Four Insane Things You Didn’t Know About Popeye the Sailor

Everybody knows Popeye the Sailor. Introduced January 17, 1929 in a syndicated comic series called Thimble Theater, he has been an integral part of American culture for close to 90 years. Most of us are more familiar with the cartoons that our favorite sailor appeared in during the 1930’s, which means there’s a ton of stuff that’s going to surprise you. Ready to get your mind blown?

Popeye introduced the word “wimp” into the English lexicon.

That’s right. The word “wimp” didn’t exist before the character “Wimpy” joined the cast of the original cartoons. Next time you hear someone use the word “wimp” in a movie set in Victorian England, you get to bring up the fact that the word didn’t exist yet! That’s not all; he also gave us the words “goon” and “dufus.” These words are used every day all over the world, and it’s all thanks to your favorite Sailor Man.

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I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday…

Popeye gave “Jeep” its name.

This one might be up for debate. In 1936, a character appeared in the cartoon called “Eugene the Jeep.” Eugene was a small, pinkish dog (he later became yellow) that would follow Popeye around on adventures. The cartoon was shown to troops in theater in World War II, and it’s believed that the iconic vehicle (then called the “General Purpose Vehicle”) was nicknamed “Jeep” in part due to the acronym “GP,” but also in part to Eugene the Jeep.

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And the rest, as they say, is history.

Popeye and Bluto teamed up to fight the Japanese.

It’s a well-known fact that during the second World War, Popeye was right there on the front lines. The one-eyed sailor was a huge hit with troops in both theaters of war, and his cartoons were regularly played there. Of course, it follows (as most cartoons and comic strips during this time did) that Popeye would eventually get involved in the fight himself. At various times the Sailor could be found beating the tar out of Japanese spies and troops, Emperor Hirohito, and of course the ultimate baddie, Adolf Hitler.

Casual racism was prevalent throughout cartoons from the era. It’s not uncommon to see caricatures of African-Americans in the old cartoons, and in the modern re-runs you’ll often see those cleverly edited out. There is currently a banned episode of the cartoon called Seein’ Red White ‘n Blue that has the distinction of being the only episode where Popeye and Bluto team up to fight the Imperial Japanese. Why is it banned, you ask? Well, see for yourself:

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Pictured: Different times.

Popeye was a wildly successful advertisement for spinach.

You probably figured this one already: Popeye was a huge boon to the spinach industry, but did you know why?

In 1870, a German chemist named Erich Von Wolf became the first chemist to measure the amount of iron in spinach. He did so incorrectly by misplacing a decimal point; a generous serving of spinach contains about 3.5 milligrams, where Von Wolf recorded that it contained 35 milligrams, the same as eating a small paper clip.

When the comic’s writers needed a plot device to beef him up, spinach was naturally the best choice, largely thanks to Von Wolf’s inaccurate report. During the early years as the Sailor Man was gorging his muscles with the green leafy vegetable, sales and consumption of spinach increased by 33% in the United States, making Popeye one of the most successful advertisements for any healthy food.

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Well blow me down…

Thanks for reading, and make sure to check out Navy Crow’s awesome line of Popeye-themed products! We’ve got everything you need to celebrate your favorite Sailor’s birth month in style with commemorative coins to mark the occasion!

This month sees the release of the limited edition Popeye Flip Coin, click on the image to go to the store page:

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Also make sure and have a look at our entire line of Popeye coins, steins, and clocks HERE. All our products are licensed and Popeye-approved. Get it for a Popeye fan today, supplies are limited and going fast! These are NOT SOLD IN STORES!