Ruthie x 3

In my comics feed for One Big Happy: The Huskies play Oregon (11/23), Money is the root of boll weevil (11/28), ABC order (11/30):




#1 – What is was WAS football. What’s on tv? Ruthie’s dad says it’s the Huskies (the University of Washington football team) playing Oregon (the University of Oregon football team) — note that the metonymy of the Huskies playing Oregon has to be unpacked in context — but the only /hʌskiz/ Ruthie knows are dogs (noun husky ‘a powerful dog of a breed with a thick double coat that is typically gray, used in the Arctic for pulling sleds’ (NOAD)), and she doesn’t recognize the state name Oregon /ɔrǝgǝn/, so reinterprets it as the closest thing she does know, /ɔrgǝn/ — organ. Dogs playing the organ.

But she looks at the tv and sees that people are in fact playing football. Stupid football. When she was expecting dogs on the organ.

#2 – What the farmer said to the boll weevil. Ruthie admits that she doesn’t know exactly what a boll weevil is, but she thinks she’s heard the expression, and the closest thing she can dredge up is the proverb Money is the root of all evil (the popular version of the Biblical quotation “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)). Money is the root of boll weevil. (Evil and weevil are quite close — /(w)ivǝl/ —  but all /ɔl/ and boll /bol/ aren’t close at all.)

#3 – Getting thngs in order. That putting four words in “ABC order” somehow requires putting the numbers 1-4 in that order is so zany that it’s probably a report of something some actual child did. But a few notes on the expression ABC order.

A start, from NOAD:

noun ABC: [a] the alphabet. [b] (also ABCs) the rudiments of a subject: the ABCs of emergency heart-lung resuscitation. [c] an alphabetical guide: an ABC of Civil War battlefields.

Which takes us to:

adj. alphabetical [also alphabetic]: [a]  relating to an alphabet: alphabetical characters. [b] in the order of the letters of the alphabet: an alphabetical index | in alphabetical order.

Ruthie’s homework was to put words in alphabetical order — a task whose complexity is concealed by the gloss ‘in the order of the letters of the alphabet’.

Before little children can put things “in the order of the alphabet” they have to have the order of the letters memorized and routinized. And then they have to learn how to  put words of two or more letters in order. Meanwhile, before a teacher can tell the kids to put words in order, the teacher needs a name for the ordering..

The conventional name in English is alphabetical order (or, rarely, alphabetic order). But the pentasyllabic alphabetical is a hell of a mouthful for kids in the early grades, so some teachers have hit on the idea of using something the children already know: the letters of the alphabet in sequence. Hence, ABC order (not in OED3 (Dec. 2011), but obviously useful).

2 Responses to “Ruthie x 3”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Not only the University of Washington, but the University of Connecticut’s teams are also called “Huskies”. I assume the latter originates as a joke, based on the common shortening of the university’s name to “UConn”, pronounced like Yukon, a place where such dogs are likely to be plentiful. (Now I think of it, I believe the teams of Boston’s Northeastern University are also called “Huskies”, for some reason unknown to me.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      There are quite a few schools with sports teams called the Huskies. But in the context of a football game with Oregon, the school in question is surely Washington, since the Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks are traditional rivals.

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