Three weekend cartoons: POP goes the caveman couple, recursively

A Bizarro/Wayno (the POP), a Rhymes With Orange (the Caveman meme plus relations between the sexes), and a One Big Happy (the recursion):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

(#2) verb brachiate: (of certain apes) move by using the arms to swing from branch to branch: the gibbons brachiate energetically across their enclosure. (NOAD)


#1: A profoundly moving violation. A POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau — see the POPs Page on this blog): profoundly moving + moving violation, with the two expressions combined formally and, in the cartoon, semantically.

The components: profoundly moving, with the degree adverbial profoundly modifying the adjective moving:

adj. moving: producing strong emotion, especially sadness or sympathy: an unforgettable and moving book. (NOAD)

(This is the PRP form of the verb move used as an adjective.)

And moving violation:

noun moving violation: a breach of traffic laws which occurs while the driver’s vehicle is in motion: aggressive drivers often commit multiple moving violations. (NOAD)

(Moving here is a noun: the PRP form of move used as a nominal gerund.)

What’s depicted in the cartoon is a

[ profoundly moving-ADJ ] [ moving-N violation ]

The portmanteau disregards the ambiguity in moving here and just smooshes the two expressions together.

#2: What posture for the party? This one is, first of all, an instance of the Caveman cartoon meme. Specifically, a paleolithic couple, seen engaging in another cartoon meme, in which a couple spar over the man’s presentation of himself, in dress, gesture, posture, etc., with the man pushing to disregard the strictures of “proper behavior” (dress neatly, be polite, wear a jacket and tie, don’t slouch, don’t scratch your balls in public, etc.) while the woman is expected to enforce these strictures.

In the paleolithic context, what’s at issue is the appropriate gait for a party: walking upright, knuckle-walking, brachiating, whatever. The man doesn’t want to have to go all formal by walking upright — he’d prefer brachiating — but the woman maintains that none of the other guys will be brachiating (so presumably he should suck it up).

#3: spot remover spot remover Ruthie’s grandparents  find themselves talking at cross purposes, in a fashion that the grandfather likens, in the last panel, to the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine (on which, see my 10/20/14 posting “Abbott and Costello’s band”).

The bulk of the exchange, however, is devoted to building up a chain of ever longer N + N compounds based on two templates:

(A) X + remover ‘substance to remove X(es)’

(B) X + spot ‘spot made by X’

It starts with template (A), with spot as X, giving:

[ spot ] [ remover ] ‘substance to remove spots’

Then template (B), with spot remover as X, giving:

[ spot remover ] [ spot ] ‘spot made by spot remover’

Back to (A), with spot remover spot as X, giving:

[ spot remover spot ] [ remover ]  ‘substance to remove spot remover spots’

(implied in the next-to-last panel of the cartoon). That’s as far as the cartoon takes us, but we could go on. Via (B):

[ spot remover spot remover ] [ spot ] ‘spot made by spot remover spot remover’

And via (A):

[ spot remover spot remover spot ] [ remover ] ‘substance to remover spot remover spot remover spots’

There’s no end to this in principle, though the expressions rapidly decline in real-life utility as they get longer.

This is the world of recursion, where formal principles can apply to their own products to yield new expressions. See my 9/3/13 posting “Recursive sushi”, with notes on recursion.



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