A recent One Big Happy:

There are retainers and then there are retainers, and the kids have good reason to know about one kind of them — the dental appliance —  but probably aren’t familiar with the others.

Background, from NOAD2 (with material from me in square brackets):

verb retain: [a] continue to have (something); keep possession of; [b] not abolish, discard, or alter; [c] keep in one’s memory; [d] absorb and continue to hold (a substance); [e] (often as adjective retaining) keep (something) in place; hold fixed; [f] keep (someone) engaged in one’s service; [g] secure the services of (a person, especially an attorney) with a preliminary payment [senses b-g are specializations of sense a]

noun retainer: [1a, related to retain-e] a thing that holds something in place; [1b, a specalization of 1a] an appliance for keeping a loose tooth, an orthodontic prosthesis, or orthodontically aligned teeth in place. [2, related to retain-g] a fee paid in advance to someone, especially an attorney, in order to secure or keep their services when required. [3, related to retain-f] a servant or follower of a noble or wealthy person, especially one that has worked for a person or family for a long time.

In the strip, Ruthie and Joe’s mother, on the phone, uses retainer-2. This item (from a business, especially legal, context) is unfamiliar to the kids, who are, however, quite familiar with retainer-1b. (The item retainer-3, which the kids probably aren’t familiar with either, refers to a person, so doesn’t make sense in the context paid her a retainer.) The kids press on, trying to make sense of a world in which one person can pay another with a dental appliance.


One Response to “retainers”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I would have thought those kids were a little young for retainers.

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