Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin

From ace penguin-spotter Martin Mulligan, a link to First Dog on the Moon cartoons by Guardian Australia’s Andrew Marlton (a list of his cartoons is available here): dense but wry text on political issues, often featuring the character Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, as in this 5/8/19 strip “Throwing eggs is satisfying but is it right? Quite possibly”:

(#1) “The prime minister [Scott Morrison] had an egg thrown at him and the media are losing their minds”

Two things here (besides the strip and the penguin): food defilement as a protest weapon; and verbings: to egg, to pie, to milkshake.

Throwing food as a symbol of protest. Then-UKIP leader (now prominent Brexiteer) Nigel Farage was famously egged at a rally in 2014; other British and Australian politicians have been egged in recent years. Now we have milkshaking.

From the Australian Broadcasting Co. site on 5/21/19: “Nigel Farage has milkshake thrown over him outside Brexit Party campaign rally” by Jack Hawke:

(#2) A milkshaked Farage, on the right (BBC shoto)

Pro-Brexit politician Nigel Farage has become the latest in a series of [right-wing] public figures to be ‘milkshaked’ during a rally in England’s north [in Newcastle].

There’s a long tradition, in several countries, of throwing food — especially spoiled, rotten. or stinking food — at reviled public targets: politicians and other public figures, performers (in concerts, ballets, and operas, for example), athletes, and the like. Classically: eggs, tomatoes, fruit, fish, milk, especially if these have gone bad; also pies, especially cream pies. The point is to express disapproval — disgust, in fact — by degrading and humiliating the target.

And then there’s pieing. From my 4/10/18 posting “Two cartoons from friends”, in #1 there a Dale Coverly cartoon with the portmanteau boomeringue, with a section on cream pies and pieing:


As a bonus:

(#4) Florida orange juice spokesperson and vituperative anti-gay campaigner Anita Bryant cleaning up after getting a cream pie in the face from a gay rights activist in 1977

The verbings. The noun egg has been verbed since the 19th century, in at least three senses. From OED2 on verb-2 egg:

1. transitive. In combination to egg and crumb: to cover with yolk of egg and crumbs. [cites from 1834 and 1864]

2. transitive. To pelt with (rotten) eggs. [cites: 1857 Sun (Baltimore1 Aug. The abolition editor of the Newport News, was egged out of Alexandria..on Monday. 1883 Harper’s Mag. Oct. 806/1 An Iowa poet has been egged by the populace.]

3. intransitive. To collect (wild fowls’) eggs. [an activity verbing, parallel to to bird; cite: 1887  E. C. Dawson Life Bp. Hannington viii. 106 They..fished, egged..and explored to their heart’s content.]

(The verb to egg in to egg s.o. on is an entirely different item.)

The third sense here is probably a nonce verbing, created on the spot in a way that would easily be understood in context. The first two senses have clearly become conventional; AHD5 lists them both (with the first semantically extended from the OED entry):

verb egg: 1. To cover with beaten egg, as in cooking. 2. Slang. To throw eggs at.

The verbing to pie ‘to throw a pie (in s.o.’s face)’ has been around for a while (and the practice has been around at least since the beginning of the 20th century), but seems not yet to have made it into the big dictionaries. (OED3 (March 2006) has four verbs to pie, none of them connected with foodstuffs in any way.)

Finally, the verbing to milkshake ‘to throw a milkshake on s.o.’ seems to be quite recent (as is, apparently, the practice), but is now widespread. What was once a nonce verbing (probably created by several people independently) is now conventional.

A note on inflectional forms. Some familiar facts. Derived lexemes usually have their inflectional morphology regularized (maple leaves on a tree, but the Toronto Maple Leafs), and invariably do so when the derivation is category-changing: the shake in the noun milkshake is a noun and the shake in the verb milkshake is a (new) verb derived from the noun, so the inflectional morphology of the (old) verb shake is irrelevant to how the verbing is inflected. The old verb shake has PST shook and PSP shaken, but the new verb shake has the regular PST/PSP shaked: He milkshaked (not milkshook) Farage, Farage was milkshaked (not milkshakenby a protestor.

(Farage was milkshaken by a protestor is a joke, like embargwent as the PST of the verb embargo.)

9 Responses to “Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin”

  1. chryss Says:

    French has specialized vocabulary for that: entartage (n.) / entarter (v.). A search on the Le Monde site yields a good number of separate examples. Famous people include the right-wing pundit Eric Zemmour, the Socialist former mayor of Lyon Gérard Collomb and the former prime minister Raffarin. BHL (the TV philosopher Bernhard-Henry Lévy) has been “entarted” several times.

  2. chryss Says:

    PS: I was wondering after posting how the French press might handle Farage, given that the food stuff was liquid (and not a creamy cake / torte). Libération has the title “Au Royaume-Uni, vague d’attaques au milk-shake contre l’extrême droite”, and the lede is “Plusieurs politiciens dont Nigel Farage ont été douchés ces derniers jours par des milk-shakes, provoquant un débat sur ce type de protestation et l’émergence de nouveaux slogans comme «lactose contre l’intolérance».”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Note that you can get along happily without the verbing, as English speakers did for many years before to pie came along. It’s just easier with the verbing.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    In Massachusetts, the drink that most of the rest of the English-speaking world calls a “milkshake” is called a “frappe” (pronounced as a monosyllable), which, if Farage had been so victimized here, would have generated the much more satisfying verb to frappe.

    • arnold zwicky Says:


    • Max Vasilatos Says:

      Rarely used now, but in New England, a milkshake was also called a “cabinet”. It already causes mixups.

      • chrishansenhome Says:

        I believe that “cabinet” was mostly confined to Rhode Island. We certainly never heard it in Eastern Massachusetts.

        Frappe and cabinet have bear nearly totally replaced with milkshake, probably due to the fast food outlets.

      • Robert Coren Says:

        Yeah, I never heard “cabinet” in Massachusetts either. I wasn’t aware that “frappe” was dying out, but then it’s been a very long time since I’ve ordered such a libation.

  4. chrishansenhome Says:

    It’s quite interesting that you’ve written about “milkshake” as a verb. I was thinking just last night how to form the past tense, and quickly discarded “milkshaken” and “milkshook”. I am glad that “milkshaked” is the correct form.

    I’ve been following “Last Dog on the Moon” for years now. It helps if you know something about Australian politics and recent history, but it’s funny nonetheless.

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