Higashi Day cartoon 5: hoods and newts

(Little kids, but I pursue them into the weeds of sexual anatomy, though without the photos or raunchy talk. Take appropriate cautions.)

The One Big Happy cartoon from 2/9:


(#1) Once again, about the kids finding a word (un)familiar in a particular sense: the apparel noun hood

And the OBH from 2/17:


(#2) And minute ‘extremely small, tiny’

The two cases are interestingly different, but both turn on ambiguities in expressions: /hᴜd/ hood (apparel or neighborhood) and /majnút/ minute / my newt.

James and the hood. Relevant entries from NOAD:

noun hood-1:1 [a] a covering for the head and neck with an opening for the face, typically forming part of a coat or sweatshirt. [b] a separate garment similar to a hood, worn over a college gown or a surplice to indicate the wearer’s degree. [c] Falconry a leather covering for a hawk’s head. 2[a] a thing resembling a hood in shape or use. [b] British a folding waterproof cover of an automobile, baby carriage, etc. [c] North American a metal part covering the engine of an automobile. [d] a canopy to protect users of machinery or to remove fumes from it. [e] hoodlike structure or marking on the head or neck of an animal. [e] the upper part of the flower of a plant such as a dead-nettle.

noun hood-2: informal, chiefly North American a gangster or similar violent criminal. ORIGIN 1930s: abbreviation of hoodlum.

noun hood-3: informal, chiefly US a neighborhood, especially one’s own neighborhood: I’ve lived in the hood for 15 years. ORIGIN 1970s: shortening of neighborhood.

noun hoodie (also hoody): a hooded sweatshirt or jacket: outerwear is either a denim jacket or a hoodie.

And from Merriam-Webster online:

noun riding hood: an enveloping hood or hooded cloak worn for riding and as an outdoor wrap by women and children [almost transparent ‘hood for riding’, with the basic sense, 1a, of hood-1, and with just  a bit of specialization]

The remainder of the NOAD hood-1 entry is a collection of metaphorical uses of this hood in various special contexts; more on these below. We are to suppose that James is unfamiliar with “Little Red Riding Hood” and with hood-1a, presumably knowing only hoodie and associating that with hood-3 (maybe with a hint of hood-2 as well), as in Boyz n the Hood, rather than hood-1. From Wikipedia:


(#3) (DVD cover)

Boyz n the Hood is a 1991 American teen coming-of-age drama film, written and directed by John Singleton in his feature directorial debut, and stars Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King, and Angela Bassett. Boyz n the Hood follows Tre Styles (Gooding Jr.), who is sent to live with his father Furious Styles (Fishburne) in South Central Los Angeles, surrounded by the neighborhood’s booming gang culture.

A fashionable hoodie — in fact a red running hood:


(#4) From the Tracksmith site: a men’s hooded Trackhouse sweatshirt (in red)

The OBH character James, as examined in my 3/4/19 posting “Hard tundra”:

James seems to be presented here as a generic working-class American kid (of uncertain race, ethnicity, or regional origin).

… [His speech is presented as projecting:] Toughness. Lack of education. Disrespect for “proper behavior”. Ignorance. Dirtiness. Loutishness. And more, possibly in combination.

To put the best possible face on this suite of attributions, I’ll refer to the fictional type James represents as the Tough Kid (thereby making glancing allusions to the Dead End Kids, the Bowery Boys, the Little Tough Guys, the Wild Boys, (the older) Boyz in the Hood, the Sharks and the Jets, and the rest of the young and rugged).

In #1, he’s painted as so immersed in street life that he doesn’t even know about ordinary apparel hoods. Well, it’s a cartoon, not real life.

The symbolic potentials of hoods. From Wikipedia:


(#5) Illustration by J.W. Smith (from Wikipedia)

“Little Red Riding Hood” is a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. Its origins can be traced back to the 10th century to several European folk tales, including one from Italy called The False Grandmother (Italian: La finta nonna), later written among others by Italo Calvino in the Italian Folktales collection; the best known versions were written by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.

The story has been changed considerably in various retellings and subjected to numerous modern adaptations and readings.

… Besides the overt warning about talking to strangers, there are many interpretations of the classic fairy tale, many of them sexual.

Some features that contribute to the sexually tinged interpretations: the girl, of course (variously represented as anything from the age of innocence, roughly 8, through puberty, to nubile young adulthood, roughly 18); the dark male beast figure of the wolf; the color red, blood red, possibly connoting sexual passion, pain, danger, or menstrual blood; and the three symbolic objects — the basket (or in some representations, purse); the cape; and the hood.

The hood is easily understood as a symbol of the clitoral hood or, especially if it’s fur-lined, the vulva or the entire vagina. A RRH with fur-lined red cape:


(#6) On the Halloween Costumes site: a fur-lined hood as a RRH accessory

And then, standing uninhabited on its own, a dramatic fox fur parka with hood:


(#7) From the Beyond Shopping site, a demonstration that the symbolic potential of hoods, especially fur-lined ones, isn’t limited to the red riding variety

Indeed, if you can summon up the clitoral hood from the wearing apparel, you can summon up its anatomical homologue in men, the foreskin. (Foreskins and clitoral hoods taken together are prepuces — prepuce /ˈpriˌpjus/ is a word I almost never have occasion to use in speech, so I have to look up its pronunciation every year or so.) And in fact, hood is a fairly common, and not especially racy, slang term for the foreskin, less inventive than colorful terms like turtleneck or (lace) curtains, but also less obtrusive.

