Friday, July 13, 2007

Make Mine a Moxie!

Having just returned from 'up there' in Northern Maine, the origin of the word "Moxie" was on my mind (& the minds of my fellow campers). Around the area of Maine we were visiting, there is a Moxie Falls, a Moxie Pond, and a Moxie Mountain--- not to mention several campgrounds and outdoor outfitters with Moxie titles.

I know Maine has its odd place names, but this one seems especially odd.

What is "Moxie"? Well, first, Moxie is a soft drink originally made in 1884. It was popular in the olden days, but is not commonly found outside of New England today. Though many people have never heard of Moxie, (or tasted it) it was the first soft drink marketed in America, before Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It is dark soda, similar to "Dr. Pepper," & has a medicinal taste. Moxie was invented in the late 1870's by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was originally from Union, Maine.

Listen below to a Moxie ad composed in 1904.

Dr. Thompson likely named his soda "Moxie" after the several familiar place names he knew from his boyhood home. But the name "Moxie" was also a marketing ploy, because the word moxie in English means 'spirited,' 'peppy,' 'scrappy,' or 'spunky.' Perhaps you've heard someone say, "She's full of moxie." Moxie, made from gentian root extract, wintergreen, and at one time sassafras, is an 'acquired' taste. Some people can't stand it. Hence, you have to be 'brave' to drink Moxie. ((In fact it was considered an alternative to alcohols such as whiskey.))

The Moxie place names in Maine likely have an original Algonquin Native American derivation. "Moxie' is a word in the Algonquin language meaning 'dark waters.' Many of the place names are bodies of water or are surrounded by water. However, there's also a plant called 'moxie-berry' that the Native Americans used to make a medicinal tea. Also, 'Maski,' a similar sounding Algonquin word, means medicine. My guess would be that the Algonquin Indians used this 'moxie-berry' tea to pep you up.....

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