Three on Mothers Day

This morning’s crop of cartoons with some linguistic interest: a Rhymes With Orange that is, among other things, about Mothers Day; a Mother Goose and Grimm with, in passing, an interesting example of out as a preposition; and a Doonesbury on outsider / folk art.

The Rhymes:


From pop culture, Superman and Catwoman. What does Catwoman get her mother for today’s holiday? A ball of yarn, for amusement; a can of tuna, for a tasty meal.

The Mother Goose:


More pop culture here, in the figure of Mr. Potato Head (and Mrs. as well). From Wikipedia:

Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato which can be decorated with a variety of plastic parts that can attach to the main body. These parts usually include ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth. The toy was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952.

Then there’s out as a preposition. From NOAD2, with a definition and example of the motional (change-of-location) P out, plus a usage note about it:

out preposition   through to the outside: he ran out the door.
usage: The use of out as a preposition (rather than the standard [preposition + preposition] out of), as in he threw it out the window, is common in informal contexts, and is standard in American, Australian, and New Zealand English. Traditionalists do not accept it as part of standard British English, however.

(Extensive notes from 2007 on plain P vs. P + of on my Stanford website, here.)

The usage in #2 is not, however, motional, but merely locational, in alternation with locational outside (of). It’s not natural for me, and I don’t know anything about its regional, social, or stylistic distribution.

Finally, the Doonesbury, which (being a Doonesbury) has a political point, poking at George W. Bush (Bush 43) and his portrait painting.


The linguistic point here is the characterization of these works as outsider art or folk art, as contrasted with “high art”, which is usually referred to simply as art. The larger question concerns cartoons, collages, words-only creations framed as a kind of art, material dismissed as mere handicraft rather than serious art, hobbyist work, creations that lie outside the usual conventions of art, and many other apparently special cases. The boundaries between high art and the rest of this stuff are often not at all clear, and often involve judgments that seem to have as much to do with the social organization of the art world as with matters of content, to the extent that some critics would simply jettison the terminological distinction.

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