Charles Barsotti

In the NYT yesterday, an obituary by William Yardley: “Charles Barsotti, Cartoonist With Humor Both Simple and Absurd, Dies at 80”.

Charles Barsotti, a cartoonist for The New Yorker whose jaded canines, outlaw snails and obtuse monarchs made readers laugh for more than 40 years, died on Monday at his home in Kansas City, Mo.

… Mr. Barsotti made pasta talk. He drew hot dogs planning cookouts. His lines were spare and clean, whether drawn or written

That last sentence makes reference to two of  my favorite Barsotti cartoons, both of which happen to have a foodstuff talking on the phone; both have appeared on this blog.

First, there’s the talking hot dog, in “For Memorial Day: the cookout” of 5/22/09 (here). The hot dog has just hung up the phone and is enthusiastically announcing to the room, “Hey everybody, we’re invited to a cookout!”.

Then there’s the talking pasta, #1 in “New Yorker cartoons” of 1/14/14 (here), which comes with a note on Barsotti. The pasta, apparently penne rigate (a hollow ribbed tube), is saying, “Fusilli, you crazy bastard! How are you?”

Fusilli on current Wikipedia:

Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped pasta. The word fusilli presumably comes from fuso, as traditionally it is “spun” by pressing and rolling a small rod over the thin strips of pasta to wind them around it in a corkscrew shape, much like a modern Turkish spindle.

An illustration labeled as fusilli (in a tricolor variant):

Fusilli has come up on this blog before, in the posting “Gay spaghetti” of 7/6/11, on “screw pasta”, where I wrote:

That would be rotini or fusilli:

Rotini is a type of helix- or corkscrew-shaped pasta. The name derives from the Italian for twists. It is related to fusilli, but has a tighter helix, i.e. with a smaller pitch. [Wikipedia]

(I’m very fond of rotini.) Tricolor rotini: [photo]

Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped pasta. The word fusilli presumably comes from fusile, archaic or dialectal word for “rifle” (fucile in modern Italian), referring to the spiral-grooved barrel of the latter. [Wikipedia] [photo]

Two different Wikipedia etymologies for fusilli. And different illustrations. The 2011 fusilli is much thinner than the pasta above; the pasta above is much closer to the 2011 rotini, though not quite as thick as it. Obviously in the real world there’s a continuum of thinness in screw pasta, with clear fusilli at one end and clear rotini at the other (as in the 2011 illustrations), and some intermediate cases. “Thinness” is a physically measurable characteristic, so that for technical purposes an arbitrary dividing point between fusilli and rotini could be declared, but there’s no guarantee that this corresponds to the way ordinary speakers use the words; in fact, in actual usage there’s pretty clearly a sizable indeterminate zone. (Compare blue vs. green in English.)

2 Responses to “Charles Barsotti”

  1. thnidu Says:

    I’ve been a fan of New Yorker cartoons since, probably, before I could read the captions.

    I followed some chain of links to The New Yorker cartoon editor picks his favorite drawings, and made the mistake of looking at the comments.
    1) Most of them were spam.
    2) None of them noticed that 8≠11: “Here, in chronological order, his top eleven. Enjoy.” followed by
    ⁃ Che wears Bart
    ⁃ French Army knife
    ⁃ “Of course I care…”
    ⁃ “Fusilli, you crazy bastard!”
    ⁃ reading the obits
    ⁃ MY FIRST BOAT
    ⁃ Life without Mozart
    ⁃ shoe store

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    The June 30th issue of the New Yorker has an affectionate remembrance of Barsotti by David Remnick, illustrated with four cartoons (pp. 40-1).

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