Ruthie misunderstands

Two One Big Happy cartoons recently in my comics feed. Originally from 1/29, a strip in which Ruthie misunderstands “Randi with an “I””, taking it to be “Randi with an eye”. And originally from 1/25, a Sunday strip in which Ruthie misunderstands “pole dance”, taking it to be “Pole dance”.

The cartoons:

(#1) Kids experience a variety of personal names, but don’t necessarily know how they’re spelled — and they might not know the with a(n) LETTER(S) formula for indicating a variant spelling

(#2) Lots of kids spend their street time reading everything that comes past them — and so get exposed to lots of material that’s puzzling to them

#1: I, not eye. First, the personal name Randi. Randi is a NAm feminine variant of Randy. Randy itself is originally a nickname for Randall, Randolf, Randolph, Bertrand or Andrew; but of course nicknames can become free-standing personal names on their own. (Randi is also a common Norwegian feminine name, with a different etymology).

NAm feminine Randi is fairly recent; the first American Randi in Wikipedia’s list of notable women known as Randi was born in 1948. Ruthie’s mother’s perception of this might lie behind her asking about the spelling — but of course none of that would be relevant to Ruthie; for her, it’s just another name.

Then the spelling formula: with a(n) LETTER(S) ‘spelled with a(n) LETTER(S)’: “/ǰɛfri/ with a G (/ǰi/)” or “/ǰɛfri/ with a J (/ǰe/)”, “/rudalf/ with a P H (/pi eč /) or “/rudalf/ with an F (/ɛf/)”. We have no information about Ruthie’s experience with variant spellings for a name, or her experience wih the formula, but the formula involves a specialized use of with for (roughly) ‘spelled with’, and that’s something that has to be learned.

OED2 has no separate (sub)entry for this use, but I think it should. As things stand, it’s just an instance of the P with that is notionally related to have (“Randi with an “I” (in it)” ~ “Randi that has an “I” (in it)”) — a sense-family spread over at least three entries for the P with in OED2:

A. 23. a. Having in one’s hold, keeping, or charge; having within its compass, limits, area, etc.; leading, bringing, conveying, carrying, wearing, containing, etc. [e.g. Enter old Gobbo with a basket.]

A. 28. After a noun, in a qualifying phrase indicating a characteristic or distinctive part or adjunct: Having, possessing; having in or upon it, containing, bearing (cf. A. 23). [e.g. A paper-knife with a mother of pearl blade.]

A. 31. a. Indicating an attribute, quality, or condition of the person or thing spoken of: Having, possessing, characterized by. (Often scarcely distinguishable from 28 or 29.) [e.g. Many another man with less heart and less imagination.]

#2: pole, not Pole. First, Pole dances, i.e. Polish dances. From Wikipedia:

Polish folk dances are a tradition rooted in ten centuries of Polish culture and history. Many of the dances stem from regional customs and historical events, but also include formal ballroom elements or ballet, and are distinct from Czech, Slovak and Germanic styles. Nowadays, the dances are only performed during major events, holidays or in tourist-oriented public spaces.

The most notable and renowned dances of Poland include the Krakowiak, Mazurka, Oberek, Polonaise and Bohemian Polka. A great promoter of Polish folk music abroad was pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, who often incorporated folklore into his works.

It’s sometimes been suggested to me that the polka is Polish, and that its name indicates that origin. But no. First, on the dance, from Wikipedia:

The polka is originally a Czech dance and genre of dance music familiar throughout all of Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the nineteenth century in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. The polka remains a popular folk music genre in many European and American countries, and is performed by many folk artists.

And on the name, which has nothing to do with Poland etymologically:

noun polka: ORIGIN mid 19th century: via French and German from půlka ‘half-step’, from půl ‘half’. (from NOAD)

Then on pole dances, pole dancers, and pole dancing. From my 12/17/17 posting “Xmas follies 2017: the shirtless men of the season”, in a section on pole dancing, this quote from Wikipedia:

Pole dance combines dance and acrobatics centered on a vertical pole. This performance art form takes place not only in gentleman’s clubs as erotic dance, but has also recently gained popularity as a mainstream form of fitness, practiced by many enthusiasts in gyms and in dedicated dance studios.

As practiced at the Club Boom-Boom in #2, the pole dance was surely an erotic performance.

[Note on the semantics of compounds. There’s a fairly sizable collection of N + N compounds of the form X dance, where X refers to some inanimate object serving as an essential prop in the dance: sword dance, broom dance, (Hungarian) bottle dance, for instance. A subtype of this larger type consists of specifically erotic dance forms: pole dance, but also fan dance and bubble dance.

From NOAD:

noun fan dance: a dance in which the female performer is apparently nude and remains partly concealed throughout by large fans.

and from Wikipedia:

The bubble dance is an erotic dance made famous by Sally Rand in the 1930s. The dancer (sometimes naked) dances with a huge bubble shaped like a balloon or ball placed between her body and the audience to make some interesting poses.

Sally Rand long defined for me (as a kid) the ideal of an erotic burlesque dancer. From Wikipedia:

Sally Rand (born Helen Gould Beck; April 3, 1904 – August 31, 1979) was an American burlesque dancer, vedette, and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance.

She wowed them with the fans — and got arrested for it, several times — at the 1939 World’s Fair (in Queens).]

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