Sunday, May 31, 2009

Grumble grumble mumble

Grammar Nazi here. I know. It's been a long time. Not that I haven't been noticing things, mind you.

Tonight, we discuss the word milquetoast.

It is a good word. It is also a severely abused and misspelled word. Read on. Learn More. Impress your friends. If you have any.

Meet Casper Milquetoast, star of H.T. Webster's 1920s comic strip The Timid Soul. Milquetoast is named for the food "milk toast," which, as the name implies, is toasted bread soaked in milk. Apparently in Webster's time it was a popular meal among those with nervous stomachs, due to its bland, inoffensive nature. Webster twisted the spelling of milk toast to Milquetoast to come up with a name for his bland, inoffensive character, bent on getting through the world without taking or causing offense.

It's from this comic strip that the word milquetoast entered our language. But, unfortunately, it's phonics that is turning milquetoast back into milk toast, or milktoast for those who recognize that the word is of its own origin, even if they don't know how to spell it.

A milquetoast is a timid or unassertive person. The many ways I've seen this word used shows me that many people who use it don't know what it means. Most often, I've seen it used as a synonym for unlikable, which, of course, a milquetoast may be, unless you really mean to call him or her a milquetoast.

So please, for the love of the Grammar Nazi, get it right.

No mantra today. I'm feeling rather perfect.

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