Word avalanche

Today’s Pearls Before Swine, with a type of language play I have no ready name for:

(The human in the last panel is the cartoonist, Stephan Pastis. And Rat’s question is rhetorical, conveying ‘the word shame means nothing to you’.)

In this form, you pile up phonologically identical words or parts of words to make a gigantic expression that is almost impossible to parse (without the context that sets up the expression): pen the writing implement, the pen– of penultimate, Sean Penn the actor, and Penn the university; the ultimate ‘final’ of penultimate, ultimate ‘very best’, and the ultimate of Ultimate Frisbee. (On penultimate, ultimate, etc, see this posting.) The effect of the set-up is to license what sounds like a massive attack of stuttering.

6 Responses to “Word avalanche”

  1. Benjamin Slade Says:


  2. Sylvia Says:

    In the state of Buffalo, various four legged buffaloes confuse and buffalo other four legged beasts of the same species. In other words – Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  3. Meta-Pearls | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] fairly often goes into this territory, with cartoonist Stefan Pastis appearing in the cartoon (as here). The current story line in Pearls goes deep into metacartooning. Yesterday’s […]

  4. Rhyme chains | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] up a preposterous rhyme chain, origami salami tsunami. And then, as in the word avalanche strip posted here (ending with “Does the word shame mean anything to you?”), Rat upbraids the […]

  5. Another word avalanche | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A piling-up of expressions in red, hard to parse — a word avalanche, one of the specialties of this strip. Most recently on this blog here, with a reference back to this posting. […]

  6. Alon Lischinsky Says:

    Yuen Ren Chao’s The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den is doubtlessly the ultimate in word avalanches.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: