It’s been a long time since I mentioned my love of long-lived assumptions. This time it isn’t a story of a startup, but a story of an not-uncommon, but no everyday English word, milquetoast.

The spelling makes it looks like an old loan Latin word borrowed from French 1,000 years ago. It’s not. It’s a fancy way of spelling “milk toast” a simple breakfast dish “consisting of toasted bread in warm milk, typically with sugar and butter.”

The interesting part is that the common usage comes not from the breakfast dish (directly), but from a long-forgotten cartoon character, Caspar Milquetoast, named after the boring breakfast dish.

How do I know about the history of milquetoast? I came across that word one day and rather than noting the odd spelling and moving on, I looked it up and then fell into the subsequent depths of web surfing that often make me lose sleep.

That is the other lesson here, to not assume the ways things work today are the way they’ve always worked. Don’t be milquetoast, question everything!

By "Luni"


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