If you have “moxie,” you have pep, courage, guts, nerve, know-how, determination, attitude, stamina, and aggressiveness.
The word comes from Moxie, a non-alcoholic drink first produced by the Moxie Nerve Food Company of Massachusetts around 1884 as “nerve food” syrup. The founder, Dr. Augustin Thompson, developed it as a patent medicine, claiming it cured paralysis, loss of manhood, and softening of the brain. He sought to create a medicine that did not contain the common but potentially harmful ingredients such as cocaine and alcohol.
The name may come from the Algonquin Indian word root maski, meaning “medicine” Another theory is that it came from a New England Indian word from Abenaki and means “dark water.” The word’s original use for a cure-all could explain all the meanings presently attached to it.
Moxie was the first carbonated and bottled soft drink to be widely distributed in America, getting into the market just before Dr Pepper and Coca-Cola, and heavily promoted in the early 1900s. In the 1920s, the word became slang for guts, courage, and nerve, probably derived from such slogans as “What this country needs is plenty of Moxie!”
The company marketed it as “a delicious blend of bitter and sweet, a drink to satisfy everyone’s taste.” But some people remarked that it needed courage just to drink the stuff, and even today’s supporters admit it’s an acquired taste. The bitter extract was later determined to be gentian root extract, a fairly common substance that has been used in tonics since at least 170 BCE. A unique advertising tool was the Moxie Horsemobile, a modified automobile whose driver sat on a large model of a horse.
Sugar-free Diet Moxie was introduced in 1962, about the same time that Mad magazine began placing the Moxie logo in the background of its articles to increase public awareness of it. As a result of Mad ’s efforts, sales of the soft drink increased 10%; this led to the “Mad About Moxie” campaign.
On August 28, 2018 The Coca-Cola Company agreed to buy Moxie.
After a history of some 135 years, Moxie is gone. And, since I’d never heard of “Moxie” until I looked up “moxie,” I missed the whole darn thing. My friends are right when they accuse me of living on Mars and only beaming down once in while for coffee. But we Martians already have moxie.