On Mickey Mouse, Common Words, and Childhood

The “Mickey Mouse” comic strip 1st appears on January 13, 1930.

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me


Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there

You’re as welcome as can be


For generations, Mickey Mouse and The Mickey Mouse Club have been staples in children’s experience, all around the world. However, the adjective and verb that have come about from the name have taken on a less positive meaning. According to Merriam-Webster, “mickey mouse” now means, in the common usage,

1: too easy, small, ineffective, or unimportant to be taken seriously

Mickey Mouse courses

a Mickey Mouse operation

2: being or performing insipid or corny popular music

3: annoyingly petty

Mickey Mouse regulations

One wonders how a simple and joyful image like Mickey can be brought to this level of derision? Other proprietary words, like “Band-aid” and “Kleenex,” have also become common nouns. When a specific word enters general usage like this, I wonder, is anything lost or gained? Words carry much weight and meaning: when we said that a solution is “just a band-aid situation” we don’t mean that it will heal a wound, do we? Even now, saying, “ya need a Kleenex?” can be a put-down, undercutting someone’s state of being upset over what is perceived to be a small problem, one not worth the worry.

Still, I prefer to think of the childhood fun of shouting the lyrics of The Mickey Mouse Club theme song as being something joyful. OK, so sing along!

Keep well,


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