Division of labor

Not particularly about language, but it tickled me, and these days I can use some entertainment.

From the New Yorker cartoon caption contest #708 (in the 5/18/20 issue), a pair of men — one a fuming cook, the other a man in full armor, who’s the speaker in the cartoon — confront one another during a major kitchen disaster:

(#1) (I haven’t been able to identify the artist’s signature; suggestions welcome — now identified as Sofia Warren)

The caption choices:

A “I heard dinner needed rescuing.”
B “The round table is set.”
C “Fine–next time you slay the dragon and I’ll cook.”

These are consistent with various relationships between the two men, but the last one (which especially tickles me) assumes they’re some kind of (domestic) couple: they’ve divided the household tasks — which seem to include dragon-slaying as well as dinner preparation — between them.

The drawing juxtaposes two different worlds: the mythic world of heroes in armor performing noble deeds, and the everyday world of hot stoves and overflowing pots. The task of the caption writer is to surmount the absurdity by treating the juxtaposition as if it were routine and unremarkable.

In any case, caption C reminded me of William Haefeli cartoons on the division of roles between two coupled gay men. One already posted on here, on 4/25/11 in “marriage equality”:

(#2) ‘equality within a marriage’ rather than ‘equality to marry, equal rights with respect to marriage’

The other, from the New Yorker of 12/26/05 (but new to this blog), is about the division of roles in sex play:

(#3) A Brokeback Mountain joke, playing on the fact that sexual partners sometimes do role-playing, in which they negotiate who takes which role

In caption C, it’s about which guy slays the dragon (in full armor, of course) and which one does the cooking (in an apron). The cook in C is clearly pissed that in this round he got kitchen duty.

3 Responses to “Division of labor”

  1. Rod Williams Says:

    Hi Arnold,

    The cartoonist is Sofia Warren.


  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    In the June 1st issue: the winning caption is in fact my favorite, contestant C.

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