Was the name/nickname "Popeye" in general use before the cartoon character?

Inspired by the “Popeye Chicken” thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=364270), I found myself wondering if the sobriquet of “Popeye” had been in the cultural lexicon before Seegar’s cartoon creation of the acromegalic sailor.

Anybody know?

It was certainly a name used before that, as far back as the 1880’s from some cites in newspapers that I can find. Not common, but certainly it didn’t originate with Seegar.

I saw a movie once, set in the early 1900s, with a female character named Popeye. I couldn’t figure out how a young black girl could have a nickname like that - not only was he a white male sailor with bulging biceps, but the timeframe was a bit early - until I saw the character.

It appears she was suffering from Exophthalmos which made her eyes bulge

I suppose that’s the sort of nickname you give to someone with bulged eyeballs. Not sure how this dude got the name.

Popeye the Sailor has only one eye. Presumably the other one was popped out in a fight or an accident.

And here is his original appearance in Thimble Theater, Elzie Segar’s comic strip:

The guy accosting him is Castor Oyl, Olive’s brother.

Thanks for the info.

Can’t find any ancestors in my family tree with that name, tho.

Too bad.

I’m Popeye the Mercotan
I’m Popeye the Mercotan
I fights all the Lensmen
Cuz I’m Qadgop’s kinsman
I’m Popeye the Mercotan

Bravo!! Encore!!!

<<clap clap clap>>

Do Mercotans eat spinach?

We prefer to eat those who eat spinach.

Maybe you should search for the name Bluto instead.

My great-grandfather, born in 1872, was called Popeye most of his life, apparently because he was somewhat popeyed.

In the words of Alf the Mercotan when offered a salad: “That’s not food. That’s what food eats.”

Can’t you generally tell what a creature eats from its mouthparts? Well, what sort of diet is indicated by a xymosely polydactle tongue?


Actually, I’ve never been sure if the one eye is missing or just squinty.

In the Thimble Theater comic strip it was clear that Popeye had only one eye. It was less clear in the cartoons - in some of the later ones I think he didn’t even keep the same eye closed all the time.

Have you ever thought about what an unlikely hero Popeye is? A small, ugly man with one eye, a huge cleft chin, no teeth, skinny biceps and gigantic forearms who speaks a strange variety of broken English and gets superhuman strength by eating his vegetables.

Ah, well. He’s more plausible than practically any cartoon superhero you could name. E.g., the Incredible Hulk. (If you got caught too close to an A-bomb test, what do you think would happen to you?)

I don’t mean “unlikely” in a scientific sense - I mean in a dramatic sense. People like the character even though he seems strange and unappealing in so many ways.

Fffft. He’s a sailor. A manly man. He can be ugly, stupid, and have any number of moral failings, but he’s a heroic figure by default.

Look at the way that Ann Darrow fawns over Driscoll in the original King Kong. On their first meeting, he pops her in the jaw and tells her that he thinks women are a “damned nuisance,” and her reaction is to bat her eyelashes at him, adjust her posture to best show off her feminine pulchritude, and make it absolutely clear that it’s imperative that he have his way with her as soon as he can possibly fit it in. (Long before he’s given any opportunity to display his heroism.)

It’s a common archetype of the '20s and '30s – sailors are rough, rude, plug-ugly, unwashed, uneducated, and supernaturally virile and capable, which makes them very attractive figures.


I don’t get it, either.