Three diverse

This morning: a classic Doonesbury on foul language; a Rhymes With Orange citing the spurious “rule” that an English clause must not end in a preposition; and a Zippy looking back at an ad icon of the 1940s and 50s (“drink more flavored liqueurs”, says Judge Arrow).

1. It was forty years ago today. The classic Doonesbury (from 1974) for the occasion, labeled as such:


All you really need to know about the speakers in this little play is that P is the President of the United States, Richard Nixon at the time, who was famous for the crudity of his speech (away from the microphones and cameras). All the speakers are profane, but Nixon (according to Garry Trudeau) takes the cake (“unbelievably gross and offensive expletive deleted”; we can but imagine).

2. P at end. There are a number of points that serious writers on English usage agree on, despite their diversity in other cases; these are the ” “rules” that are not rules”, “usage fictions”, or whatever — widely disseminated pieces of advice that totally fail to fit with the practice of careful educated speakers and writers of the language (and in many cases have never fit such usage). They are absurd bits of superstition, messing with people’s minds:


Hostility towards “P at end” (of clauses, in fact, though most people remember it as a claim about sentences) — or “stranded Ps” — is widespread, but entirely without foundation in actual usage. There are simply two alternative constructions, both acceptable in most contexts, but with sometimes subtle factors favoring one or the other in particular contexts.

(Note that Price’s subheading for this strip,”These voices — what do they speak of?”, is about as natural with fronted — “Of what do they speak?” — as with stranded P; both are stiff and rather unnatural. It all depends on the V and P involved; stranded “What do they talk about?” beats fronted “About what do they talk?” all hollow.)

3. Zippy ad icons. Bill Griffith collects all sorts of advertising arcana, as here:


Judge Arrow was totally new to me, but here he is in an up-to-the-minute paranoid version.

An 11/7/46 newspaper ad (from the Danville Bee) for the Judge’s sloe gin:


(It doesn’t enlarge well.)

A remarkable find, for an object of a sort I didn’t know existed: the lucky coin, or token, for a product (the Judge’s liqueurs, specifically his blackberry flavored brandy). The obverse and reverse of the coin:



Spin the coin and the Judge dances!

3 Responses to “Three diverse”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Further with respect to #1: As you undoubtedly remember, Arnold, but some of your readers will not, there was a hidden recording device in the Oval Office that recorded conversations, and transcripts of these conversations were released in connection with the Watergate scandal. These transcripts were peppered with the bracketed phrase “[expletive deleted],” the real meaning of which was sometimes transparent and sometimes not. Americans were surprised to learn the quantity of deletable expletives used in the White House.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I guess I was assuming that this information about Watergate was common knowledge. But of course it isn’t. Thanks for filling in background.

  2. “illegal” | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Classic Doonesbury from 1974 (#1, here) looked at the foul mouth of Richard Nixon (and his aides) from Watergate days. Today (again from […]

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