The sad tale of Higgs Bison

An especially silly Zippy today, leading up to a groaner pun:

As is often the case in a Zippy, there are a lot of things going on here. I’ll focus on three: on the pun at the end, on the game of Bowlf, and on the title, “Biso-mania”. It all starts with the absurd name Higgs Bison, a play on Higgs boson.

The title is a portmanteau of bison and mania (a combining form). The version biso-mania seems not to be otherwise attested, but bisonmania is, with reference to bison the animals or to various teams named the Bisons. For instance, for meat-eaters there’s Ted’s Montana Grill, which celebrates Bisonmania, for National Bison Month.

And of course, for the physics-inclined, there’s boson-mania (or boson mania), as in

Geek Quiz: Higgs Boson-Mania (link)

(There might be some instances of boso-mania out there, but the boson-based formation is almost totally overshadowed by the bosom-based portmanteau bosomania, especially with reference to Russ Meyer movies.)

The combining form -mania is versatile, as noted on Michael Quinion’s affixes site (in a 9/23/08 entry):

Mental abnormality or obsession; extreme enthusiasm or admiration.
[Greek mania, madness.]

The ending is common in psychiatry to name various kinds of mental problems (megalomania, nymphomania) as is mania itself as a general term…

It is also used more loosely for an enthusiasm such that those showing it seem almost unbalanced; examples here include Beatlemania, balletomania, and Anglomania (excessive admiration of English customs). In this sense, the ending is frequently used in journalism to create words for short-term purposes, as in Euro-mania, enthusiasm for European integration regarded as excessive, or lotterymania, an extreme desire to take part in lotteries.

So we get Boson-mania, and Higgs-mania as well:

Higgs-mania Day: I woke up this morning to the BBC Radio News at 7am announcing that scientists at CERN were going to report “hints” of the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider (link)

These go along with the Higgsteria reported on here.

As for Bowlf, this seems to be a fanciful invention, with a name that’s a portmanteau of bowling and golf. It has its own Facebook page, with the description:

for the strong, there is football; for the fast, there is soccer; for the patient, there is baseball – and for the rest of us, there is Bowlf.

… Bowlf is an alternate version of bowling. Rather than trying to get a score closest to 300 in 10 strings like in bowling, in Bowlf, one tries to obtain the lowest score like in golf.

There’s a reference to a 2011 The Official Book of Bowlf, which seems to be equally fictitious.

Finally, “Higgs today, gone to muon” (an elementary-particle play on the formula “Here today, gone tomorrow”) was set up by the (admittedly surreal) context preceding it, with the explicit neutrino just before it and the earlier bison for boson.

The Cheesecake Factory and the Delmarva Peninsula are real, and pinball wizard is an allusion to the song of that name from the rock opera Tommy. Tondelaya Laminate is left as an exercise for the reader.


One Response to “The sad tale of Higgs Bison”

  1. thnidu Says:

    The webcomic “Girl Genius“, by Phil and Kaja Foglio, has a somewhat self-effacing but intriguing character called Bosun Higgs. See this fan wiki page for information and speculation about him.

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