Piñata under the gun

(Bonus content: a news bulletin for penises, with two items.)

Today’s Wayno/Piraro combo:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

Simultaneously a boy about to bash a rainbow donkey piñata with a bat — a baseball bat, rather than the usual  piñata-specific stick or bat (illustrated below) — and a military officer about to execute a prisoner by firing squad. So both in the everyday world and in a metaphorical world systematically mapped onto the everyday world.

News for penises, part 1. That would be standard phallic symbols: the baseball bat in the everyday world (or a piñata stick or bat), the gun in the metaphorical world.

Piñatas. Wikipedia on them:

A piñata is a container [typically, shaped like a donkey] often made of papier-mâché, pottery, or cloth; it is decorated [usually in bright colors], and filled with small toys or candy, or both, and then broken [with a stick or club] as part of a ceremony or celebration. Piñatas are commonly associated with Mexico. The idea of breaking a container filled with treats came to Europe in the 14th century, where the name, from the Italian pignatta, was introduced. The Spanish brought the European tradition to Mexico, although there were similar traditions in Mesoamerica, such as the Aztecs’ honoring the birthday of the god Huitzilopochtli in mid December. According to local records, the Mexican piñata tradition began in the town of Acolman, just north of Mexico City, where piñatas were introduced for catechism purposes as well as to co-opt the Huitzilopochtli ceremony. Today, the piñata is still part of Mexican culture, the cultures of other countries in Latin America, as well as the United States, but it has mostly lost its religious character.

… Piñatas were traditionally made with a clay pot base and many artisans make a living selling just the pot for people to decorate as they wish. However, clay pot piñatas have mostly been replaced by those made with cardboard and paper mache, usually fashioned over balloons. One reason for this is that broken pot pieces can be dangerous to children. These are then decorated with crepe paper, other colored paper and other items. Piñatas today come in all shapes and sizes, with many representing cartoon or other characters known to most children. Popular shapes today can include Batman, Superman, Spider-Man or characters based on popular movies and television shows such as Nemo, the Lion King and more. For Christmas, the traditional style with the points is popular as it is associated with the Star of Bethlehem.

A traditional donkey piñata, in rainbow colors, from Dollar General:


The supplier’s ad copy:

Olé! Our colorful Donkey Pinata [22″H x 14″L x 5″W] will add fiesta fun to your Cinco de Mayo party. Decorated with brightly colored rainbow tissue paper, this donkey pinata doubles as a Mexican fiesta decoration and traditional party game. Fill the burro pinata with up to 2lbs of candy and party favors (sold separately) before you hang it up from the attached loop. When not in use, this classic rainbow donkey pinata works as a festive table centerpiece. Make sure you have plenty of empty favor bags handy to collect the fallen loot, too! Throw a fantastic southwestern themed party with more of our affordable Cinco de Mayo party supplies. [$12.50]

Also available, from several sources, piñata sticks, like this wooden one:


and piñata bats, like this wooden one (there are also plastic versions of both on the market:


News for penises, part 2. More from the Wikipedia article:

… One niche market for piñatas in Mexico is of those themed for adults. These include political figures, especially those who are not particularly liked. Another type for the adult market are sexually-themed piñatas, mostly those in the form of exotic dancers and strippers. Of the female of this type, the most popular are blondes. For the male, darker shades are preferred. These piñatas will be filled with adult items such as condoms in addition to candy.

Plus a variety of peniform piñatas, for example this Willy Whack It Pinata ($23.99) from Etsy, intended for use at bachelorette parties:


All the girls can decorate this 16 in. long Willie. Add fake fur, a hat, or even a costume to look like the groom.
Fill him up with condoms, blow pops, dares for the girls to complete, then whack the living daylight out of him!
The Willy Whack-it Pinata makes a great party decoration, too.
Change his facial expressions, just a fun party gift.

In the metaphorical world. There is, first, a real-world practice. From Wikipedia:

Execution by firing squad, in the past sometimes called fusillading (from the French fusil, rifle), is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war. Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice. Some reasons for its use are that firearms are usually readily available and a gunshot to a vital organ usually kills relatively quickly.

But then there’s also a firing squad trope — often the basis for humor in movies and on tv — in which the prisoner is tied up and offered a blindfold and one last smoke, preparatory to being shot to death (or, possibly, rescued at the last moment). These elements of the trope appear in this photo (whose source I do not know):


and in the cartoon in #1, though there the execution is by battering rather than by gunshot.

World to world. The cartoon exhibits a translation of one world (an everyday world of piñata play) into another (a somewhat fanciful world of execution by firing squad), in such a way that the crucial elements of the first world and their roles in that world have correspondents in the second world, so that what you see in the cartoon is in both worlds at once: the boy is also a military officer, his bat is also a gun, the piñata is also his prisoner, and so on.

I first advanced such a view of metaphor cartoons in my 5/22/18 posting “(I just) can’t stop (it)”, about a Harry Bliss cartoon, where I wrote

The cartoon translates the first [world] into the second by identifying elements of the two worlds — setting, participants, activities, and so on.

… All this is on a small scale in [the cartoon]. Larger-scale translations are familiar from stagings of plays and operas in which the elements of an original are translated into other social settings, times, and places. Shakespeare’s plays are often treated this way.

A further example in my 5/29/18 posting “Chez Le Fourmilier”, about a Bizarro/Wayno cartoon, and one more in my 8/1/18 posting “Amazing grease”, about a Scott Hilburn cartoon.

On this view, metaphors are at root relationships between worlds, not words; the vocabulary relationships follow from the relations between entities and roles.

The Wikipedia article on metaphor provides three pairs of terminology for talking about metaphorical relationships: tenor and vehicle (from the literary critic I.A. Richards), ground and figure (from Gestalt psychology), target and source (in George Lakoff’s cognitive linguistics). Here I’ll adopt a version of the second terminology, by talking about a ground world vs. a figurative (or metaphorical) world.

The ground world is often an everyday world, the metaphorical world an imagined, even fantastical, world, or an artificial, contrived one (stage performances, conventional settings for jokes, etc.); as a result, metaphorical worlds are often more vivid than ground worlds.

The cartoon examples gain their humor from the absurdity in the identification of elements from the two worlds: the kid who’s also an executioner, the piñata that’s also a condemned prisoner, and so on.

Oh, yes, the title of this posting. A bit of language play with the idiom:

under the gunNorth American informal under great pressure: manufacturers are under the gun to offer alternatives. (NOAD)

(There’s some uncertainty as to what image provided the source for the idiom.)

One Response to “Piñata under the gun”

  1. [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky plays with the idea of the piñata, at multiple […]

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