or vigor : WISHY-WASHY
  • Noun: A timid, meek, or unassertive person

It’s a strangely spelled word, introduced in 1924 by cartoonist Harold T. Webster in a comic strip called, “The Timid Soul,” published in the New York Herald Tribune. Webster claimed the character, Caspar Milquetoast, was a “man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” It slipped into use as a synonym beginning in the mid-30’s.

The word sounds like, “milk toast,” doesn’t it? This dish, popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, consists of toasted bread served in warm milk, sugar and butter…eesh. Seems like the bread would get all mushy. On the other hand, french toast, which is bread soaked in eggs and maybe a little milk, that’s completely different.

Here’s a sentence from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary: Do we really want a someone who is a milquetoast halfhearted candidate or someone who will defend the Constitution with every fiber of her being?
— Dana B. Orr

Here’s mine: I refuse to order a milquetoast breakfast of bread soaked in anything but eggs!

Now you try!

Read about other words and more at JD-Sullivan.com.

Today’s word suggestion and history comes from Workman Publishing and the editors of Merriam-Webster365 New Words-A-Year 2021. The definitions are from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

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