Three from the New Yorker

Two from the 2/29/16 issue, one from the 3/7/16 issue, all having to do with language, but in different ways. Michael Maslin (who’s appeared here twice before) on the 29th, with the opposite of giddyup:


(A horse in a tree! How can that be?)

David Thompson (new on this blog) on the 29th:


— a cartoon you very much need to be tuned into popular culture to understand.

And Harry Bliss (who already has a Page here) on the 7th:


— not a question at all, but a loud complaint (in a sushi restaurant) by a customer who seems to have expected guacamole.

Each of these has a serious bit of absurdity in it, the Maslin most of all.

The Maslin. The brief story on giddy-up, from NOAD2:

giddy-up (also giddap) exclam. used to get a horse to start moving or go faster. ORIGIN 1920s ( as giddap): reproducing a pronunciation of get up.

One surprise here is the recency of the expression. More details in OED2, from 1972:

giddap, int. and v. Also giddy-ap, giddy-up. (Chiefly in imp.) colloq. (orig. U.S.).

int. first cite 1925 (Dreiser, American Tragedy)

v. first cite 1938: D. Runyon Furthermore xiv. 293   Princess O’Hara..tells Gallant Godfrey to giddap, and Gallant Godfrey is giddapping very nicely.

These entries hardly do justice to the extent of spelling variation, which you can sample on the net. First, the spellings are sometimes separated (giddy up), sometimes hyphenated (giddy-up), sometimes solid (giddyup). The first element is variously spelled giddy, giddi, gitty, gitti (note the alternative spellings for the intervocalic voiced tap in American English); the second element is spelled up, ap. (The spelling I recall from my childhood, in which our play involved lots of urging imaginary or toy horses, is gittiap, so it took me a little while to find the dictionary entries.)

Then I go back to the horse in the tree, and I giggle.

A bonus: a Giddy Up t-shirt design, with a unicorn instead of a mere horse, from FluffyCo (


The Thompson. To make any headway at all with this cartoon, you need to recognize an allusion to the line in which Agent 007, James Bond, introduces himself (first in Casino Royale, I believe): the original and the formula (taken over by many others):

Bond…  James Bond. (that is:  LN…  FN + LN.)

(The ellipsis dots represent a pause.)

In the Thompson we’ve got:

bonds… municipal bonds.

The Bliss. Here we go into the world of twisted speech acts. You believe that someone has represented something as an X, but it seems clear to you that it’s not an X. So you take a declarative sentence conveying your understanding of the claim:

You call this an X.

and you query the accuracy of this claim with a question intonation spread over the declarative (similar to situation in reclamatory questions):

You call this an X?

And then, as in so many situations, pointedly questioning the accuracy of a claim implicates that you believe the claim is false. (“You think you’re so smart?”, conveying that you’re not smart at all.) So the diner in #3 conveys his belief that what he has in front of him is not in fact guacamole (as it most surely is not). What’s so goofy about the whole business is that he seems to have expected guacamole in what is transparently a sushi restaurant, when what he’s picking up with his chopsticks (who supplies chopsticks for customers to eat guacamole?) is hosomaki.

To be fair, you could easily make guacamole hosomaki (Id imagine Harry Bliss didn’t know this), and indeed there’s a recipe for spicy cucumber guacamole sushi rolls here. Some rolls:


(Note for American sports fans: when the Superbowl is over, this is something you can do with that leftover guacamole dip.)

4 Responses to “Three from the New Yorker”

  1. thnidu Says:

    I think the bozo in #3 is referring specifically to what looks somewhat like guacamole but definitely isn’t, namely the wasabi on top of his hosomaki.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I also assumed that he had hit wasabi when expecting guacamole, in which case his outrage would be understandable, even if not justified.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      There’s still the mystery of why he was expecting guacamole.

      • Robert Coren Says:

        Well, let’s assume that this is his first visit to a sushi restaurant, but that he’s a frequenter of (or has recently been to) a Tex-Mex place. So he sees some green stuff in a side dish, and naturally assumes that it’s guacamole.

        I’m now hearing the voice of our friend George in my head, when I was trying to make sense of an advertising sign: “I think you’re over-thinking this, Robert.”

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