George Booth

This week’s featured Condé Nast artist is New Yorker cartoonist George Booth, a master of the absurd in the everyday. And famous among linguists for his 1975 story strip “Ip Gissa Gul”:

(Click on the image to embiggen it.)

The New Yorker archives provide this flat-footed abstract for the strip:

Comic strip entitled “Ip Gissa Gul” which means, “Ape Gets A Girl.” A group of cavemen come upon an ape who is in a state of fury and says he wants a girl. While the ape goes off to look for a girl, the cavemen discover the rock, the hog, the lizzard, the bird and the puppy dog. Meanwhile the ape has found a cavegirl who throws rocks at him. The cavemen watch as the ape goes off with the rock-throwing girl under his arms, Later the cavemen come upon the ape and the cavegirl and six little creatures around them. The cavemen make guesses about the little creatures around them. One thinks they are little puppies. Another one says they are apes. In fact, they are little cave-children.

(Note that a bit of Booth’s Ip-spelling for lizard, with double Z, has been carried over into the abstract.)

A typical comment on the strip:

One of my favorite comic strips of all time was one that was handed out at my Linguistics class. (link)

Others just said it was one of their favorite cartoons of all time. Certainly it was my man Jacques’s; “Dassa krok-tron gul!”, “Issa hig!”, and “Huppy dod!”, in particular, came to be part of our household’s language.)

It’s a great spur to thinking about  first-language acquisition, second-language learning, and “foreigner talk”, “Tonto talk” and other simplified registers, not to mention the evolution of language and gender relations.

Wikipedia on Booth:

George Booth V, pen name George Booth (born June 28, 1926) is a New Yorker cartoonist.

… Over time, his cartoons have become an iconic feature of the magazine. In a doodler’s style, they feature everymen beset by modern complexity, goofballs perplexing their spouses, cats, and very often a fat dog. One signature element is a ceiling light bulb on a cord pulled out of vertical by another cord attached to an electrical appliance such as a toaster. Most of the household features in his cartoons are taken from his own home, such as the rugs, chairs, ferns, and cats.

Booth in an absurdist moment, showing Victor Frankenstein and his assistant Igor at work in the operating theatre:

Pop-culture elements of the Frankenstein films in combination with Debussy as a representative of elegant high culture. Note the characteristic Booth dog.

And then back to caveman culture, with very early parliamentary procedures: calling meetings, offering observations from the floor, and making motions:


8 Responses to “George Booth”

  1. rarasaur Says:

    I love absurdity and George Booth!

  2. RF Says:

    I’d never seen this cartoon before. To me, the storyline (kidnapping and rape?) seems a little disturbing. No one else had that reaction?

  3. Anne Says:

    Hi…My Name is Anne, I am from Pittsburgh originally and my parents, both highly educated, always had magazines like The New Yorker coming in the door..To this day my mom is a huge Booth fan…I grew up constantly hearing this cartoon and variations of it…..I still say ” Is ip a rok tron gul!” my brother sister and I used to just die laughing …..RF needs a drink or something…..thank you for posting this…..I never thought I would find it and I am trying to cheer up my mom so now I can say I found it!

  4. Sheila Trenton Says:

    RF, this cartoon was very popular among my friends in college, and it always disturbed me in just the way you say: it’s about kidnapping and rape! How is that hilarious?

  5. The Old Wolf Says:

    Ip is not an ape; he’s just another caveman who happens to be the protagonist of the story. Booth could have named him “Thag” and the story would have gone over just as well. It’s the story of a caveman finding a wife in much the same manner as we see in the movie Clan of the Cave Bear.

  6. Jane Vail Says:

    Help with an Ip Gissa translation: “Coos may huppy dod?”

  7. Happy New Year!Carole and Jay Furr Says:

    […] it was just three weeks later that the greatest New Yorker cartoon of all time, “Ip Gissa Gul“, was published. And yes, that was a Booth […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: