Three Saturday cartoons

… on language matters, and none of them is a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. A Zits, on disagreement; a Mother Goose and Grimm, with an uncomplicated ambiguity; and a One Big Happy with Ruthie searching for the right word:




#1: What does disagree mean?  In its most relevant senses here, disagreement is a binary relation. From NOAD2:

1 have or express a different opinion: no one was willing to disagree with him | historians often disagree.

2 (of statements or accounts) be inconsistent or fail to correspond: results that disagree with the findings reported so far.

In either case, both the related things have some initial validity or plausibility; the question is how to weigh the evidence, through some sort of dialogue.

Instead, Jeremy is taking the (only too common) position that some matters aren’t like this at all, but that one of the things is absolutely right, the other wrong; there can be no discussion or dialogue. Notice his mother’s frustration, as indicated by posture and gesture.

#2: briefs. The judge asks for legal briefs, but Grimm brings him (dog-handled) underwear — which actually looks like boxers rather than briefs, but let that pass. Briefs that might interest a dog, in any case. (It’s a matter of point of view.)

#3: Searching for the word. In boasting about how many words she knows, Ruthie ironically stumbles on the word for a stock of words.

Her problem can be understood in either of two ways. Perhaps she’s unsure of the phonological content of the word she wants and is trying out several possibilities (this is probably the interpretation the cartoonist intended). But the superficially identical behavior can result from knowing the word perfectly well, but coming out with a series of disfluent attempts at retrieving it. It happens to the best of us.

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