• moxie •
mahk-si • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Self-confident willpower, backbone, unbridled courage. This word is a New England regionalism for chutzpah, gumption, brashness, or just plain pluck.
Notes: English has a fairly wide array of regional terms for "brashness", as you can see from the Meaning of today's Good Word. The meaning of moxie came from the commercial name of a soft drink that was very popular from the 1890s to the 1930s because of its purported restorative powers. It was guaranteed to cure "loss of manhood, paralysis and softening of the brain", not to mention alcoholism. If you are tired of gumption, chutzpah and gall, try this funny little word for a change.
In Play: Courage, of course, is courage, but moxie is courage that makes you smile, courage that occurs where you least expect it: "Where did Neil Downe ever get the moxie to tell his wife he wasn't going to clean her room any more?" You can, however, use the same word in negative sentences in reference to the lack of even ordinary courage: "Randy Fellowe has been dating Marian Kind for six years but doesn't have the moxie to ask her to marry him."
Word History: Today's good word is what is called a commonization of the name of a popular soft drink around the turn of the 19th century. The original name of the soft drink probably came from an Algonquin Indian word maski "black water", since various locations, such as Moxie Falls and Moxie Lake bear the same name. Moxie was originally a very bitter nostrum (patent medicine) marketed by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Union, Maine. The primary ingredients were extract of gentian root and wintergreen. In 1884, impressed by the growing popularity of soft drinks, Dr. Thompson decided to convert his nostrum into the drink whose name we celebrate today. (We are so happy that Janice Ramey had the moxie to send us today's Good Word.)
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