Archive for the ‘Nonsense’ Category


January 15, 2015

Following my posting on perilla and phonologically similar words, I was playing with Camilla Perilla and sashimi and that’s my spicy duchess hanging on the wall scooby dooby, and I caught an echo of

Daisy and Lily,
Lazy and silly,
Walk by the shore of the wan grassy sea

The “Valse” from Façade, which I seem not to have posted about before.


Pirate chickens

April 25, 2014

A Savage Chickens from 2008, reproduced in the Stanford Linguistic newsletter the Sesquipedalian today:


yo-heave-ho, bow-wow, pooh-pooh?

Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t until September 19th, but pirate language is always in style.

Zippy nonsense

February 7, 2014

Today’s Zippy, which incorporates the comic-within-the-comic, Fletcher and Tanya:

F&T is a recurrent feature in Zippy. It’s a masterpiece of (Gricean) irrelevance, in which the conversational partners flagrantly talk past one another. What each of them says is grammatical English, though often peculiar in content. But the exchanges don’t cohere at all.


non sequitur

October 18, 2013

Today’s Zippy:


The strip starts with the opposed figures Kool-Aid Man and Speedy Alka-Seltzer and then rambles incoherently through a giant pile of cultural references.


The Pogo files

July 21, 2012

One cartoonist who reveled in language but has been largely neglected in my postings on linguistics in the comics is Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo. The problem is that good examples of Pogo material are hard to find on the net. But here are a few high points: the quote “We have met the enemy and he is us”; notes on the Okefenokee swamp dialect in Pogo; and the inspired nonsense of Kelly’s song parodies.


Edward Lear at 200

May 13, 2012

Yesterday was Edward Lear’s 200th birthday, certainly a day to celebrate. The barest facts, from Wikipedia:

Edward Lear (12 May 1812 – 29 January 1888) was a British artist, illustrator, author, and poet, renowned today primarily for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form that he popularised.

On limericks, see here.

And then, yesterday in the NYT, an appreciation by Verlyn Klinkenborg:


Beatnik poetry, invented and found

January 20, 2012

Today’s Zippy, with Dingburgers continuing their fascination with all things bop and beatnik (previous installments here and here):

Two pieces of invented beatnik poetry (on tv in the 60s), plus found poetry from Herman Cain back in November.


Zippy bops

January 9, 2012

Today’s Zippy:has the denizens of Dingburg’s Beatnik District bopping on the bongos:

Shades of Mr. Zopittybop-Bop-Bop (here)!

More play on nonsense syllables — bebop, rebop, plain bop, oobity, doo-wop, etc. — from various musical genres: R&B in Lionel Hampton’s “Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop” (1946), “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950), rockabilly in Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (1956), the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (1968), Afro-beat/punk/rock in Who Shot Jonson’s “Oobity Bap” (2009). And more, much more.

few and far in between

August 25, 2011

… caught on the radio as I was going to sleep several days ago. Didn’t record the source, but you can google up large numbers of this expanded version of the predicative idiom few and far between — and also a respectable number of the truncated version few and far ‘few and far between/apart/away’. The expanded version looks like it originated, eggcornishly, as an attempt to make more sense of the standard idiom (by incorporating the idiom in between in it), and the truncated version looks like a nonce truncation that might be spreading on its own.


Lady chow mein

November 1, 2010

Following “Somewhere over my poncho” (here), Bill Griffith goes on to “Lady chow mein”:

As Lise Menn pointed out in a comment on “Somewhere over my poncho” these mangled lyrics are in the tradition of Walt Kelly’s famous “Deck us all with Boston Charlie” (taking off on “Deck the halls with boughs of holly”). No doubt there are other precedents as well.

This is a style of nonsense verse that takes some familiar verse and subjects it to massive intentional mondegreening. I don’t know if there’s an established name for the genre.

The nonsense can be remarkably sticky. I have the text of “Boston Charlie” so firmly in my head that it takes me a little while to recover the correct words. “Lady chow mein” might yet displace “Lady of Spain” as a goofy accordion classic.

(I suspect that there will be more Zippy cartoons on similar lines. I probably won’t try your patience by posting more of them, though I find them tremendously entertaining. But then I’m easily amused.)


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