Two cites, both entertaining. First, from The Reflector site of 9/19/13 by sex columnist Lynn Don, “It was like a shar pei (There was so much skin)”:

Studies have claimed that those who are uncircumcised are more likely to contract STIs, where other studies have claimed the opposite: the little penis hood (aka foreskin) actually protects against STIs.

The shar pei image is a bonus here.

And from VICE magazine: “I Made One of My Guy Friends Wear Fake Foreskins for a Week: I helped my friend solve a penis problem I never knew existed” by Laura Bell on 11/5/18:

In a more innocent time, before I knew foreskins were something men protested over, I could not have named even one penis problem allegedly caused by circumcision. Then I stumbled across a company that makes fake foreskins for men. That is, mini sleeves for your penis. Needless to say, my world has never quite been the same.


(#8) Finger play: two colorful ManHoods (photo by Shannon Elmitt)

The company is aptly named ManHood (the best part of this whole experience is that pun by the way, it’s all downhill from here). ManHood is a company dedicated to solving problems I never knew existed; mainly because I am without any penis myself, but also because I don’t tend to discuss matters of penile dryness with my friends.

… The main issue faced by ManHood wearers seems to be a loss of sensitivity in the “glans” (that’s the head of the penis usually covered by the foreskin just FYI) as it’s exposed to all manner of horrifying things like the air, clothes, or bedsheets. According to Randy, the founder of ManHood and herewith the Foreskin Expert, this exposure and irritation from clothing can cause dryness, less pleasure during sex, and generally a not so great time for your Johnson. So the ManHood is designed to keep the bless’d thing warm and snug, helping build up moisture so the glans softens over time.

Or a man could just use one of the many cock socks (or willy warmers) available on the market; see my 6/26/17 posting “Put a sock on it in parade season”.

minute / my newt in #2. Even more of a stretch than James’s ignorance of ordinary clothing (not to mention “Little Red Riding Hood”). Granted, Ruthie might well be ignorant of minute ‘extremely small, tiny’, but it stretches the imagination painfully to suppose that she does know about newts.

(Well, I actually did know about newts when I was her age, but then I was an ridiculously inquisitive child, into (among other things) insects and crawly things I could find under the rocks or beneath fallen logs in the woods. Click beetles and salamanders were my friends. (I also collected wildflowers and saved them in a flower press.))

But I’ll grant Rick Detorie his jeu d’esprit, and just press on with the newts. Which are of interest to me both linguistically and toxicologically (toxicologically, a wonderfully doubly dactylic word).

The linguistic background, from NOAD:

noun newt: a small slender-bodied amphibian with lungs and a well-developed tail, typically spending its adult life on land and returning to water to breed. ORIGIN late Middle English: from an ewt (ewt from Old English efeta: see eft), interpreted (by wrong division) as a newt.

The newt / eft pairing is what passes for famous in linguistics (well, historical English linguistics, anyway), as a surprising example of metanalysis, or recutting. From NOAD:

noun metanalysis: Linguistics the process by which the division between words or parts of words is changed, resulting in the creation of a new word (as in the development of an apron from a napron)

More detail, with an extension of the concept out of historical linguistics, in my 11/19/09 posting “Ask AZBlog: metanalysis”.

And then on newts the creatures rather than newt the word, from my 5/13/17 posting “Toxic moments”, about “the rough-skinned newt, the most ridiculously poisonous animal in America”. A further note from Wikipedia:


(#9) “The rough-skinned newt or roughskin newt (Taricha granulosa) is a North American newt [found throughout the Pacific Northwest, and south as far as Santa Cruz] known for the strong toxin exuded from its skin.”

I haven’t encountered Taricha granulosa, and  that’s fine with me. I also assume that it’s not one of Ruthie’s newts, since she keeps on appearing in my comics feed. (Though I have considered the possibility that Ruthie’s is actually one of the species of snake that can eat T. granulosa without harm. Does she look reptilian to you?)

2 Responses to “Higashi Day cartoon 5: hoods and newts”

  1. Mark Mandel Says:

    «I also assume that it’s not one of Ruthie’s newts, since she keeps on appearing in my comics feed.»

    I don’t think she knows the word “newt” at all. Her false division of /maɪ’nuːt/ can be completely explained as parsing it as PossPron + Noun: an extremely common word that she knows without thinking about it plus…what? When “my” is followed by a single word, especially in Ruthie’s experience, that word is a noun that “my” modifies. So /nuːt/ is clearly a noun, even if she doesn’t know what it refers to.

    And when her mother answers her question with “It’s something extremely small”, Ruthie legitimately believes her question has been answered. “A flea is /maɪ’nuːt/” is a perfectly reasonable example for this mistaken definition.

    Mom’s syntax is a bit of a stretch for what Ruthie thinks she means. We’d expect something more like “/mɑɪ’nuːt/ means ‘extremely small'”. But I’m perfectly willing to attribute that and other minute divergences from adult conversational syntax to com(ed)ic license, or jeu d’esprit if you prefer.

  2. John Baker Says:

    Interesting, Arnold. My reading of the strip is that Ruthie in fact does not know about newts. That’s why she’s asking her mother about them. Although I would not be at all surprised if a child of that age had both unexpected knowledge and unexpected gaps in knowledge.

    I think it is pretty well established that James comes from a family that is not just working class, but lower class, in all the meanings of that term.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: