The bull validates Peter’s family

Three more Bizarro cartoons from the past, from another crop on Pinterest, with: an allusion you need to catch to understand the cartoon; a complex pun; and laugh-inducing names.

From 6/9/09, the bull. An exercise in cartoon understanding.


You need to recognize that the male figure is a toreador, a bullfighter (anomalously appearing outside the bullring in costume), and you need to know the idiom bull in a china shop). Then you will appreciate the female figure’s anxiety over whether the toreador is alone; normally you would expect a toreador in costume to appear along with a toro, a bull, and the China Shoppe is no place for a bull.

From my 8/1/19 posting “Understanding the bull”, about a John McNamee cartoon:

there’s a nod [in the McNamee] to another bit of tauriana: the idiom bull in a china shop: Fred is seen sipping tea daintily from a china tea cup, thus challenging the view that bulls can’t be trusted around breakables. From the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer:

bull in a china shop: An extremely clumsy person [in a delicate situation], as in Her living room, with its delicate furniture and knickknacks, made him feel like a bull in a china shop. The precise origin for this term has been lost; it was first recorded in Frederick Marryat’s novel, Jacob Faithful (1834) [though the image was available much earlier].

The idiom has been the inspiration for innumerable cartoons

From 9/8/12, validating. A complex pun, turning on an ambiguity in validate (my) parking, with the character on the left intending one sense of the expression (one that’s appropriate to the context), the character on the right another sense (one that’s absurd in the context).


From NOAD:

verb validate: [with object] [a] check or prove the validity or accuracy of (something): these estimates have been validated by periodic surveys. [b] demonstrate or support the truth or value of: in a healthy family a child’s feelings are validated. [c] make or declare legally valid. [d] recognize or affirm the validity or worth of (a person or their feelings or opinions); cause (a person) to feel valued or worthwhile: without Patti to validate my feelings, they seemed not to exist | he seems to need other women’s attention to validate him as a man.

— sense 1 of validate … parking. The sense of validate here is a specialization of NOAD‘s sense a. The direct object noun parking here is a beheading of parking card/ticket. The combination is idiomatic, and the idiomatic sense occurs as well in the N + N compound parking validationexplained on the WRCBtv (Chattanooga TN) site “What is parking validation & how does it work?” from 11/11/20:

Parking validation is a solution for extending free or discounted parking to some parking lot users of a paid parking facility. It’s generally considered a perk of being a customer. When a business “validates parking”, that is a shorthand way of saying, “When you dine/shop/make an appointment with us, you’ll park for less — or for free!”

When a parking ticket is “validated,” it typically means the establishment a parking customer visited is paying for at least a portion of their customer’s parking, up to 100% of the parking price.

As a parker, getting your parking validated is a benefit of making a purchase at a business. For the business, offering validation is a way to incentivize customers to visit and purchase.

Typically, parking validations works like this: the driver of a vehicle takes a parking ticket upon entering the parking lot. The driver makes a purchase from a business that then stamps or scans the parking ticket or provides a separate printed coupon. When the vehicle driver exits the parking lot the parking is discounted or validated for a set amount or percentage.

While the above lists one of the more common scenarios, there are many variations.

— sense 2 of validate … parking. With an extension of NOAD‘s sense d of validate — something like ‘recognize or affirm the excellence of somene’s actions’. In this case, the action of parking a car (“You did a great job”).

From 10/9/16, Peter’s family. The couple in the cartoon have the family name Pumpkineater, but seem not to recognize that their name is risible, so that any child of theirs would be open to ridicule from other children.


The basis for all this is a nursery rhyme about “Peter, Peter pumpkin eater”, with the common noun pumpkin eater (a synthetic N + N compound), while in the cartoon we have instead the remarkable proper name Pumpkineater.

On the nursery rhyme, from Wikipedia:

(#4) William Wallace Denslow’s illustration for “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”, from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose (in Wikipedia) (Denslow is best known for his illustrations in some of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books)

“Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” is an English language nursery rhyme. … Common modern versions include:

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.

The first surviving version of the rhyme was published in Infant Institutes, part the first: or a Nurserical Essay on the Poetry, Lyric and Allegorical, of the Earliest Ages, &c., in London around 1797. It also appears in Mother Goose’s Quarto: or Melodies Complete, printed in Boston, Massachusetts around 1825

Modern interpretations of the rhyme are inclined to see the first verse as referring to an unfaithful wife (maybe from an actual court case of the time), possibly murdered by her husband, with her body stuffed into some container (a pumpkin in the rhyme, presumably because pumpkin alliterates with the Peter); or merely locked up someplace by her husband.

The mildly offensive slang noun peter ‘the penis, esp.of a young boy’ seems to be somewhat later than the nursery rhyme (GDoS has a first cite of 1870), though the name Peter, Peter in the rhyme is sometimes played on as risqué in modern times.

2 Responses to “The bull validates Peter’s family”

  1. Taming the bull | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the bull ring and the rodeo. Which provides the spring for my bull-cartoon posting of a week ago: my 2/7 posting “The bull validates Peter’s […]

  2. Getting validated | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] been here before, in my 2/7/21 posting “The bull validates Peter’s family”, in #2 there, a Bizarro cartoon with another […]

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