Cartoony days

(This takes a turn to sexual politics that some — though not, I think, Bill Griffith — might find surprising.)

Today’s Zippy offers us some office soap opera between boss (Don) and employee (Ms. Carlisle), from the point of view of Ms. Carlisle:


The topic is a familiar one in Zippyland: cartoonishness or cartooniness, indicated by various physical characteristics — noses, eyes, eyebrows, ears, jawlines, and mouths. In Zippyland, of course, everyone’s a cartoon character and they’re all dressed like one, but some of them are “realistic”, normal, regular folks,, while others are flagrantly cartoony.

Wait, where have we heard this before? Oh yes, in Gaytopia, some are normal, regular folks, while others are flagrantly gay.

In panel 2, we see that Ms. Carlisle had settled into a life of looking for One of Her Own Kind to pair with (someone like Baby Huey, Yosemite Sam, or Elmer Fudd), but now found herself wildly attracted to a regular, “realistic” cartoon character. (In Zippyland, the characters are aware that they’re cartoon characters.)

(Unsolved puzzle. Bill Griffith hardly ever picks names out of a hat, except to concoct preposterous ones, so Don and Ms. Carlisle are surely allusions to something, in the comics, or soap operas, or somewhere. I just don’t know what.)

On the imagined suitors in panel 2. First, Baby Huey, from Wikipedia:

Baby Huey is a gigantic and naïve duckling cartoon character. He was created by Martin Taras for Paramount Pictures’ Famous Studios, and became a Paramount cartoon star during the 1950s. Although created by Famous for its animated cartoons, Huey first appeared in Quack-a-Doodle-Doo, a Noveltoon theatrical short produced in 1949 and released on 1949.


Then Yosemite Sam. There’s a section on the character, with illustrations, in a posting of 1/4/16.

And Elmer Fudd, who’s often been mentioned on this blog, but not discussed in detail. From Wikipedia:

Elmer J. Fudd is a fictional cartoon character and one of the most famous Looney Tunes characters, and the de facto archenemy of Bugs Bunny. He has one of the more disputed origins in the Warner Bros. cartoon pantheon (second only to Bugs himself). His aim is to hunt Bugs, but he usually ends up seriously injuring himself and other antagonizing characters. He speaks in an unusual way, replacing his Rs and Ls with Ws, so he always refers to Bugs Bunny as a “wabbit”. Elmer’s signature catchphrase is, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”, as well as his trademark laughter.

The best known Elmer Fudd cartoons include Chuck Jones’ masterpiece What’s Opera, Doc? (one of the few times Fudd bested Bugs, though he felt bad about it), the Rossini parody Rabbit of Seville, and the “Hunting Trilogy” of “Rabbit Season/Duck Season” shorts (Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!) with Fudd, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck.

With a section on Elmer Fudd’s speech:

He nearly always vocalised consonants [r] and [l], pronouncing them as [w] instead (a trait that also characterized Tweety Bird) when he would talk in his slightly raspy voice. This trait was prevalent in the Elmer’s Candid Camera and Elmer’s Pet Rabbit cartoons, where the writers would give him exaggerated lines such as, “My, that weawwy was a dewicious weg of wamb.” to further exaggerate his qualities as a harmless nebbish. That characteristic seemed to fit his somewhat timid and childlike persona. And it worked. The writers often gave him lines filled with those [sounds], such as doing Shakespeare’s Romeo as “What wight thwough yonduh window bweaks!” or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as “Kiww the wabbit, kiww the wabbit, kiww the wabbit…!” or “The Beautifuw Bwue Danube, by Johann Stwauss”, Stage Door Cartoon‘s line “Oh, you dubbuh-cwossing wabbit! You tweachewous miscweant!” or the name of actress “Owivia deHaviwwand”.

Vocalization of [r] and [l] is well attested in child language acquisition of English; all children vocalize the liquids fir some time (but not always to [w]; [l] is often vocalized to [j]). Vocalization of prevocalic [r] (as in through, break, blue, and rabbit) regularly continues for some years, and is no cause for alarm. Indeed, some British speakers vocalize prevocalic [r] as a matter of individual speech style, which is not considered a speech defect (though in the US it’s generally considered to be an abnormality).

Vocalization of postvocalic [r] (as in car and card) is another matter: it’s a widespread dialect feature of British English (outside of Scotland), many New England dialects, many NYC dialects, most Southern dialects, and AAVE generally. Both the phonological and social details are forbiddingly complex, but it’s almost always just a matter of dialect different (sometimes in devalued non-standard varieties, sometimes in highly valued standard varieties).

Vocalization of prevocalic liquids to [w], as in right or light or both (in the real world, these two cases are not necessarily connected at all) is another matter. At least in North America, such substitutions are considered to be a speech defect (of individual speakers), calling for speech therapy. Though one some people might find cute, adorable, or even admirable.

In panel 3, Ms. Carlisle sticks to her identification with the flagrantly cartoony, despite Don’s blandishments: she’ll join him in the new cartoon paradigm, but first she wants him to develop a cartoony speech defect (like Elmer Fudd’s, presumably).

Regular Gay Guy asks Flagrantly Gay Guy to be his partner, and FGG says, “Oh I will! But first, honey, can you develop some classic flaming faggotry? Like, practice your Gay Voice?”

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