Adam atom

Today’s Bizarro plays on Adam vs. atom and on the ambiguity of bomb:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 11 in this strip — see this Page.)

The sentence Adam bombs, with intransitive bomb ‘fail miserably’ — hey, it’s a really tough audience — in the pres. 3sg. vs. the (plural) compound N atom bombs.

Adam and atom are phonetically close for English speakers in general, but for most American speakers, they’re homophones, thanks to the “flapping” of the alveolar consonants t and d between an accented vowel and an unaccented one (as in atom and Adam).

Then the intransitive verb bomb; from NOAD:

verb bomb: 3 [no object] informal (of a movie, play, or other event) fail miserably: a big-budget movie that bombed at the box office | he bombed out at several tournaments.

Opposite to this bomb is the intransitive verb kill — it’s all very military in the performance world — as in my 6/25/18 posting “Midsummer cartoons”, treating transitive kill ‘to do or perform (something) impressively or conclusively’ and intransitive kill ‘perform very impressively, succeed absolutely’.

Note that the cartoon turns on an ambiguity, but actually illustrates only one of the senses (in which Adam is bombing at stand-up; there are no atom bombs on the horizon); especially clever ambiguity-based cartoons manage to allude visually to both senses.

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