Cattions and Kliban cats

On AZBlogX yesterday, a set of ten more cattions (male photography — in this case, from Michael Taubenheim, Benno Thoma, and Bel Ami — plus captions from me plus B. Kliban cat stickers); from my third cattion posting:

As in the two earlier collections [here and here], the cattions are variously poetic, funny, slyly queer, and vulgar, often several at once. [The fourth collection is here.]

In the current set, the fifth, this item:


The guitar-playing cat is a version of the central figure from my very favorite Kliban cartoon:


(I posted another version of the cartoon as #5 in this posting.)

Notes on the verse. It’s a 4×4: four lines of trochaic tetrameter. Reading the lines as poetry, lines 1 and 4 are short, with no fourth foot; but in setting the verse to music, the third foot (S W in reading) would be replaced by two S feet, restoring tetrameter to the music (at the cost of accenting the second syllable of mousies in line 1 and the particle off in line 3).

The rhyme pattern is A B C  B.

Three of the four lines are initially truncated, by omission of a 1sg subject (very common in casual speech and informal writing). Line 2 is truncated in a different way, by omission of the copula.

Line 1 has the nonstandard (but incredibly frequent) demonstrative determiner them (instead of those). Lines 2 and 4 have the possessive determiner in the form they (rather than their), presumably representing an r-less (non-rhotic) variety of English.

The effect is of the refrain from a folksy  song — about a distinctly bloodthirsty topic. There’s a video here with the song performed as a children’s song, in the vein of “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”:

But the Official B. Kliban Cats Web Site has a much better blues version.

On B. Kliban. Notes on the cartoonist, from Wikipedia:

Bernard “Hap” Kliban (January 1, 1935–August 12, 1990) was a well-known and popular cartoonist born in Norwalk, Connecticut.

He studied at Pratt Institute but left without graduating and spent time painting and traveling in Europe before moving to California, where he lived in the North Beach section of San Francisco with his first wife Mary Kathleen and his daughter Kalia. (Mary Kathleen was a talented artist who later also became a noted cartoonist in her own right as M.K. Brown and chose many of the cartoons that appeared in his publications.) It was while living in North Beach that “Hap” Kliban began to draw cartoons for Playboy magazine. The income from Playboy provided financial security that allowed him to move his family to an old house in the town of Fairfax in Marin County.

… The books that followed Cat consisted mostly of extremely bizarre cartoons that find their humor in their utter strangeness and unlikeliness. Many of these are cartoons that Kliban drew for Playboy. They often contained dysmorphic drawings of nude figures in extremely unlikely environments, as if to spoof Playboy’s own subject matter. Another frequent subject of satire were the type of wordless, step-by-step visual instruction manuals typically found with such things as office furniture. Kliban also had a recurring series of drawings called “Sheer Poetry,” in which the page would be split into six panels, containing images of objects whose names, when spoken in the order presented, would form a rhyming, nonsensical verse.

Here are four language-oriented cartoons from Kliban:


Outrageous puns on feet and meters.


Very distant pun here.


Pun on unnatural acts, with an unnatural ax in the drawing.


Jocular back-formation, treating fence as fents and then recovering a singular referring to one slat. English for Italian speakers.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: