… plus four

Cartoon traffic since the five items I talked about in this posting: a Bizarro on passwords, then and now;  a Benjamin Schwartz New Yorker cartoon on Canadian eh; a One Big Happy on God talk; and a Zippy on Dagwood (Bumstead).

1. The magical phrase: Bizarro. The cartoon:


Passwords then, from Wikipedia:

“Open Sesame” (Arabic: افتح يا سمسم‎ iftaḥ yā simsim, French: Sésame, ouvre-toi) is a magical phrase in the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in One Thousand and One Nights. It opens the mouth of a cave in which forty thieves have hidden a treasure.

… In the story, Ali Baba overhears the thieves saying “open sesame”. His brother later cannot remember the phrase, and confuses it with the names of other grains (becoming trapped in the magic cave).

Passwords are a bit more complicated these days.

2. Canadian eh. From the New Yorker of May 5th, this cartoon using a stereotype of Canadian speech:


To get the cartoon, you need, of course, to recognize the RCMP uniform, to know that doctors have their patients “say ‘ah’ “, and to know something about Canadian eh.

Wikipedia has drawn together something of a grab-bag of information on eh:

Eh (/ˈeɪ/ or /ˈɛ/) is a spoken interjection in English that is similar in meaning to “Excuse me,” “Please repeat that” or “huh?” It is also commonly used as a question tag, i.e., method for inciting a reply, as in “It’s nice here, eh?” In North America, it is most commonly associated with Canada and Canadian English, and also Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Similar interjections exist in other languages, such as Armenian, Hokkien Chinese, Japanese, French, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Malay, Spanish, Persian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Korean and Catalan.

… The only usage of eh? that is exclusive to Canada and some regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin, and northern Minnesota, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is for “ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed” as in, “It’s four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike.” In that case, eh? is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as “Mm” or “Oh” or “Okay”. This usage may be paraphrased as “I’m checking to see that you’re [listening/following/in agreement] so I can continue.” Grammatically, this usage constitutes an interjection; functionally, it is an implicit request for back-channel communication.

“Eh” can also be added to the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. For example: “The weather is nice.” becomes “The weather is nice, eh?” This same phrase could also be taken as “The weather is nice, don’t you agree?”. In this usage, it is virtually identical to the Dutch “hè?”, the Japanese “ne?” or the Mandarin “bā”. This usage differs from the French usage of “n’est-ce pas?” (“Is it not?”) in that it does not use a (technically double or emphatic) negative.

The usage of “eh” in Canada is occasionally mocked in the United States, where some view its use – along with aboot, an approximation of a Canadian raising-affected pronunciation of about – as a stereotypical Canadianism. Such stereotypes have been reinforced in popular culture, and were famously lampooned in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

… It is often joked about by Canadians as well, and is sometimes even a part of the national identity.

I don’t have a lot of information about the cartoonist, beyond the fact that he posts, tweets, etc. as BentSchwarz, distinguishing himself from the more famous Ben Schwartz:

Ben Schwartz … is an American actor, comedian, and writer. He is perhaps best known for portraying a fictional version of himself on the comedy web series Jake and Amir and for portraying Tom Haverford’s friend Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on the sitcom Parks and Recreation. (Wikipedia link)

3. One Big Happy: Ruthie and her brother Joe on God talk. Language in religious contexts is surrounded by any number of conventions, serving different functions (including using archaic language to show respect for God, as in the first two panels here):


As against this, there have been many movements (invariably controversial) to make sacred texts more available to the people, by translating them from liturgical languages to vernacular languages, or from high registers to less elevated ones, even to street speech, as in the final panel above.

4. Zippy’s advertures with Dagwood. The strip, featuring Google Glass-style devices taken to new heights (on the device, see Colin Pye’s comment on this posting):


Thanks to his new device, Zippy finds himself transported to Dagwood-land.

A bit on the history of Blondie and Dagwood:

Blondie is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Chic Young. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, the strip has been published in newspapers since September 8, 1930. The success of the strip, which features a well-endowed blonde and her sandwich-loving husband, led to the long-running Blondie film series (1938–1950) and the popular Blondie radio program (1939–1950).

Chic Young drew Blondie until his death in 1973, when creative control passed to his son Dean Young, who continues to write the strip. Young has collaborated with a number of artists on Blondie

… Originally designed to follow in the footsteps of Young’s earlier “pretty girl” creations Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora, Blondie focused on the adventures of Blondie Boopadoop—a carefree flapper girl who spent her days in dance halls. The name “Boopadoop” derives from the scat singing lyric that was popularized by Helen Kane’s 1928 song “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”

On February 17, 1933, after much fanfare and build-up, Blondie Boopadoop marries her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead, the son of a wealthy industrialist. The marriage was a significant media event, given the comic strip’s popularity. Unfortunately, Dagwood’s upper-crust parents strongly disapprove of his marrying beneath his class, and disinherit him. The check Dagwood uses to pay for his honeymoon bounces, and the Bumsteads are forced to become a middle-class suburban family [with Blondie as the sensible head and Dagwood as the clown].

Dagwood is most famous for the giant sandwich named after him. Here’s a Blondie strip (of 4/17/07) featuring the sandwich:


Wikipedia on the sandwich here, with impressive images.

Over the years, Dagwood and Blondie have accumulated quite a cast of supporting characters, two of whom are mentioned in #4: Mr. Beasley and Elmo Tuttle. Notes on the Wikipedia page:

Mr. Beasley the Postman: The Bumsteads’ mailman who Dagwood seems to always collide with and knock down as Dagwood hurriedly leaves the house.

A Beasley strip, from 8/29/07:


Elmo Tuttle: A kid in the neighborhood who has a friendship with Dagwood (whom he calls “Mr. B”), but sometimes annoys him. His last name was originally “Fiffenhauser.”

An Elmo strip, from 7/22/09:


Note that Elmo is now thoroughly plugged into social media. Dagwood seems nonplussed.

3 Responses to “… plus four”

  1. Colin Pye Says:

    That device looks more like the Oculus Rift, from OculusVR.com
    Rather than add to your current environment, as Glass is said to do, it replaces your current surroundings with its own, something completely unrelated to the things around you. They generally use some sort of head tracking, and can augment it with the direction and velocity information from a human-sized “hamster ball”, to allow you to walk through environments that have never actually existed.

  2. More on the emoticon watch | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (Hat tips to several Facebook friends, notably Arne Adolfsen and Ann Burlingham. Earlier Schwartz cartoon here.) […]

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