In a Word: Milquetoast

November 22, 2010

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment on his blog, You Don't say, and the best sentence will be featured next week. This week's word:

milquetoast

In the 1920s, H.T. Webster created a cartoon character named Caspar Milquetoast, a timid person, easily imposed on. The surname is an altered spelling of milk toast, a traditional bland food for convalescents and invalids, suggesting his inoffensiveness and lack of substance.

The popularity of the character in the '20s and '30s made him an eponym, like Captain Boycott or Signor Casanova. A milquetoast is a timid, unassertive person, submissive, readily dominated or intimidated. The adjective milquetoast indicates the characteristics of such a person.

Example: We all know the type: a sycophant to his bosses, a bully to his subordinates, and a milquetoast to his wife.

Last week's word:

Though not explicitly an illustration of borborygmus, I can't resist repeating the limerick submitted by johnwcowan: I sat next to the Duchess at tea; / It was just as I feared it would be. / Her rumblings abdominal / Were simply phenomenal, / And everyone thought it was me.

And once again, a contribution by ddfairchild: The borborygmus mutterings concerning airline scanners have recently become a full eructation of passenger discontent.

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