Saturday, July 13, 2013


A caller asked about the word moxie. It’s a slang term meaning audacity, energy, high spirits, and rock-steady nerves.

Its source seems to be a trademarked name for a soft drink characterized as bitter with an undertone of sweetness. An 1890 quote seems to confirm this origin: “Young man, you've got nerve enough to start a Moxie factory.” [H. C. De Mille, Men & Women in America's Lost Plays]

The drink was originally developed by Doctor Augustin Thompson in 1876 as a patent medicine. Like so many other patent medicines, it was supposed to cure lethargy, nervousness, and insomnia. The good doctor claimed that its active ingredient was a rare South American plant discovered by his friend, one Lieutenant Moxie. You betcha.

It turned into a soft drink around 1885 when he added soda water to the mix. The drink is still manufactured, but seems to be limited to some Northeast states and to Florida. You’ll find their web site here:

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

Check out Mike's other books here:

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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