Another quick cartoon comprehension quiz

Paul Noth in the April 30th New Yorker:

(#1) “Et tu, Little Caesar?”

Two contributing factors that intersect in the name Caesar.

Factor 1, the historical story of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, as told in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, elements of which have become bits and pieces of disconnected common cultural knowledge: the Ides of March, the stabbing to death, Caesar’s accusatory Et tu, Brute? ‘You too, Brutus?’ (that is, ‘Even you?’), Marc Antony’s funeral oration beginning “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”.

Caesar here was simply the emperor’s family name. But it then evolved into a title. From NOAD:

noun Caesar: a title used by Roman emperors, especially those from Augustus to Hadrian. ORIGIN Middle English: from Latin Caesar, family name of the Roman statesman Julius Caesar.

(which then developed into German Kaiser, Russian Tsar / Czar, and more).

This is the first element in understanding the cartoon: you have to recognize the stabbing scene from the Julius Caesar story.

Factor 2, from mass culture:

(#2) The Little Caesars logo, a highly stylized Roman emperor

Little Caesar Enterprises Inc. (doing business as Little Caesars) is the third-largest pizza chain in the United States, behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza. It operates and franchises pizza restaurants in the United States and internationally in Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. The company was founded in 1959 and is based in Detroit, Michigan, headquartered in the Fox Theatre building in Downtown. (Wikipedia link)

(Note that the company name is relentlessly anapostrophic, apostropheless. You can (try to) do anything you want with trade names.)

The Little Caesars mascot comes complete with a stylized toga and a stylized laurel wreath, the symbolic crown of the emperor:


In any case, to understand the cartoon, you need to recognize Little Caesar, the pizza company mascot — a bit of mass commercial culture that you might have missed, especially if you’re not American.

But wait, there’s more! A roughly parallel situation in today’s Rhymes Wth Orange:


Two contributing factors that intersect in the noun sandwich  — a fact that’s conveyed by the title “The Sandwich Board”, though the cartoon would still work without the title.

But you have to know the expression sandwich board and know that there are two types of sandwich boards, manned and unmanned. And you have to know a bit of commercial mass culture, again from the world of American food: that Manwich is the name of a canned sloppy joe sauce, used to make a type of sandwich.

Manned sandwich boards are now rare on the world’s streets — though they’re stock figures in cartoons, especially in the Doomsday cartoon meme, as here:

(#5) Manned sandwich board: Homer Simpson exemplifying the Doomsday meme

And Manwiches are pretty much American things. So the point of the cartoon could easily be missed.

From Wikipedia on sandwich boards:

A sandwich board is a type of advertisement composed of two boards (holding a message or graphic) and being either:

Carried by a person, with one board in front and one behind [connected by straps hung over the bearer’s shoulders], creating a “sandwich” effect; or

Set up (for example next to a store advertising its goods) in a triangle shape, hinged along the top.

(#6) A manned sandwich board; I’ve been unable to find out what the story is here

(#7) An unmanned sandwich board, advertising food (including some sandwiches)

… Sandwich boards were most popular in the 19th century, and have largely been supplanted by billboards, which are more effective in advertising to passers-by who are now likely to be in automobiles, rather than traveling by foot.

However, they are still frequently to be seen on major shopping streets such as Oxford Street, London; Champs Élysées, Paris, and 42nd Street, New York City, where they are used to advertise offers from particular stores most often in adjacent side-streets.

Manwiches on this blog:

on 5/14/13 in “Grocery store semantics”, on Manwich and Beefaroni

on 5/16/13 in “Manwich and Beefaroni as portmanteaus”

Oh yes, in #4 there are also the (rather cutesified) Godzilla-style monster lizards wreaking urban havoc, chomping on scenery and people. (Another cartoon meme.)

[Added on April 30th, another sandwich-board Rhymes With Orange:


It’s a pizza dog!]

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