Puns and their allies

It starts with today’s Zippy, with a punning title; continues with a Discover Card tv commercial for fraud protection (or frog protection); and ends with some bilingual play involving Nadia Boulanger. There will be digressions at each stage.

The Zippy:


The title, “Getting a Bad Feline”, puns on feeling and (with reference to the actual theme of the strip, the cat-replacement phenomenon in Dingburg) feline. Feline survivalism in the last panel (which I won’t comment on here), and, throughout, an entertaining pattern of naming from trade names (which I will).

The trade names. Bill Griffith is seriously into commercial names. We get four in this strip:

Necco Mighty Malts® Malted Milk Balls (link)

the Burger Chef fast-food restaurants:

Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The chain expanded throughout the United States and, at its peak in 1973, had 1,050 locations… The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996. (link)

Propane GasGenie®: Never Run Out of Propane Again! (link), a warning system to let you know when you’re close to running out of propane in your BBQ tank

Roto-Rooter® Plumbing & Drain Service (link)

The Discover Card commercial. Viewable here, with the joke being the near-identity in the pronunciation of fraud and frog (at least for speakers with /ɔ/, rather than /a/, in frog as well as fraud); a caller with a frog appeals to Discover Card, which offers fraud protection. A still from the commercial:


In fact, the phonetic difference between word-final /d/ and /g/ is slight indeed (largely realized in the formant transitions from the preceding vowel), and the segments are famously confusable in perception, as here. So: a kind of pun, but one rooted in the mechanisms of speech production and perception.

A large number of viewers detest this ad, seeing it as just too ridiculous for words: why would anyone offer frog protection?

Some, however, enjoy the silliness, and have turned it into pop art, as in this t-shirt on the Redbubble site, designed by Knight the Lamp:


Nadia Boulanger. Finally, in a public radio “Exploring Music” program by Bill McGlaughlin that I heard on WQXR in NYC the week of July 14th-18th, but which turns out to have originated on WFMT in Chicago the week of September 10th-14th, 2012, in which McGlaughin explores “the life, music and legacy of composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger”, repeating several times a reference to her “bakery”, in which composers, performing musicians, and conductors were fashioned — a little joke on the name Boulanger, ‘baker’ in French.

On Boulanger, from Wikipedia:

Juliette Nadia Boulanger (… 16 September 1887 – 22 October 1979) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher who taught many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She also performed as a pianist and organist.

… Among her students were those who became leading composers, soloists, and conductors, including Aaron Copland, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Quincy Jones, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Ástor Piazzolla.

and on McGlaughlin:

William “Bill” McGlaughlin (born October 3, 1943) is an American composer, conductor, music educator, and Peabody Award-winning classical music radio host. He is the host and music director of the public radio programs Exploring Music and Saint Paul Sunday.

A nationally noted radio commentator, Bill McGlaughlin is known for his cheerful, open, and down-to-earth personality on classical music radio. (link)

One Response to “Puns and their allies”

  1. Roost Lake Trout | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] time at all. Consider, for example, the “cat substitution” Zippy, #1 in my 9/23 posting here, with four static panels, each one a snapshot about one Dingburger, presumably at the same […]

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