Wednesday puns

Two of today’s cartoons: a Dilbert and a Pearls Before Swine, both with elaborate puns:


This turns on the verb weasel, plus the legal phrase (beyond a) reasonable doubt (plus the derivation of adjectives in –able from verbs).


And this one turns on the noun and verb hex, plus the food compound Tex-Mex.

In each case, “getting” the comic requires two pieces of information, from different spheres. (And both beyond weaselable doubt and Hex Mex could be viewed either as elaborate imperfect puns or as complex portmanteaus:  weaselable + beyond reasonable doubt, hex + Tex-Mex.)

weasel. From NOAD2 on the verb weasel:

achieve something by use of cunning or deceit: she suspects me of trying to weasel my way into his affections.

• behave or talk evasively.

(presumably from the proverbial ability of weasels to escape from tight places and, in general, to evade capture).  Note that this is a verbing of the noun weasel.

reasonable doubt. From Wikipedia:

Beyond reasonable doubt is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems.

… The use of “reasonable doubt” as a standard requirement in the Western justice system originated in medieval England.

hex. From NOAD2:

verb [with obj.]   cast a spell on; bewitch: he hexed her with his fingers.

noun   a magic spell; a curse: a death hex.
• a witch.

ORIGIN mid 19th cent. (as a verb): from Pennsylvania Dutch … from German

OED2 marks these as “chiefly U.S.” and tracks the senses as follows: the verb (intransitive ‘to practise witchcraft’ and transitive ‘to bewitch, to cast a spell on’), with first cite in 1830, then the noun ‘witch’ (or transferred ‘witch-like female’), with first cite in 1856, then the noun ‘magic spell or curse’, with first cite in 1909.

[Digression on hex signs. From Wikipedia:

Hex signs are a form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, related to fraktur, found in the Fancy Dutch tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Barn paintings, usually in the form of “stars in circles,” grew out of the fraktur and folk art traditions about 1850 when barns first started to be painted in the area. By the 1940s commercialized hex signs, aimed at the tourist market, became popular and these often include stars, compass roses, stylized birds known as distelfinks, hearts, tulips, or a tree of life. Two schools of thought exist on the meaning of hex signs. One school ascribes a talismanic nature to the signs, the other sees them as purely decorative, or “Chust for nice” in the local dialect. Both schools recognize that there are sometimes superstitions associated with certain hex sign themes, and neither ascribes strong magical power to them.

… the term “hex sign” was not used until the 20th Century, after 1924 when Wallace Nutting’s book Pennsylvania Beautiful was published.]

Tex-Mex. The (copulative) compound involves the clipping of both Texan and Mexican. OED2 has it as an adjective —

Designating the Texan variety of something Mexican; also occas., of or pertaining to both Texas and Mexico. [1949 Texmex Spanish; 1973 Tex-Mex cooking; 1976 Tex-Mex integration; 1977 the ‘Tex-Mex style’ [of music]

and a noun —

The Texan variety of Mexican Spanish. [first cite 1955]

and in the draft additions of April 2004, it expands on the culinary specialization (as in #2) and the musical specialization:

Also Texmex. A Texan style of cooking using Mexican ingredients, and characterized by the adaptation of Mexican dishes, frequently with more moderate use of hot flavourings such as chilli; food cooked in this style. [first cite 1963]

Also tex-mex. A broad genre of folk and popular music associated with Mexican-American inhabitants of Texas, characterized by use of the accordion and guitar, and often incorporating elements of Czech and German dance music; (occas.) spec. the more traditional form of this music, typically played by small dance bands, and more recently by rock and blues-influenced performers, as distinguished from a modern, more commercial form strongly influenced by pop and jazz. Cf. Tejano n. and adj. and musica norteña n. [first cite 1968]

Then from Tex-Mex to Hex-Mex (or Hex Mex)!

One Response to “Wednesday puns”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I wanted the Pearls Before Swine strip to incorporate something about base 16, but I suppose that’s asking too much.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: