Why Are Smart People Referred to as “Poindexters”?

istock / istock

The word we use to describe a particularly studious egghead comes from, of all things, a cartoon. Felix the Cat made his big screen debut in 1919, when films were still silent. The mischievous feline was the first animated character to become a bona fide box office draw, and he was also the first giant balloon included in New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (1927). Suffice to say, Felix was one hepcat in his day.

When TV became the new medium of choice, Felix landed his own series. One of his arch rivals was The Professor, and in 1958 a new character was introduced—the Professor’s equally studious (but not evil) nephew, Poindexter. Poinsie became fast friends with Felix and utilized his vast intelligence to combat the evil of his notorious uncle. Animator Joe Oriolo named the character after his attorney, Emmet Poindexter, a short, bookish guy who wore thick black-framed glasses.