Ed Fisher across the Atlantic

The cartoonist Ed Fisher (who now has his own Page on this blog) is most closely identified with the New Yorker (which published over 700 of his cartoons), but he drew for other publications as well, including the British weekly Punch. William Cole’s 1969 anthology The Punch Line: Presenting Today’s Top Twenty-five Cartoon Artists from England’s Famous Humo(u)r Magazine has a section devoted to him, in fact. From this volume, three cartoons of linguistic interest.

Page 27: what the birds say, and maid:


What the birds say (the top cartoon in #1). In order:

the albatross, from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

the bald eagle, symbol of the U.S.

the dove of peace and the hawk of war

the owl, from Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”

the swan, from Sibelius’s composition The Swan of Tuonela (Tuonela being the realm of the dead)

the rooster Chaunticleer (now Chanticleer) from Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” in The Canterbury Tales

the hen Chicken Little (also known as Henny Penny) in the folktale

On maids (the bottom cartoon in #1). Robin Hood’s men are having a crude joke at Maid Marian’s expense, over the epithet maid. From NOAD2, the two archaic or literary senses relevant here:

a girl or young woman, especially an unmarried one

a virgin

(the ‘female domestic servant’ is a development from this). The crude jab in #1 rests on the fact that Maid Marian was no longer particularly young, but, more important, on the men’s assumption that she was no longer a virgin (in particular, they assume that Robin’s been doing her).

Maid goes back to Middle English, where it originated as a shortening of maiden, with the same two senses as above. Though this isn’t relevant to the cartoon, the metaphorical developments of maiden  from youth and inexperience (especially lack of sexual experience) to other senses of inexperience. From NOAD2:

being or involving the first attempt or act of its kind: the ship’s maiden voyage

denoting a horse that has never won a race, or a race intended for such horses

(of a tree or other fruiting plant) in its first year of growth

On to page 31 and this cartoon:


Well, if you’re not a prude, you might name them with some term for ‘breasts, teats’ in your language: French mamelles, Spanish tetas, or something cruder. There’s even a technical term; from Wikipedia:

A breast-shaped hill is a mountain in the shape of a human breast. Some such hills are named “Pap”, a word for the breast or nipple. Such anthropomorphic geographic features are to be found in different places of the world and in some cultures they were revered as the attributes of the Mother Goddess, such as the Paps of Anu, named after Anu, an important female deity of pre-Christian Ireland.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. we have the Grand Tetons. From Wikipedia:

Grand Teton National Park is a United States National Park in northwestern Wyoming. At approximately 310,000 acres (480 sq mi; 130,000 ha; 1,300 km2), the park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long (64 km) Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. It is only 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, to which it is connected by the National Park Service-managed John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway

… Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. The naming of the mountains is attributed to early 19th-century French-speaking trappers — les trois tétons (the three teats) was later anglicized and shortened to Tetons.

Winter on Grand Teton at center with Mount Owen at right and Nez Perce at left:


2 Responses to “Ed Fisher across the Atlantic”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    According to my ancient (and hence unreliable) memory, in the version of the Chicken Little story that I learned, Chicken Little and Henny Penny were different characters. I believe that HP was the first person that CL persuaded that the sky was falling.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Everybody’s right. From Wikipedia on “Henny Penny”:

    Henny Penny, more commonly known in the United States as Chicken Little and sometimes as Chicken Licken, is a folk tale with a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase “The sky is falling!” features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. Versions of the story go back more than 25 centuries; it continues to be referenced in a variety of media.

    *However*, some more recent versions of the story (by Disney, for instance) have Henny Penny and Chicken Little as distinct characters.

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