Indirect pun

Today’s Bizarro:

This isn’t really a pun conveyed wordlessly — the caption “First sign of spring” is crucial to understanding the cartoon — but the pun is conveyed indirectly. For the cartoon to work, you have to recognize the figure behind the tree as Batman’s young sidekick Robin (named after Robin Hood, but given a red shirt to suggest the American robin’s red breast), and you need to know about the first robin as a sign of spring:

The Robin is considered a symbol of spring. A well-known example is a poem by Emily Dickinson, “I Dreaded That First Robin So”. Among other 19th-century poems about the first robin of spring is “The First Robin” by Dr. William H. Drummond, which according to the author’s wife is based on a Quebec superstition that whoever sees the first robin of spring will have good luck. (link)


5 Responses to “Indirect pun”

  1. Dennis Preston Says:

    The K2 mug is a good deal more subtle than the “Robin.”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The K2 has nothing to do with the content of the strip. It’s one of 10 secret symbols hidden by Don Piraro in his strips (explained on the website for the strip). The number of hidden symbols is given in the strip, by Piraro’s signature. For this strip, the number is 3: K2, the eyeball on the man’s shirt, and the firecracker on the right curtain.

  2. mollymooly Says:

    I’m not sure you need to know about the first robin as a sign of spring; I didn’t but I inferred it from the Gricean maxim of relevance. But the cartoon would probably have been funnier if I had known, so maybe it didn’t “work” for me, even though I “got” it.

    [The European robin stays around all winter, as illustrated by “The North Wind Doth Blow” and many Christmas cards. Over here, the cuckoo is the harbinger of spring.]

  3. Licia Says:

    Like mollymooly, I inferred it but it didn’t really work for me as I associate [European] robins with winter.
    Incidentally, in Italian swallows [rondini] are a sign of spring [primavera], and one swallow doesn’t make a spring, rather than a summer (una rondine non fa primavera).

  4. Metatext handout | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] in “Indirect pun” on my blog in 4/20/13.) Without the caption the strip is […]

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