Dr. Zippy

Today’s Zippy, a treasure of language play and pop culture, as our Pinhead decides to be a patient no longer:

First, some etymological notes on patient and historically related items; then, notes on each of Dr. Zippy’s three patients.

1. Historical notes on patient. The topic came up some years ago on Language Log in connection with passion ‘suffering’ (as in Passion Play) and passion ‘enthusiasm (for some work)’; seeing a deep association between the ideas is an instance of the Etymological Fallacy. In fact, there’s a complex web of sense developments leading away from the Latin ‘suffer’ root in several different directions. Some highlights:

n. passion ‘suffering’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘intense emotion, esp. love or sexual desire’;

adj. passive ‘accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance’ (NOAD2) vs. active

n. patient ‘one who undergoes treatment’ vs. doctor ‘one who treats’;

adj. patient ‘able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’ (NOAD2) vs. impatient;

[linguistic term, having to do with inflection] passive voice vs. active voice;

[linguistic term, having to do with semantic roles in events] patient role (that which is acted on) vs. actor/agent role (that which does an action)

2. Patient Fred. Fred Flintstone, presumably. Afflicted with a rare case of nostrilitis, a playful formation with the suffix -itis of infection (although it could — and might in this case — have an extended sense referring to being afflicted by a large, deformed, or otherwise unpleasantly notable nose). Web uses of nostrilitis seem to cluster around Rush Limbaugh’s disparagement of  U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (Democrat of California), as Henry “Nostrilitis” Waxman.

At first, I cast about for some allusion to the 16th-century seer Nostradamus in the epithet Nostrilitis, but now it looks like the principal reference is to Waxman being perceived as porcine because of his nose and other facial features (there are quotes referring to Waxman and his “populist piglets”).

Then Fred introduces his “imaginary dog, Farfel”. Not real, but not truly imaginary, either:

Farfel the Dog was a hound dog ventriloquist’s dummy created by Jimmy Nelson. The Farfel character is probably best known for television commercials for Nestlé’s Quik which ran from 1953 to 1965. (link)

(Jimmy Nelson with his dummies Danny O’Day, on the left, and Farfel, on the right.)

The dog’s name seems to be pure silliness, probably a stage Yiddish joke:

Farfel (… farfl; from Middle High German varveln) are small pellet-shaped pasta. Farfel is most prevalent in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It consists of an egg noodle dough which may be cut or grated for use in soups, or served as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley.

… Farfel is not related to the similar-sounding falafel and farfalle. (link)

(On the Middle Eastern food falafel, see the Wikipedia entry and the posting “Make Falafel Not War”, here; on the pasta farfalle ‘butterflies’, see here.)

3. Patient Mr. Facemaker. Mr. Facemaker I found more puzzling, though he’s probably an allusion to the current reality tv show Face Off:

Face Off (2011- ) is a competition/elimination series exploring the world of special-effects make-up artists and the unlimited imagination which allows them to create amazing works of living art. (link)

— maybe with Blush: The Search for America’s Greatest Makeup Artist (2008– ) thrown in.

Mr. Facemaker’s panel alludes to other reality tv shows, following hoarders, tattoo artists, and a pawnshop. (I’m waiting for a reality tv show on the travails of sociolinguistic field workers. It could happen.)

4. Patient Louise. She’s also hard to identity. Maybe fashionista Louise Roe. From Reality TV World:

NBC has confirmed Louise Roe will be the new host of Fashion Star‘s second season and also anounced that Express will replace H&M as one of the show’s three retail store buyers.

The addition of Roe, a British fashion journalist and editor-at-large of Glamour Magazine who previously hosted The CW’s Plain Jane makeover series and also appeared on MTV’s The City, had been previously announced by Fashion Star executive producer and former first-season host Elle Macpherson last month. (link)

Whatever the model for Louise, Dr. Zippy’s “baseless opinion” — the history and contexts of use for this expression might be worth pursuing — is that she needs vitamins, in particular gummi vitamins: gummi bears, and other gelatin-based chewy candies in the shape of creatures, cunningly incorporating child-sized vitamin doses (and potentially inviting vitamin overdoses in small children), but available for adults as well. Gummi bears on the prowl:

Dr. Zippy suggests that consuming Gummi Vitamins might help Louise learn Finnish. Note his vowel-packed eye chart; printed Finnish strikes many English speakers as overloaded with vowel letters, mostly because they sometimes appear in fairly long sequences (the language has long vowels, represented by doubled vowel letters in spelling).


One Response to “Dr. Zippy”

  1. Passions | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] then in connection with a Zippy strip with three medical patients in it, I focused on patient and its […]

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