Pun days

Two recent cartoons with complex puns, both requiring serious cultural knowledge. A Mother Goose and Grimm, and a Liam Francis Walsh cartoon in the October 17th New Yorker:



I Can’t Believe. Here you need to know about a specific food product. From Wikipedia:

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! is a spread brand produced by Unilever.

The J.H. Filbert company, based in Baltimore, Maryland, developed the product in 1979 as a low cost alternative to butter for the food service industry. The retail branding has its origin with a comment by the husband of a company secretary when sampling the product, and it was first marketed to retail consumers in 1981. The company was acquired by Unilever in 1986.


The actual name is positive, expressing surprise that the stuff isn’t butter. The cartoon name is just the opposite: who would name their producxt I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better?

Waiting for Waldot. This one is double-edged, and sort of bilingual. The main image in #2 is the setting of the play Waiting for Godot, with the name Godot taken from French, though usually slightly nativized in English as /gǝdó/– vowel-final, like Waldo, though Waldo is accented on its first syllable.


(Poster for a performance at Golden West College (Performing Arts), Huntington Beach CA: Vladimir and Estragon under the tree, as in #2)

On the play, from Wikipedia:

Waiting for Godot … is a play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. Godot’s absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many interpretations since the play’s 1953 première. Waiting for Godot is Beckett’s translation of his own original French version, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled (in English only) “a tragicomedy in two acts”. The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The première was on 5 January 1953 in the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. The English language version was premiered in London in 1955; this version was voted “the most significant English language play of the 20th century”.

As for Waldo, lurking behind the tree in #2, he’s the cartoon character in Where’s Waldo?, discussed in a 2/22/15 posting on this blog.

2 Responses to “Pun days”

  1. Nigel Duffield Says:

    In British English Godot and Waldo are near perfect rhymes: we move stress where Americans retain it, so, ‘beret, ‘Bernard and re’naissance.
    So the pun works fine for me.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Ah, I’d forgotten the British inclination to front-shift the accent in French loanwords. Of course, the magazine has a primarily American readership, and the artist is decidedly American (he grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin), so the near-homonymy in British English probably never occurred to the people at the New Yorker.

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