The swim-up bar

A Rhymes With Orange of 8/27/14, found in the May issue of Funny Times:


Three things: on swim-up bars; on the compound swim-up bar; on understanding the cartoon.

Swim-up bars. I don’t know when they started, but they’re now a common feature of resorts. Here are two, along with the ad copy singing their praises:


Four Seasons Hualalai — Big Island, Hawaii: After shuttering for repairs following the 2011 tsunami, the Four Seasons Hualalai reopened with a new adults-only swim-up bar that’s set on a sprawling lawn and overlooks the beach. Not only that, but the Palm Grove pool is 40ft long and offers guests both signature “shaved ice” and nature-inspired cocktails, as well as the chance to enjoy both without listening to screaming kids.

(Patrons seem to be standing in shallow water, as in #1.)


Crystal Cove — Barbados: This all-inclusive resort features three lagoon-style pools, one of which rocks a swim-up bar tucked comfortably behind a waterfall and inside a cave! Yes, in a cave. There’re only a handful of bar stools, though, so get there early, as saving seats for your buddies would clearly make you a… Neanderthal.

The compound swim-up bar. The elements of this noun are a head N bar and a modifier that is a V + Prt, swim-up; so ‘bar one swims up to’. Compounds of this type show a variety of semantic relationships — live-in nanny ‘nanny who lives in the employer’s residence’; runaway horse ‘horse that has run away from its rider’; and more.

Understanding the cartoon. It takes an enormous amount of background knowledge to understand what’s going on in the cartoon and to see why it might be funny. By having the swim-up bar labeled as such, cartoonist Hilary Price has provided one piece of information that is not strictly necessary; presumably she supposes that many readers will not be familiar with swim-up bars, though if you are, this place is identifiable as one from its appearance, specifically its components and the uses they are being put to, plus the fact that it’s a bar located in a swimming pool..

Then you need to recognize the signs in the water as conventional symbols for a woman and a man, as used in marking toilets. And you need to know that many swimmers urinate in the water they are swimming in. (In swimming pools, apparently this practice creates potentially dangerous by-products.) So we see a guy apparently using the public toilet for this bar. Ick.

One Response to “The swim-up bar”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From John Lawler on Facebook:

    It reminds me of Chuck Fillmore’s example of what a “text” is.
    Two signs on the fence around a motel pool, one above the other:
    “Use the bathroom, not the pool”
    “Pool for motel guests only”

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