Moby Chick, Moby Duck, Moby Dip

… and more, starting with Moby Chick in today’s Bizarro:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 8 in this strip — see this Page.)

Watch out for the big white one — you could lose your leg!

Yes, the Ahab and the whale cartoon meme, combined with the Dick / chick pun. Especially satisfying because it reproduces the structure of the story of peg-legged Captain Ahab and the white whale Moby Dick in the barnyard situation of peg-legged Farmer Ahab and the white Moby Chick. Then there’s the ridiculous disjuncture between a monstrous whale and a tiny chick.

The Dick part of Moby-Dick in the Melville novel is just a generic man’s name — but see below for playing with dick ‘penis’ — while the Moby part is of unclear or disputed origin. From a piece “The Origin of the Name “Moby Dick”” on the site:

The name of Melville’s most famous creation was suggested by an article by Jeremiah Reynolds, published in the New York Knickerbocker Magazine in May 1839. Mocha Dick: or The White Whale of the Pacific recounted the capture of a giant white sperm whale that had become infamous among whalers for its violent attacks on ships and their crews. The meaning of the name itself is quite simple: the whale was often sighted in the vicinity of the [small Chilean] island of Mocha, and “Dick” was merely a generic name like “Jack” or “Tom” — names of other deadly whales cited by Melville in Chapter 45 of Moby-Dick:

“But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual celebrity — nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories after death, but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions of a name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses or Caesar. Was it not so, O Timor Jack! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg, who so long did’st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose spout was oft seen from the palmy beach of Ombay? Was it not so, O New Zealand Tom! thou terror of all cruisers that crossed their wakes in the vicinity of the Tattoo Land? Was it not so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky? Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old tortoise with mystic hieroglyphics upon the back! In plain prose, here are four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean History as Marius or Sylla to the classic scholar.”

The transformation of “Mocha” to “Moby”, however, presents a greater mystery. Melville himself never explained the origin of the latter word. Did he invent it on a whim and like the way it sounded? Or is it some strange piece of hermetic Melvillean arcana? The answer will probably never be known, but a number of scholars have amused themselves by taking shots at it. Following as an example is a conjecture put forth by Harold Beaver in his “Commentary” on the Penguin Classics edition of Moby-Dick (1972):

“By July 1846 even the Knickerbocker Magazine had forgotten its earlier version [of Reynold’s article], reminding its readers of ‘the sketch of “Mocha Dick, of the Pacific”, published in the Knickerbocker many years ago…’. That account may well have led Melville to look up the earlier issue, in the very month he rediscovered his lost buddy of the Acushnet and fellow deserter on the Marquesas, Richard Tobias Greene, and began ‘The Story of Toby’ [the sequel to Typee]. May not ‘Toby Dick’ then have elided with ‘Mocha Dick’ to form that one euphonious compound, ‘Moby Dick’?”

So, very speculatively, a portmanteau Mocha + Toby.

Playing with Moby and with Dick. On 3/31/17, in “The Ahab-Moby affair”, there’s an earlier Bizarro that plays on the musician Moby and Captain Ahab. And then on 3/13/17, in  “Risible faux-commercial name”:

Meanwhile, there’s the sperm whale Moby-Dick of Melville’s novel. The novel was written well before dick ‘penis’ became current, but sperm whales do have huge (retractable) penises, about 2m (6.5ft) long, and whale penises do get some coverage in the book, so Moby-Dick and his penis have become subjects for cartoonists. Two items (whose sources I haven’t tracked down): [#3 and #4 in that posting]

There are, of course, more. For instance, this dart flight:

(#2) dart flight in NOAD: ‘the tail of a dart’

Some whole darts, showing the (red) dart flights:


Given examples of Moby Dick with a play on dick ‘penis’, I suppose that Moby Prick was inevitable. From the Deviant Art website:

(#4) “Moby Dick’s evil brother Moby Prick” by shittmanthebarbarian

From NOAD:

noun prick: vulgar slang [a] a penis; [b] a man regarded as stupid, unpleasant, or contemptible.

The drawing hints at sense [a], but relies for its humor on conveying sense [b].

Then non-phallic plays on Dick. First, three more rhyming puns (like Chick and Prick), two of them with fishing associations:

Moby Nick fishing charters in Port Credit ON (on Lake Ontario)

Moby Rick’s Seafood, a restaurant in Saratoga Springs NY

the clown Mick Holsbeke, sometimes performing as Moby Mick

Then with a play involving the vowel: Moby-Duck, with /ʌ/ rather than /ɪ/, and with ocean-going associations:


Moby-Duck: The True Story… is a book by Donovan Hohn concerning 28,800 plastic ducks and other toys, known as the Friendly Floatees, which were washed overboard from a container ship in the Pacific Ocean on 10 January 1992 and have subsequently been found on beaches around the world and used by oceanographers including Curtis Ebbesmeyer to trace ocean currents.

And finally a play involving the final consonant: Moby Dip, with /p/ rather than /k/, with whale associations:

(#6) on the Better Homes & Gardens site: a set of 3 Moby Dip and Chips ceramic whale-shaped dishes


3 Responses to “Moby Chick, Moby Duck, Moby Dip”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    And somewhere in there is the fact that, as a result of Melville’s name for his whale, “moby” by itself has become slang for “enormous”.

  2. John Baker Says:

    I was expecting “Moby Duck” to be a reference to the Disney comic book character of that name, see I guess he’s more obscure than I realized, although he did have his own comic book in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was squarely in the target demographic when he was introduced in 1967.

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