William Hamilton

In the latest (April 25th) New Yorker, a brief appreciation (by Bob Mankoff) of the cartoonist William Hamilton, who died on the 8th

William Hamilton had a lot to say about the nation’s country-club class and how it viewed itself. His cartoons were peopled by ladies and gentlemen of the Park Avenue variety, speaking confidently about their place in the upper crust, even as that crust was crumbling. Hamilton first found a place at this magazine in 1965, when he was only twenty-six. At the time of his death, last week, at seventy-six, he had published more than nine hundred and fifty drawings that lampooned sophisticates and pseudo-sophisticates with dry, incisive jabs. He was that rare artist whose style suits his humor perfectly

(Mankoff had a longer on-line appreciation on the 11th.)

Hamilton’s work hasn’t appeared before on this blog because it was acute social commentary rather than linguistically oriented. But here’s a Hamilton in which he plays with the productive derivational morphology of –ness:


Published July 14, 1975, husband to wife during dinner: “What is it this time? My maleness? My Anglo-Saxoness? My Princetoness? My lawyerness?”

Maleness you’ll find in one-volume dictionaries, as a derivative of male. The others not: the first is an entirely transparent derivative based on the ethnic adjective Anglo-Saxon, and the other two are playful derivatives based, exceptionally, on nouns — possibly encouraged by the fact that Anglo-Saxon can function as either adjective or noun. (Don’t write me about the spelling. I would have wrtten Anglo-Saxonness and Princetonness.)

A social-commentary cartoon, which struck me because it has a somewhat creepy tone not characteristic of Hamilton:


Published November 3, 1997, small girl dressed as a Queen says to small boy as vampire, as they walk down an apartment building hall, trick-or-treating: “Oh, God. More condoms.”

As it happens, Mankoff’s note appeared in an Entertainment Issue of the magazine, for which all the cartoons — including Hamilton’s, adjoining Mankoff’s note — were about Donald Trump. In accordance with my current policy of reducing Trumpiana on this blog to a minimum, I refrain from reproducing it here.

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