The caller, an African American woman in her 80th year, wanted to know just what I meant when I used the word "Poindexter" in today's column. "I'm not familiar with that term," she said on her phone message.
She had a lovely voice. I called Thelma A. back, and did my best to explain that Prof. Elijah Anderson says the label is used in the black community to describe a kid with thick-glasses, pocket protector and heavy bag of books. It is not a term of endearment.
This got me Googling. I forgot exactly who Poindexter was.
Wikipedia refreshed my memory:
Poindexter is a fictional character in the cartoon Felix the Cat. First introduced in 1958, he is the young nephew of the Professor, the arch-nemesis of Felix. ...
Poindexter is depicted as a stereotypical scientist; he is very intelligent and always wears thick glasses, a lab coat, and a mortarboard. A button on the chest of his lab coat acts as a control for whatever device the plot calls for. He helps his bumbling uncle concoct elaborate schemes to get Felix and capture his Magic Bag, though at times both are depicted as Felix's friends. Poindexter always refers to the protagonist as "Mr. Felix".
Apparently, it's been working its way into the language since the early 1980s.