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Find your birthday word with the birthday word generator of the Oxford English Dictionary

Cartoons, comics and newspaper comics seem to be an unusual source for new words and phrases, but English is such a versatile language – and comics have always had access to such a large number of people – that only a few of their coins have slipped into everyday life. Here are the etymological stories behind 10 examples of just that.

1. Brainiac

The Most Famous Brainiac is a cold-hearted, over-intelligent opponent of Superman who appeared as an alien for the first time in DC Comics Action Comic # 242, "The Super Duel In Space." After the release of his first adventure, DC Comics discovered that the name had already been used for a home improvement computer kit. Given the kit, Brainiac became a "computer personality" and a great villain. As a nickname for an expert or intellectual, his name (and the name of the kit) was more commonly used in English in the early 1


. 2 Kuratenei

Like the Kuratenei is an English expression of the 19th century, which means something that consists of both good and bad parts. It comes from a unique cartoon titled "True Humility," which appeared in November 1895 in the British satirical magazine Punch . The cartoon was drawn by the artist George du Maurier (grandfather of the novelist Daphne du Maurier). It depicts a stern-looking bishop having breakfast with a young pastor who was unfortunately served a bad egg. Since the pastor does not want to perform a scene in front of the bishop, he will still be eating the egg next to the headline "Oh no, sir, I assure you, parts of it are excellent."

3. Goon

Goon is said to be originally derived from gony an ancient English dialect once used by sailors to describe lumbering seabirds such as albatross and pelicans. Based on this initial meaning, goon was used as another word for a boring-looking or slow-thinking person in the early 1900s, and this was what inspired the popeye cartoonist EC Segar to create The figure of Alice the Goon for his comic series Thimble Theater from 1933. But it is Segar's account of Alice – as a dutiful, but incredibly strong 8-foot giantess – who claims the use of [19459006inspirierte] goon as a nickname for a hired thug or thug who was paid to intimidate or terrorize someone without asking questions, in the slang of the 1930s.

. 4 Jeep

Jeep is popularly derived from an approximate pronunciation of the letters "GP", which in turn are understood as an abbreviation for "all-purpose vehicle". If so, then Jeep belongs alongside only a handful of other examples (such as DJ okay Veep and EMCEE [19459007)]) in an unusual class of words that start their life as a phrase, then become a shortcut and then a whole new word based on the acronym – but in the case of Jeep this is probably not the whole story. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the spelling Jeep was probably influenced by the character Eugene the Jeep, a yellow cat-like animal (who only made one Jeep!)! Noise), which first appeared in 1936 alongside Popeye in EC Segar's Thimble Theater . Jeep was then adopted as a nickname for an inexperienced military jargon during the Second World War, or as an enthusiastic newcomer, but established itself as a different name for a specialized military vehicle in the early 1940s, and this significance continues to this day ,

. 5 Keeping with the Joneses

The phrase with which Joneses compete is a synonym for the silent rivalry between neighbors and friends and comes from the title of a comic created by cartoonist Arthur "Pop" Momand in 1913 The Strip Based in part on Momand's own experiences in one of New York's richest parts, he spent nearly 30 years in the American press and even inspired a cartoon series at the height of his popularity in the 1920s. The eponymous Joneses Momand originally intended to refer to as "The Smiths" before deciding that "Joneses" sounds better, were the neighbors of the cartoon's main characters, but were never portrayed in the series.

. 6 Malarkey

Etymologically Malarkey is said to derive from the old Irish surname Mullarkey but exactly how or why is unclear. American cartoonist Thomas Aloysius Dorgan – better known as "TAD" – introduced him in this regard for the first time in several of his Indoor Sports animated series in the early 1920s. The spelling was not yet standardized. After writing it Milarkey referred to a place, and in a famous example depicting a court scene, one of Dorgan's characters exclaims: "Malachy! They said it: I would not trust a lawyer any more when I could throw a case of scotch! By the way, Dorgan is also credited with giving the phrases and to the English language Drugstore Cowboy .)

7. Milquetoast

The character Caspar Milquetoast, named after the similarly mild breakfast snack "milk toast", was created in 1924 by the American caricaturist Harold T. Webster. Webster's star Timid Soul Comic Caspar was portrayed as a quiet, submissive, bespectacled old man whom Webster himself once described as the sort of man who "speaks softly and is hit with a big stick". His name was used as the epitome of anyone equally submissive or ineffective person since the mid-1930s.

. 8 Poindexter

When the comic strip by Otto Messmer Felix the Cat was adapted for television in the late 1950s, the cast was expanded to include a whole host of new minor characters, including a superintelligent student with a lab coat called Poindexter, who was the nephew of Felix's archenemy, The Professor. Poindexter was invented by the cartoonist Joe Oriolo and in the early 1980s epitomized a nerdic or intellectual person in English slang.

. 9 Shazam

Shazam was coined in February 1940 in Whiz Comics # 2 as the name of an ancient wizard who gives 12-year-old Billy Batson the ability to become a Captain Wonder. The sorcerer's name, Shazam was henceforth also Captain Marvel's magic word, with which he could invoke Solomon's wisdom of Hercules . the endurance of Atlas the force of Zeus the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury .

10th Zilch

Zilch has been used in English as another word for "zero" since the early 1960s. However, from the 1930s, it was used primarily as a nickname for useless and hopeless characters or non-beings or for someone who did not exist. In this context, it was probably coined and popularized by a series of cartoons that first appeared in 1931 in the Ballyhoo humor magazine and that contained an unlucky, invisible businessman figure named "President Henry P. Zilch." Possibly the authors have by Ballyhoo invented the name from scratch. It is likely that they were at least partially inspired by an old student jargon Joe Zilsch who was used in the US in the 1920s as well as John Doe or Joe Sixpack would be today.

This list first ran in 2015 and was re-published in 2019.

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