Zippy the Pinhead has long played with metastrips, in which the cartoonist figures as a character  or the characters talk about cartooning or both. Other strips sometimes indulge in this play: I posted about a recent Doonesbury in this vein, and Pearls Before Swine 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 strip:


and today’s:


Note the reference in the second to the convention in many comic strips that cartoon animals don’t wear clothes (some Disney characters, like Mickey Mouse, are exceptions).

Then there’s the slang verb flash, which is attested in the 19th century, but in its clearly sexual uses seems to have become current in the late 20th century. From OED2:

trans. (also refl.). slang. Of a man: to exhibit or expose (part of one’s body, esp. the genitals) briefly and indecently. Also intr.

1846   Swell’s Night Guide 119/1   Flash, to sport, to expose, he flashed his root.

1893   J. S. Farmer & W. E. Henley Slang III. 11/2   To flash it, expose the person.

1968 [implied in: J. Lock Lady Policeman ii. 11   City parks also have their share of ‘flashing’. (at flashing n.1 5)].

1969   M. Pugh Last Place Left xv. 108   He has a great faith in people like me. He would flash himself to the Sovereign before he searched my house.

1978   G. Vidal Kalki iv. 104   Men stared at me. Some leered. None, thank God, flashed.

Similarly for the noun flasher :

slang. One who ‘flashes’ or exposes himself indecently. See flash v.1 13c.

[1896   J. S. Farmer & W. E. Henley Slang IV. 297/2   Meat-flashing,..exposure of the person. Hence meat-flasher = a public offender in this line.]

1974   Kingston (Ont.) News 10 Jan. 2/6   A middle aged man indecently exposed himself to a female student… There were several reports of a so-called ‘phantom flasher’ in the University..area.

1976   A. Powell To keep Ball Rolling i. iii. 44   He was apparently a ‘flasher’, who had just exposed himself.

2 Responses to “Meta-Pearls”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    In Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” strip, some of the characters wore varying amounts of clothing (often just a jacket or a hat), and others did not unless they were “dressing up” in some way. I remember a line whose context I have forgotten, but I assume that Albert the alligator was exercised i some way about being (or being seen to be) unclothed, to which someone’s response (I think Pogo, but can’t be sure) was “Gen’raly the only clothes you wears is a seegar.”

  2. Penguin cartoons | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] #2. Pearls Before Swine has been indulging in metastrips recently (as I noted here). In this one, not only does the cartoonist (Stefan Pastis) appear as a character in his own strip […]

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