Getting the comic

Yesterday, from Chris Hansen, this cartoon by Daniel Beyer:


Chris’s comment:

It took me a minute to “get” it (I’ve been in England for a looooong time)

(Chris is an American long resident in England.)

Another exercise in understanding comics. In this case, requiring a crucial piece of knowledge about American popular culture.

Also requiring that you recognize that the waitress is a cow. And that the woman is proposing that they should tip her because her service was very bad — contrary to the ‘reward’ sense of this verb tip (from NOAD2):

(1) give (someone) a sum of money as a way of rewarding them for their services: [with two objects]: I tipped her five dollars | [no object]: that sort of person never tips.

based on this noun tip:

(2) a sum of money given to someone as a reward for their services.

Instead, we are to understand a different verb tip:

(3) overbalance or cause to overbalance so as to fall or turn over: [no object]: the hay caught fire when the candle tipped over | [with object]: a youth sprinted past, tipping over her glass.

Overbalancing cows so as to make them fall over? Who does that?

Well, according to (recent) American folk belief, young hayseeds as a prank.


From Wikipedia:

Cow tipping is the purported activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting or sleeping upright cow and pushing it over for entertainment. The practice of cow tipping is generally considered an urban legend, and stories of such feats viewed as tall tales. The implication that rural citizens seek such entertainment due to lack of other alternatives is viewed as a stereotype. The concept of cow tipping apparently developed in the 1970s, though tales of animals that cannot rise if they fall has historical antecedents dating to the Roman Empire.

Cows routinely lie down and can easily regain their footing unless sick or injured. Scientific studies have been conducted to determine if cow tipping is theoretically possible, with varying conclusions. All agree that cows are large animals that are difficult to surprise and will generally resist attempts to be tipped. Estimates suggest a force of between 3,000 and 4,000 newtons (670 and 900 lbf) is needed, and that at least four and possibly as many as fourteen people would be required to achieve this. In real-life situations where cattle have to be laid on the ground, or “cast”, such as for branding, hoof care or veterinary treatment, either rope restraints are required or specialized mechanical equipment is used that confines the cow and then tips it over. On rare occasions, cattle can lie down or fall down in proximity to a ditch or hill that restricts their normal ability to rise without help. Cow tipping has many references in popular culture and is also used as a figure of speech.

… Journalist Jake Steelhammer believes the American urban myth of cow tipping originated in the 1970s. It “stampeded into the ’80s”, he says, “when movies like Tommy Boy and Heathers featured cow tipping expeditions.” Stories about cow tipping tend to be second-hand, he says, told by someone who does not claim to have tipped a cow but who knows someone else who says he or she did.

Assorted individuals have claimed to have performed cow tipping, often while under the influence of alcohol. These claims, to date, cannot be reliably verified, with Jake Swearingen of Modern Farmer noting in 2013 that YouTube, a popular source of videos of challenges and stunts, “fails to deliver one single actual cow-tipping video” [genuine farm people are understandably insulted by their stereotype image].

Pranksters have sometimes pushed over artificial cows. Along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue in 1999, two “apparently drunk” men felled six fiberglass cows that were part of a Cows on Parade public art exhibit. Four other vandals removed a “Wow cow” sculpture from its lifeguard chair at Oak Street Beach and abandoned it in a pedestrian underpass. A year later, New York City anchored its CowParade art cows, including “A Streetcow Named Desire”, to concrete bases “to prevent the udder disrespect of cow-tippers and thieves.”

Cow jokes, udder jokes, and (as we’ll see shortly) cud jokes too.

In any case, the cow-tipping thing is peculiarly American, so that the cartoon in #1 will be mystifying to those with little experience of American popular culture. But for Americans, cow-tipping is the source of much (broad) humor. From many choices, two more cow-tipping cartoons, and then some notes on cartoonist Daniel Beyer (who’s new to this blog).

Texas longhorns. From Leigh Rubin:


Here you need to know about Texas longhorns as well as cow-tipping.

Tips for cows. And from the Thingsesque site, a cartoon with yet another verb tip, based on yet another noun tip:


This one needs the title. And that supplies us with the verbing tip ‘give practical advice to’ of this noun tip (from NOAD2):

(4) a small but useful piece of practical advice; a very reliable prediction or piece of inside information: are those tips you’re getting legal?

Quite different from the noun in (2). In this case, the advice is about chewing one’s cud — definitely useful advice for a cow.

Daniel Beyer. Three more cartoons from Beyer, the first requiring a whole assortment of knowledge, including something else from American popular culture:


Three components here: French onion dip (American popular culture, food division); the dip in dancing; and the beret stereotypically associated with Frenchmen (and beatniks, but that’s not relevant here). So: language play on French (‘relating to France, its people, or its language’) vs. French in French onion dip, and on dip in a food context vs. in a dance context.

On French onion dip, from Wikipedia:

French onion dip or California dip is an American dip typically made with a base of sour cream and flavored with minced onion, and usually served with potato chips as chips and dip.


French onion dip made of sour cream and instant onion soup was created by [an unidentified French cook] in Los Angeles in 1954… The recipe spread quickly and was printed in a local newspaper. The Lipton company promoted this mixture on the television show Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in 1955, and early on, it was known as “Lipton California Dip”, but soon simply as “California Dip”. A Lipton advertising campaign promoted it on television and in supermarkets. The recipe was added to the Lipton instant onion soup package in 1958. The name “French onion dip” began to be used in the 1960s, and became more popular than “California dip” in the 1990s.

The origin story, with its unknown Frenchman, is suspect; the adjective French might just have been used for its cachet in the world of cuisine. The actual dip, made with onion soup mix, is solidly American.

That’s the first noun dip. From NOAD2:

noun dip:a thick sauce in which pieces of food are dunked before eating: tasty garlic dip.

(See earlier postings here on dipspreads.)

The second noun dip is a nouning, in a specialized context, of the verb dip:

[no object] sink, drop, or slope downward:swallows dipped and soared | the sun had dipped below the horizon. (NOAD2)

By nouning of this verb, we get a term for a dance move, common to many dance forms (tango, lindy hop, salsa, ballroom dances), in which one partner (the flyer) dips while supported by the other partner (the base); alternatively, the base may be said to dip the flyer. As here:


Next, a Beyer with a urinal theme:


There are conventions limiting men’s speaking to other men at urinals, and a ventriloquist’s dummy doing the talking would be way over the line.

Finally, more pop culture tropes, this time from the 1970s:


From Beyer’s site:

I grew up between two small towns, Woodstock, Illinois and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Turns out, they were both home to some rather famous cartoonists: Woodstock (Chester Gould) and Lake Geneva (Joe Martin and Sydney Smith). The more I learned about these cartoonists and their amazing work, as well as meeting the great Bill Sanders (former editorial cartoonist/Milwaukee Journal), the more I wanted to be a cartoonist.

Eventually, he launched his Long Story Short strip (from which #9 comes), which won an amateur cartoonist competition that got him a place in The Cartoonist Studio.

One Response to “Getting the comic”

  1. georgevreilly Says:

    The French Onion Dip might also be a nod to Pepe le Pew’s dancing:

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