Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Four from the New Yorker

November 19, 2015

In the November 16th New Yorker, four cartoons that made me consider, once again, what you need to know to understand what’s going on in a cartoon and what you need to know to understand why the cartoon is funny. Two cartoons by artists who have appeared on the blog before (Harry Bliss, Shannon Wheeler) and two by newcomers to this blog (Kaamran Hafeez and Tom Chitty). The cartoons:






Run it up the flagpole

November 11, 2015

On AZBlogX, a Veterans Day offer from the gay porn company Channel 1 Releasing, featuring a serviceman admiring his penis “Wrapped in the red, white, and blue”. Spun as patriotism, but it’s all about sex.

C1R’s slogan: This Veterans Day we SALUTE you!

Meanwhile, Flag Boy’s penis is at attention, and he’s saluting it.

From Wikipedia:

“Let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it” [variant: “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes (it)”] is a catchphrase which became popular in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It means “to present an idea tentatively and see whether it receives a favorable reaction.” It is now considered a cliché. Sometimes it is used seriously, but more often it is used humorously, with the intention that it be recognized as both hackneyed and outdated. A non-joking equivalent would be “to send up a trial balloon.”

X snob

October 31, 2015

First, I note a snowclonelet composite not discussed earlier on this blog: X snob, involving a specialized use of the noun snob. Then I summarize some ADS-L discussion of possible extensions of the snowclonelet, where it was suggested that the snowclonelet might in some cases be losing its pejorative tone.


Rafe on display

October 19, 2015

(Some plain talk about man-man sex in here, but no X-rated images. Use your judgment.)

Yesterday’s ad from Daily Jocks (with my caption):


Rafe — solicited by Nasty
Pig at the Bay of
Pigs dance party at an
Up Your Alley — loved
Living in a jockstrap, loved
Even more the company
Pig Parties, where he was a
Pig Champ. But nothing had
Prepared him for

He’s remarkably well preserved, I’d say.


At the Bison Bar

October 16, 2015

The Bizarro from the 14th:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Don Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

The Cody mentioned by the bartender is “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the renowned bison hunter, and it looks like he has Jerry, the bison in the cartoon, in his crosshairs. (Since this is CartoonLand, we don’t shrink from the idea of a bison tossing back a drink in a bar.) Two cartoon puzzles: what’s the figure in the foreground doing in the cartoon? And why is the bison called Jerry?


Walsh plays with formulaic and conventionalized language

October 11, 2015

In a recent cartoon posting, one (#2) from New Yorker cartoonist Liam Francis Walsh, who frequently plays with language. Here are five more from Walsh on formulaic, conventionalized, or clichéd language. There will be food: chestnuts, hot dogs, and (sliced) bread.


Nothing says A like B

August 26, 2015

In my “going better with” posting, I mentioned in passing the “snowclone-like” sentence

Nothing says summer like a delicious Picnic Pasta Salad

(of the form “Nothing says A like B”, roughly conveying ‘B is evidence for A, B indicates A’). It certainly feels formulaic, and I considered the possibility that it was a playful variation on some existing model, but the range of examples suggests otherwise; so the form does indeed look snowclone-like: a compact template available for connecting B to A.


going better with

August 25, 2015

Today’s Zits:

Jeremy plays with the template

GBW (GoesBetterWith): Nothing goes better with X than Y

conveying something like ‘X and Y go very well together’; either X or Y can be taken to be the primary component in the combination.

But for Jeremy in the cartoon, X = Y, so what he’s conveying is that X is really really good. More bacon! More bacon!

GBW is a variation on an expression, but an expression that’s only weakly conventionalized: it can straightforwardly be understood literally, but it comes with an air of familiarity. It’s certainly not an snowclone, and it might not even count as a playful variation on some familiar expression. What would the model be?


Search for the magic slogan

August 2, 2015

Today’s Dilbert, with a brainstorming session at the office:

b (#1)

All they need is a magic slogan, in three words, clearly explaining everything the new product does. Labels — names — aren’t good at doing this task, and slogans (which are primarily designed for conveying emotions) are even worse than labels.

And yes, Alice, “Keep Doing It” is in some sense already taken. Several times, probably.


Failure to reach proverbial status

July 25, 2015

A Roz Chast cartoon from the July 27th New Yorker:

Each panel has its subject failing to reach the level required for some piece of formulaic language to apply:

She’s a force of nature.
After he was made, people threw away the mold.
She’s completely irrepressible.


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