Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: Moxie

     The very qualities that make humans admirable – courage, drive, energy, charisma – make our world vulnerable. The word that best describes that constellation of qualities is “moxie.” It seems emblematic to me. The word is derived from a commercial product (Moxie soda), invented by Augustin Thompson from Union, Maine; it was first sold as a patent medicine in 1876 in Lowell, Massachusetts, which by the middle of the 19th century had the country’s largest industrial complex, the Massachusetts Mills; in 1884 Thompson took advantage of the sugar craze and reformulated Moxie as a soft drink and thereupon gained it great popularity, presumably among the down-trodden immigrants of the industrial revolution; its advertising (“Moxie Man”) was powerful enough to bring a new word into the language; like so many local things it succumbed to the power of a multinational, in this case Coca-Cola. And now its popularity is limited to New England, mostly in Maine, which trades in icons and lost causes and illusions. And so the word seems to me to describe both the people of Maine and the dangers that surround us.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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