Him wear saurian monitor

The Scott Hilburn cartoon from 10/26/16, with a bit of caveman dialogue:


Three things: the Caveman cartoon meme; the simplified register the two cavemen  talk in; and the juxtaposition of two parallel worlds, everyday life vs. a remarkable fictive alternative.

Cartoon cavemen. Are bulky, extraordinarily hairy, and more. From Wikipedia:

A caveman is a stock character representative of primitive man in the Paleolithic. The popularisation of the type dates to the early 20th century, when Neanderthal Man was influentially described as “simian” or ape-like by Marcellin Boule and Arthur Keith.

… Cavemen are typically portrayed as wearing shaggy animal hides, and capable of cave painting like behaviorally modern humans of the last glacial period. Anachronistically, they are simultaneously shown armed with rocks or cattle bone clubs that are also rocks, unintelligent, and aggressive. Popular culture also frequently represents cavemen as living with or alongside dinosaurs, even though non-avian dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years before the emergence of the Homo sapiens species.

… Stereotypical cavemen have traditionally been depicted wearing smock-like garments made of animal skin and held up by a shoulder strap on one side, and carrying large clubs approximately conical in shape. They often have grunt-like names, such as Ugg and Zog.

So let’s call the guys in #1 Ugg (on the left) and Zog (on the right, with the saurian monitor attached to his ankle).

Caveman talk. We’ve got only three sentences to go on: two questions from Ugg, one reply from Zog. And they show features from a large collection of language forms:

— from first-language acquisition, second-language learning, contact languages, non-standard varieties (because these are widely viewed as imperfect approximations to correctness), and  conventional burlesques of “foreigner talk”, “Tonto-talk”, and the like. See my 11/1/12 posting “George Booth”, with a section on Booth’s caveman-talk cartoon “Ip Gissa Gul”.

— telegraphic registers in writing (for instance, the headline register) and speech (for instance, the sports-announcer register). See my 8/3/18 posting “The rainbow pillars of Montreal”, with a section on Arnold Zwicky & Ann Zwicky, “Telegraphic registers in written English”, from 1981.

— “reduced” expression-types in casual speech.

It’s often unclear what the source of a particular example is. Ugg’s questions would be, in formal spoken standard English:

Were you found guilty? / You were found guilty?

Did you get jail time?

Then his You found guilty? You get jail time? might just be casual spoken standard English, or might be a second-language learner’s approximation to the formal standard, or might be grunting caveman-talk.

Zog’s Me just wear ankle monitor — roughly ‘I’m just wearing an ankle monitor’ — has the subject pronoun me that’s characteristic of English-based contact languages, and also of Tonto-talk; and the simple PRS verb conveying the progressive that is characteristic of learner English, contact-language English, the newspaper-headline register, and (again) Tonto-talk. In any case, Zog sure sounds like a caveman.

Meanwhile, the lexical items of substance — the verb constructions find (s.o.) guilty and get jail time, the noun compound ankle monitor — are all from the decidedly modern legal domain, not from Paleolithic times.

Parallel worlds. So the cavemen’s language combines elements from two worlds: the serious lexical stuff from the legal subworld of the modern everyday world, the structure around it from the fictive world of cavemen. Correspondingly, the topic of the cartoon is Zog’s legal tale, but the artwork is all make-believe caveman.

And the humor comes from the juncture between the two worlds, in the caveman correspondent to an ankle bracelet, a saurian (a lizard of some sort, perhaps a small dinosaur) with its jaws firmly clamped down on Zog’s ankle.

On such juxtapositions of parallel worlds, on this blog:

on 8/4/18, in “Cultural knowledge”: translations of one world into another in 3 cartoons (Rhymes With Orange, Mother Goose and Grimm, Bizarro)

In each case, the cartoon shows some situation from everyday life (which you have to know about) juxtaposed with, or translated into, another more remarkable world (which you also need to know details of).

on 2/5/19, in “Aquatic carpentry”: a Bizarro with translation between worlds

Ankle monitors. From Wikipedia:

(#2) A selection of ankle monitors, from a story on the NPR Illinois site

Electronic tagging is a form of surveillance which uses an electronic device, fitted to the person.

In some jurisdictions an electronic tag fitted above the ankle is used for people as part of their bail or probation conditions. It is also used in healthcare settings and in immigration contexts in some jurisdictions. Electronic tagging can be used in combination with the global positioning system (GPS).


8 Responses to “Him wear saurian monitor”

  1. RF Says:

    I believe the saurian is actually a monitor lizard.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      By “actually”, you mean “in particular” or “specifically”, right? (That is, I assume you’re not denying that monitor lizards are saurians; “actually”, alas, does both the work of denying an assumption and of refining one.) I understand saurian as covering large reptiles in general, including large lizards (like the monitor lizards) and dinosaurs. (I think some people use saurian as a fancy synonym of lizard, and still others use it as a fancy synonym of reptile. But for all of us, monitor lizards are saurians.)

      • RF Says:

        Yes, sorry, I meant “specifically.” I meant that “ankle monitor” here is a pun.

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        To RF: thanks for clarifying. And yes, I’d totally missed the (wonderful) pun on monitor. True, that’s pretty small for a monitor lizard — but then it’s a *cartoon*.

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    >>Why is it called Monitor Lizard? – Quora. The name of this genus “Varanus” comes from the Arabic word “waral”, which means “monitor” in English. As many here mentioned, these lizards tend to stand on their two hind legs and to appear to “monitor” their surroundings, which led to the original Arabic name.<<

    Zoos have a lot of problems getting them to take necessary medications. They're Christian Science Monitors.

    Where does our schoolboy Indian talk ("me heap big chief") come from – did anybody ever actually say that?

    In the Sacred Harp, the Indian talk is quite different – white people are called "shiny". I note the word is always to be sounded in two syllables, presumably 'indin' – how Indians in Oklahoma (who usually don't call themselves Native Americans) pronounce it.

  3. Stewart Kramer Says:

    It’s smaller than a typical monitor lizard because it’s just an ankle monitor.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: