Early February herbivores

We advance upon a surprising gift of the Pennsylvania Dutch to American culture: Groundhog Day (February 2nd). In earlier years, this blog provided coverage of Marmota monax (the groundhog / woodchuck), its holiday, and the comic movie, comic movie, comic movie. Now comes Alex (Alessandro Michelangelo) Jaker on Facebook:

I think that, the same way that the Easter Bunny visits and leaves candy [notably, chocolate eggs] and jelly beans at Easter time 🐰🍬🍫, we should start a tradition where, on Groundhog Day, the Friendly Groundhog stops by to visit during the night, and leaves the children a bag of nuts. 🐿🌰🥜

I replied (alas, emojilessly):

Even better: Marmo the Enchanted Groundhog, who leaves a bag of magic nuts.

And Alex countered with:

Or how about: “Chuck the Magic Marmot”.

Much to munch upon here.

The groundhog diet. Most of us would probably lose weight on it, but groundhogs consume this stuff voraciously, and fatten up on it for hibernation. From the Wikipedia article:

Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs eat primarily wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries and agricultural crops, when available. In early spring, dandelion and coltsfoot are important groundhog food items. Some additional foods include sheep sorrel, timothy-grass, buttercup, tearthumb, agrimony, red and black raspberries, mulberries, buckwheat, plantain, wild lettuce, all varieties of clover, and alfalfa. Groundhogs also occasionally eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not as omnivorous as many other Sciuridae.

I suppose that if woodchucks chance upon nuts, they might eat them, but they don’t seek them out. Alex’s Friendly Groundhog is much more likely to leave a sheaf of alfalfa than a bag of nuts.

A bag of nuts. Since I’m the person I am, I go right down to the crotch: bag of nutssack of nutsnut sack / nutsack ‘scrotum’, as in this Pearls Before Swine cartoon:


And I note that when Marmo leaves his bag of magic nuts, you have to understand that the charmed cock is sold separately.

Chuck the Magic Marmot. Ok, a giggly play on “Puff the Magic Dragon”. But, astonishingly, there’s an actual Magic Marmot. Well, an established fictional character, the creation of artist Henry Schreiber:


Schreiber (now in Charlotte NC) could be fairly described as a marmaniac. From his Vimeo website:

Bio: Born in Fairfax Virginia, Henry spent his childhood in the suburbs of Washington DC, the mountains of West Virginia, and the gulf coast of Florida. After receiving his MFA from the University of Central Florida, Schreiber established a studio on a family farm in the Appalachian Mountains. Following his two years of learning the ways of the groundhog; he packed up his studio and moved to Charlotte, NC.

The Reasoning behind Marmots: Schreiber’s fascination with marmots or groundhogs as they are more commonly known originated with his move to the “Con Place”, the family farm settled six generations ago in Ashe County, North Carolina. Groundhog spotting from the front porch has been a shared family pastime that he fell into without any hesitation and has inspired his recent series of Marmot paintings.

Influences: Henry is heavily influenced by the artworks of Peter Paul Rubens, Eugene Delacroix, Thomas Cole and Henry [AZ: the Swiss are everywhere] Fuseli.

Artist Statement: By fusing classical imagery with passions and vicissitudes of the contemporary world, Schreiber creates images that are riddled with both overt and subtle humor. These paintings are intended to illuminate the futility of guilt and frustration we encounter in the struggle for identity and meaning by arousing laughter, indignation, curiosity, and finally recognition.

The site is immensely rich in marmot paintings. O brave new world / that has such creatures in it!

4 Responses to “Early February herbivores”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    You likely know this joke, but….

    Three Elbonians were tipping a few after work, and they got to asking each other what that American holiday called “Easter” was about.

    “You know, Easter is when they carve faces in pumpkins and go around yelling ‘trick or treat'” opined the first Elbonian.

    Nah, went the second Elbonian, “Easter is when the fat guy in the red suit goes ‘ho ho ho’ and gives out presents.”

    The third Elbonian is like “No, you guys have it all wrong. I’ve BEEN to the United States, I’ve seen it. Easter is when they nail a guy to a cross and he dies and they put him in a tomb, and three days later he comes out…

    And if he sees his shadow there’ll be six more weeks of winter!”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I do indeed know this joke, but in a version where members of some ethnic group (in my experience, Italians) stand before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and he tests them on the meaning of Easter. The transformation into the three-men-at-a-bar joke frame is new to me, as are the Elbonians. (The Elbonians are from the Dilbert comic strip; from the Dilbert Wiki on Elbonia: “Elbonia is an impoverished western European country in the Dilbert universe. In the comic strip, and originally in the TV show, its major commerce was mud. There are also mentions of a currency called the Eye-Crud.”)

      This version of the joke also does a cool thing with quotative verbs. The first quotative verb, OPINE, is just a verb of speech; the second is the relatively recent quotative GO; and the third is the even more recent quotative (BE) LIKE. That is, the three Elbonians move through three stages of lexicographic time. (Plenty of stuff in my blog on quotatives, since I was once part of a Stanford research group on quotative LIKE.)

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    My telling of the joke. I invoked Dilbert’s Elbonians to avoid disparaging an ethnic group – I think the protagonists were Japanese when I first heard the joke long ago. I wrote my version of it at least six years ago.

    The varied quotatives were quite intentional, and illustrate the rapid shifting of quotative constructions in English. Does this go on in other languages too? Certainly Cicero’s quotatives are different from St. Jerome’s, and the weird quotatives German used to have seem to be much less common today.

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