poindexter

Poindexter has been an American slang term for an egghead or nerd since at least the early 1980s. Recorded in Connie Eble’s 1981 UNC-CH Slang (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill):

Poindexter, person, usually a male, who studies all the time.

But how did the name come to be associated with really smart people. The answer is cartoons. The cartoon character Felix the Cat, creation of Otto Messmer, made his screen debut in 1919, making him one of the most venerable animated characters in existence.

In 1958, Felix made his television debut and for the TV series Felix’s new animator, Joe Oriolo, introduced a number of new characters and foils for Felix. Among these were Felix’s arch-nemesis The Professor and his brainy nephew, Poindexter. Allegedly, Oriolo named Poindexter after his lawyer, Emmett Poindexter. The popularity of the cartoon ensured that the name Poindexter would be forever associated with intelligence.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

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