Body language and Lithuanians

Today’s Zippy returns to the topic of facial expression and gesture in Dingburg:

Five stances (or gestures), each with an absurdly specific meaning (some of which suggest, in snowclonish way, proverbs or quotations). Plus an appearance of Lithuanians.

(In passing: the name of the body language coach, Matt Finish, is a pun on matte finish. NOAD2 has the adjective matte ‘(of a color, paint, or surface) dull and flat, without a shine’ and the noun matte ‘a matte color, paint, or finish’. Bill Griffith often packs a whole lot of stuff into a single strip, willy-nilly.)

(Also in passing: the Lithuanian numbers begin 1 vienas, 2 du, 3 trys, 4 keturi. In the strip, the numbers switch from Lithuanian to English.)

Some earlier Zippy strips on this blog on facial expressions and gestures: in “Dingburger faces and gestures”, I noted

the absurd specificity of some of these meanings: ‘I’m available for weddings and bar mitzvahs’ and ‘Let’s shampoo my poodle’

and linked to “Facial expressions”, on the inscrutability of facial expressions in Dingburg, and also supplied two earlier Zippys on facial expression and gesture: from 5/21/06, again with absurdly specific meanings of facial expressions; and from 2/3/11, with Dingburger disagreement about the meanings of facial expressions and gestures.

Then there are the five glosses on body language, each hauntingly hinting at other expressions. Number 4 — “When th’ crawl gets Lithuanian, do th’ Lithuanian crawl” — is a clear variant of the chiastic proverb “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” ‘When things become difficult, the strong will try harder to meet the challenge’, a proverb that has served as the basis of a snowclonish pattern that occurs in many variants. (The origin of the proverb is not entirely clear; Wikipedia says that it “has been attributed both to Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and sometimes to Norwegian-born American football player and coach Knute Rockne (1888–1931)”.)

[Added later in the day: my colleagues on ADS-L have supplied me with the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs entry on the proverb:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  1954  Charleston [WV] Daily Mail 4 May:  “Frank Leahy, now an actor, is back coaching football in front of a camera and the material is as good as it used to be at Notre Dame . . . . He also inserted his own personal football motto into the dialogue: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'”  1956  Los Angeles Times 24 Aug.: “Former Notre Dame Coach Frank Leahy in seconding Ike’s nomination stirred the audience with a motto for football and politics: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'”  ODP 135, RHDP 364, YBQ Leahy, DAAP 320;  Bassin (1984) 51-56, Rees (1984) 238, Pickering et al.(1992) 235, Rees (1995) 501, Pickering (2001) 157.  Beginning in the 1960s, the attribution of the saying to Joseph P. Kennedy became common.

Garson O’Toole then unearthed

an interesting earlier version of the motto that does not quite conform to the antimetabole pattern: “When the going gets tough the tough keep going.” (1951 July 26, The Courier (Brookfield Courier), (Freestanding unattributed statement), Quote Page 8, Column 7, Brookfield, New York.)

and reported “an instance of the motto [with get going] in Boston Herald (Boston, MA) on October 10, 1949.” The search continues.]

Finally, the Lithuanians. Last year (in “Two portmanteaus”) I noted that Lithuanians come up often in Zippy, and back in 2010 (in “Savoring words”) I wrote that

Dingburgers in general savor words. They like to use their favorite words and will dwell on them … Vaseline and Lithuanian have caught their attention here.

I’m sure there are many more examples. Unfortunately, the strip search on the Zippy site yields no strips at all for the keywords Lithuanian or Lithuanians; this is surely a deficiency of the indexing procedures for the site, and not a reflection of how often these words occur in the strip. Griffith thinks Lithuanians are intrinsically funny, presumably because he thinks the word Lithuanian is risible.

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