Green Eggs and Ham

From Facebook friends, this use of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham:

(#1)

The Muppets Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy inquire of the narrator of Green Eggs and Ham about their missing son, who is presumably green (like Kermit) and porcine (like Miss Piggy) and so, ewww, might be the source of that green ham on the platter.

Two things: one, about the source of this cartoon; two, about the children’s book and, especially, about the parsing of green eggs and ham.

Crediting the creator. Recently I’ve been offered, via Facebook, six or so eminently bloggable cartoons that are not credited to any artist. Someone comes across an image, finds it funny, and passes it on on various sites. #1 has appeared on Reddit, Pinterest, and Epic LOL, at least, not once with an attribution. Apparently no one has a clue about whose work it is, and no one gives a damn; everyone seems to assume that if you find it on the net, it belongs to everyone, and who cares where it comes from. My stance on this is that creators deserve credit for their work, and I have deleted all of these mystery items from my files. I’m somewhat reluctantly posting #1 here because of its linguistic interest (and its connection to other Dr. Seuss postings on this blog), but that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Background. From Wikipedia:

Green Eggs and Ham is a best-selling and critically acclaimed children’s book by Dr. Seuss (a pen-name of Theodor Seuss Geisel), first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2001, according to Publishers Weekly, it was the fourth best-selling English-language children’s book of all time. The story has appeared in several animated videos

… [storyline]  A character known as “Sam-I-Am” pesters an unnamed character, who also serves as the story’s narrator, to sample a dish of green eggs and ham. The unnamed character refuses, responding, “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.” He continues to repeat this as Sam follows him, encouraging him to sample them in various locations

… [note of linguistic interest] The vocabulary of the text consists of just fifty different words and was the result of a bet between Seuss and Bennett Cerf (Dr. Seuss’s publisher) that Seuss (after completing The Cat in the Hat using 225 words) could not complete an entire book using so few words.

The parsing ambiguity. The expression green eggs and ham exhibits an ambiguity in constituent structure, parallel to the textbook example old men and women:

(a) green + eggs and ham  OR (b) green eggs + ham

In the (a) structure, the adjective green is interpreted as modifying both the conjuncts eggs and ham (so, two green things), while in (b), green modifies only eggs. Dennis Preston posted on Facebook to say that he got only the (b) parsing, but others noted that both parsings were possible.

The evidence from Dr. Seuss’s artwork is quite clear: in all the drawings, the eggs and the ham are both green, as in #1 and this image:

(#2)

Curiously, the evidence from the book’s translations goes in the other direction. In the Wikipedia lists of translations, most use a construction of the form ‘green eggs with ham’ —

Huevos verdes con jamón (1960, Spanish), Groene eieren met ham (1960s, Dutch), Les oeufs verts au jambon (2009, French), Grünes Ei mit Speck das Allerbeste (2011, German)

while one uses: ‘ham and green eggs’: Prosciutto e uova verdi (2002, Italian). No matter: in the illustrations, the eggs and ham are both green.

Dr. Seuss on this blog. Past history, in reverse chronological order:

For National Cartoonists Day 5/6/14:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2014/05/06/for-national-cartoonists-day/
#1: Rhymes With Orange parody of The Cat in the Hat

Two Pearls 2/22/14:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2014/02/22/two-pearls/
Doctor Seuss in #1; with a brief quote from Wikipedia on Dr. Seuss

The cat in the $!☆#ing hat 10/17/13:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2013/10/17/the-cat-in-the-☆ing-hat/
Bent Pinky parody of The Cat in the Hat, together with book’s cover and the model text for the parody

oobleck 4/26/13:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2013/04/26/oobleck/
on Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Horton and the detective mystery 3/14/13:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2013/03/14/horton-and-the-detective-mystery/
Rhymes With Orange with a phrasal overlap portmanteau using Horton Hears a Who

Waltzing with Bears 5/25/10:
https://arnoldzwicky.org/2010/05/25/waltzing-with-bears/
[from the posting] In 1967, Dr. Seuss published “My Uncle Terwilliger” in The Cat in the Hat Songbook, with piano score and guitar chords by Eugene Poddany. Inspired by the song, Dale Marxen wrote “Waltzing with Bears”

3 Responses to “Green Eggs and Ham”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Looks like the cartoon is from Short Attention Span comics, http://sascomic.com/6, by an artist who goes only by “Noel.” License information is at the link. Noel also posted a page on the webcomic at http://miltonslife.com/2011/12/01/short-attention-span/.

    If you’re wondering how I found this, I used TinEye, http://www.tineye.com/, and checked out some of the linked that seemed more likely to provide information.

  2. Grammar in Dr Seuss’s ‘Green eggs and ham’ | Never Pure and Rarely Simple Says:

    […] else had written along these lines. As far as I can see, they haven’t, but the American linguist Arnold Zwicky briefly discusses the ambiguity of the title, which could be ‘[green eggs] and [(colour […]

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