If you’ve ever been called a poindexter, you know what a backhanded compliment it can be: it means you’re smart, but in a very un-cool way. Where did the term come from? Believe it or not, we can thank the antics of a cartoon cat for this not-quite-a-compliment. In 1919, Felix the Cat began gracing the silver screen in silent cartoons, and was an immediate hit, drawing moviegoers to the theater just to see what kind of hijinks he could get into. Felix also had the honor of being the first giant balloon to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This beloved feline eventually came to the small screen, as well, and was a favorite for many years.
Felix’s TV series included a new nemesis to spar with, an egghead who went by the nameof The Professor. In 1958, The Professor’s genius nephew, Poindexter, made his first appearance; unlike his sinister uncle, Poindexter was one of the good guys, and he and Felix were buddies. Poindexter fought fire with fire, using his giant brain to foil his uncle’s evil plots. Where did the rather unique name come from? Joe Oriolo, the animator, named him after Emmet Poindexter, Oriolo’s lawyer and the prototype for the cartoon hero.