More adventures on the comics pages, this time in Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia, from the 2010 retrospective on 30 years of the strip, The Sylvia Chronicles: 30 Years of Graphic Misbehavior from Reagan to Obama (with pointed commentary by Hollander on the already pointed cartoons).

From Jules Feiffer’s foreward:

For thirty years, long before Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, my friend Nicole Hollander has been one of our nations’s leading satirists. Than mean that she is in the business of telling the truth and making it funny. She is right about almost anything. And because she is right, and she is funny, she has no power whatsoever.

From Wikipedia:

Sylvia is a long-running comic strip by American cartoonist Nicole Hollander [born in 1939] that offers commentary on political, social and cultural topics, and on cats, primarily in the voice of its title character, Sylvia [Lake]. Distributed to newspapers nationally by Tribune Media Services, Sylvia also appears online at Hollander’s blog, Bad Girl Chats. On March 26, 2012, Hollander announced “Sylvia’s retirement from the newspaper business.”

(The circulation of the strip had been steadily declining, as fewer and fewer papers carried it; the Chicago Tribune dropped it in 2010.)

The strip shows Sylvia talking: to her mother, to her daughter Rita, to female friends, to her friend Harry at his bar. She talks across the table, shouts to the next room from a bubble bath, and chats on the phone (a lot).

Hollander’s formative influences include her mother, as in this vignette (where she engages in a bit of creative inflectional morphology, with a feminist bite):

And her inventions sometimes take her out of the circle of family and friends, as here, in colloquy with a visiting alien in 1980, which moves to gender and sexuality:

A sampling of language-related strips, starting with one  from 3/28/83 on animal communication (cats figure prominently in Sylvia’s life, but she’s no fool):

Then a snowclone from Hollander, explaining a cartoon of 8/31/84:

This takes some explanation. The analogical snowclone — X is the Y of Z — is the easy part; see Ben Zimmer’s Language Log pieces on the figure (“The Rosa Parks of blogs”, here, and “X is the Y of Z: pop music edition”, here). Then there’s political hostess Georgette Mosbacher; from Wikipedia:

Georgette Mosbacher (née Paulsin; born January 16, 1947…) is the CEO of Borghese, a cosmetics manufacturer based in New York City, and a fundraiser for the United States Republican Party. In 1987, she purchased the high-end cosmetics firm La Prairie, served as its CEO, and sold it in 1991 to Beiersdorf. She served as national co-chairman of John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and is co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s Finance Committee.

She’s still at it. From a Jason Horowitz story in the Washington Post on 9/19/12 about the “cosmetics impresario and eccentric grande dame of GOP fundraising” at the Republican National Convention:

The 65-year-old businesswoman, chief executive officer of Borghese cosmetics, has never shied away from talking about how her marriages to real estate developer Robert Muir, the late Faberge CEO George Barrie and Bush family friend and former commerce secretary Robert Mosbacher catapulted her into a world of wealth, soirees and presidential politics. Yet, despite the attention paid to the marriages and divorces of “Hurricane Georgette” or “Monsoon Mosbacher” (as she has been called by columnists), her most enduring and overlooked relationship has been with Lyn Paulsin — sister, manager, employee, confidante, emissary, Girl Friday, …

… Georgette is renowned for political fundraisers and society bashes at her Fifth Avenue apartment, which is adorned with crystal chandeliers, faux-Roman marble busts and gilded mirrors. Another constant feature is Lyn, who has dated regulars in the Mosbacher party circuit. The gossip pages mistakenly linked her to Republican consultant Ed Rollins; she says she did go on a couple of dates with Rush Limbaugh.

The snowclone analogy is to a hostess of 60+ years ago, Perle Mesta:

Perle Reid Mesta (nee Skirvin) (October 12, 1889 – March 16, 1975) was an American socialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949–1953).

Mesta was known as the “hostess with the mostest [sic]” for her lavish parties featuring the brightest stars of Washington, D.C., society, including artists, entertainers and many top-level national political figures. [she was born Pearl and changed the spelling to Perle; Hollander’s comment uses the Pearl version]

… She was the inspiration for Irving Berlin’s musical Call Me Madam, which starred Ethel Merman as the character based on Mesta in both the Broadway play and the movie.

Next up in Sylvia, some portmanteau play on 1/21/91:

Start with catalytic converter, analyze the first word as cat + alytic, and then replace cat by a cow, to get a substitution portmanteau.

Next, and possibly my favorite in this set, is a strip (from 2/23/95) with an arresting word choice:

I hesitate to speculate about the workings of Newt Gingrich’s mind, but it strikes me that he was aiming for a word like disorder or disease and chose the more specific infection as a label for the larger category. Of course, Gingrich is mistaken in viewing menstruation as a kind of disease, but this misapprehension has a very long history (involving, for example, menstruating women treated as “unclean”, in much the same way as diseased people).

Finally, from 2/2/99, a piece of playful morphology:

The basis for the sarcastic poetness in her poetness is highness in the deferential formula her highness (possessive pronoun + abstract N, as in his eminence, your worship, your grace). On the playful extension of the derivational suffix -ness (which normally combines with Adj to yield abstract N, as in happiness) to all sorts of other contexts, most commonly to combination with Nbase to yield abstract N, often with the sense ‘essence of Nbase’ (mathness, schoolness, paperness), see my posting on playful morphology in Get Fuzzy. But Hollander’s poetness has a different pattern.

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