General Question

edmartin101's avatar

How did we come up with the term "Mickey Mouse" to refer for a job half done?

Asked by edmartin101 (771 points ) June 17th, 2008

Why didn’t we use “Bugs Bunny” or shitty job? I have used this term myself so many times when I’m repairing something in the house, I may tell somebody “just do a Mickey Mouse” referring to just do a quick repair

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17 Answers

Allie's avatar

How long has this been a phrase? I’ve never heard it. =\

thetypicalusername's avatar

I have heard the phrase “Mickey Moused” many times! Unfortunately, I do not know where it came from.

wildflower's avatar

I’ve heard of “taking the mickey” (as in “pulling someone’s leg”), but for a half-done job, I’m more used to: Half-assed (makes you wonder) or slap-dash, mockup, or cowboy (as in unconventional, not very thorough, improvised) job.

edmartin101's avatar

maybe is just in California then or even with the contractors I dealt with

Allie's avatar

I’m from California, but still, I’ve never heard it. I hear half-assed, a bullshit job, or just plain fucked up. Maybe “Mickey Mouse’d” is for people who don’t like saying ass, shit, or fuck. And maybe they picked Mickey because he’s so clean (meaning he doesn’t curse; he’s a GOOD mouse).

Notreallyhere's avatar

I use it every day in FL, and I’m gonna use it again: this was a Mickey Mouse answer.

shrubbery's avatar

I have never heard Micky Mouse to mean half done. My maths teacher uses Micky Mouse to mean something easy, something basic, something simple. And then there’s Donald Duck which means something hard or problematic, and he says that’s because it’s hard to understand what Donald Duck is saying :P

jballou's avatar

Having played sports, I’ve always heard “Mickey Mouse” in reference to playing weak or acting soft. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to expand its meaning to encompass doing a poor job on a task- and it seems like urban dictionary agrees with you.

Upward's avatar

I term just means “second rate” and started with a run of poorly made toys for Disney that were made in Japan.

Jax's avatar

You mickey moused it! Or done the job in an unsuitable fashion.

It sounds a bit negative, and it is. Usually a term used for quick and dirty fixes, but it’s also a work form for Disney’s imagineers. They often come up with unsuitable problems which require a unorthodox solution.

The mickey rule: “Manage It Correctly Keep Everything Yippee”

Upward's avatar

Also, I’m in Oklahoma and haven’t heard the term used for at least 15–20 years. So my guess is the people that haven’t heard it used this way are under 25 years old. Now when you see “Made in Japan” you think of a well made product, back in the 60’s it meant a cheap “second rate” product.

edmartin101's avatar

so it is all well coming together, at least some of you have heard and used it…...good to know I’m not alone in this deal…....lol

osullivanbr's avatar

I haven’t heard it used in normal conversation in a while either.

I had a discussion very similar to this not too long ago at work though (we were obviously ever so busy).

As I recall the earliest use we could find that afternoon was in 1983/4 when Wayne Gretzky said “It’s time they got their act together, they’re ruining the whole league. They had better stop running a Mickey Mouse Organization and put somebody on the ice.”
He was referring to the New Jersey Devils.

Ah I love productive days at work. See now, the boss said it wasn’t important, and look at us now eh. Hah, the fool.

Harp's avatar

Here’s a great exploration of the use of the term. It seems that the purjorative meaning comes not from the cartoon character, but from the Mickey Mouse watch, a cheap, shodily made watch popular in the 50’s and 60’s.

anonyjelly16's avatar

I think Harp is right. I remember my Trademark Law teacher talking about this and he said something about the term originating with really cheap watches.

edmartin101's avatar

In summary this is what you guys have come up with
Different meanings of Mickey Mouse by various people:

By Ross Perot as in “fairyland,” it means: “loony,” “cartoony,” “outlandish.”,
By Carl Doebel as in Mickey Mousing around it means “patently false posturing.”
According to Los Angeles investigators as in “Mickey Mouse Mafia.” It means “powerless,” “pallid.”
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary it means: “childish, oversimplified, unrelated to reality,” as in “a Mickey Mouse college course.”
By Dave Smith as in Mickey Mouse bookkeeping, “a caricature of normal practice.”
A reverse usage: to describe bureaucrats insisting on mindless obedience to regulations.
As in Mickey Mouse music: “Designating dance-band music that is corny, unimaginative, bland.”
According to Random House Dictionary: “trite,” “corny” or “petty,” “trivial,”
It is believed all these meanings arose from: Ingersoll Watch Company Mickey Mouse watches: the originals were cheap, tacky, and schlocky.
According to Urban Dictionary: Substandard, poorly executed or organized. Amateurish.
i.e. Who’s in charge of this mickey mouse operation, anyway?
Repaired in an unsuitable fashion.
i.e. Duct taped together or jury rigged.

1st Dude: Can you fix my bike?
2nd Dude: Sure.
2nd Dude: Here, I’m done.
1st Dude: Dude you mickey moused it!
2nd Dude: Your welcome

Typeaux's avatar

This same question comes up at work (I work for a large company), especially with people born in other countries who are not familiar with American idioms. Many are incredulous that citing the name of an iconic American character, whose cartoon persona always strives to do the right thing and be good, would be used to describe something substandard or below par. I am in my Sixties, but I heard phrases like “Don’t do business with them; everything they do is Mickey Mouse.” (Then there is even the old joke about the Saudi Prince who asked his young son what he most wanted in the world, and the small boy answered, “I really want a Mickey Mouse outfit!”—so his father bought him General Motors…)

I believe the term “Mickey Mouse” originated sometime after the first Mickey Mouse watches, made by Ingersoll, were produced, spawning a large counterfeiting industry of cheap, poorly-made watches featuring the famous character. Unfortunately, import controls were so lax in those days that the knock-offs far outnumbered the originals, so what was once a symbol of quality, that is, having a Mickey Mouse watch, became a term of derision, “Where’d you get that mickey mouse watch, anyway?”—which could then mean ANY cheaply made wristwatch. As these things do, the term took on broader usage to refer to any item or organization that was disorganized or of low quality .

I cannot substantiate any of this or cite any authoritative source, but it is something I recall hearing as a boy back in the 1950s, from my father.

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