A jointed-limb portmanteau and a sugary front-clipping

Two recent Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strips, from the 15th and (for St. Patrick’s Day) the 17th, both of linguistic interest: among other things, the portmanteau arthropodcast in the first; and the front-clipping ‘shmallows (for marshmallows, of the psychedelic sort) in the second:

A jointed-limb portmanteauarthropod podcast, with shared material pod:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

The elements of the portmanteau:

arthropod. From Wikipedia:

An arthropod (from Ancient Greek ἄρθρον (arthron) ‘joint’, and πούς (pous) ‘foot’ (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages.

The name comes from the jointed appendages.

Arthropods include spiders, crustaceans (among them, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, and shrimps), insects, millipedes, and centipedes. Arthropods differ in their number of legs: insects 6, spiders 8, crustaceans 10 (plus some number of jointed feeding appendages — 6 for shrimp, 8 for lobsters, for example); note the (apparent) differences in leg count between the three otherwise very similar arthropods in the cartoon.

podcast. from NOAD:

noun podcast: a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. ORIGIN early 21st century: from iPod + broadcast.

A note on Greek arthr-on and Latin art-us ‘joint (of the body)’. These show up in English in a variety of places, including, for the first:

— noun arthritis: from NOAD:

painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. ORIGIN mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek, from arthron ‘joint’.

— adjective arthrous: from OED 3 Dec. 2008 (latest version published online March 2018):

(Etymology: < ancient Greek ἄρθρον joint, (in grammar) the [definite] article [a metaphorical extension of the body-part usage]) Grammar. Of a [Classical or Biblical] Greek noun: used with the article. Opposed to anarthrous. [1st cite 1832]

The adjective as grammatical term has been extended to noun usage in languages other than Greek, in particular to such usage in English: in arthrous ‘having a (definite) grammatical article (the river Rhine, the Danube River)’ and anarthrous ‘lacking one (Lake Michigan, Great Bear Lake)’. See the Page on this blog on postings about arthrousness.

Then on English items traceable back to Latin artus ‘joint (of the body)’.

— noun article: from NOAD:

1 a particular item or object: small household articles | articles of clothing. 2 a piece of writing included with others in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication: an article about middle-aged executives. 3 a separate clause or paragraph of a legal document or agreement, typically one outlining a single rule or regulation: [as modifier]:  it is an offense under Article 7 of the treaty. 4 Grammar the definite or indefinite article.

You might reasonably ask why these four senses are being treated as instances of “the same” lexical item, rather than being treated as two or more separate items; in particular, what’s sense 4 doing in there? Why isn’t it article4?

The answer is, of course, that dictionaries group senses into entries on the basis of shared etymology, not mental relatedness, So NOAD‘s etymological note for the entry with these four senses is crucial:

ORIGIN Middle English (denoting a separate clause of the Apostles’ Creed): from Old French, from Latin articulus ‘small connecting part’, diminutive of artus ‘joint’.

So a metaphorical extension of a presumed articulus ‘small joint (of the body)’ — a finger joint, say, versus the hip or shoulder joint — to  any small connecting part then serves as the basis for specialized senses in different contexts (including the domain of grammatical terminology).

A sugary front-clipping. In a richly textured cartoon that incorporates a wide range of allusions:

(#2) (3 Bizarro symbols in this one) The leprechaun drug dealer offers the St. Patrick’s kid some magic marshmallows — ‘shmallows — from Lucky Charms cereal (Wayno’s title: “Trippy Charms”); in the real world the high you might get from Lucky Charms is from its high sugar content, not from psychedelic marshmallows

(You might stop and reflect on how much background knowledge you have to access to understand just this much of the content of the cartoon. But wait! There’s more!)

Lucky Charms, marshmallows, and leprechauns. It’s no accident that #2 appeared on St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday celebrating the patron saint of Ireland — hence the appearance of the leprechaun, the mischievous sprite of Irish folklore, and the reference to the rainbow (leprechauns commonly represented as guarding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow).

Lucky Charms cereal ties leprechauns to marshmallows. From Wikipedia:

Lucky Charms is an American brand of breakfast cereal produced by the General Mills food company since 1964. The cereal consists of toasted oat pieces and multi-colored marshmallow shapes (or marshmallow bits). The label features a leprechaun mascot, Lucky, animated in commercials.

(#3) Lucky, ready to charm you with his marshmallows

Front-clipping and psychedelia. Clipping is an abbreviatory process in which phonological material is omitted, as when both laboratory and Labrador (the name of a dog breed) are clipped to lab. Back-clipping / final clipping (as with lab) is by far the most common type, but front-clipping / initial clipping is not unknown, as in rents / ‘rents for parents.

Which brings us to shrooms / ‘shrooms. From NOAD, which doesn’t recognize the variant spelled with an apostrophe to stand for the omitted material:

noun shroominformal, mainly US a mushroom, especially one with hallucinogenic properties.

Psychedelic shrooms are also known as magic mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms, with psychedelic shroom often spelled with the apostrophe of omission. In my experience, the spelling with the apostrophe virtually always refers to psychedelic fungi. Which means that a front-clipping of marshmallows, spelled with an apostrophe and the initial remnant SH plus consonant, will strongly evoke ‘shrooms‘shmallows are then almost surely hallucinogenic, and you would be wise to be cautious about accepting such marshmallows from a leprechaun, however much they might look like everyday Lucky Charms.

Being the rainbow. “Try one of these and you’ll BE the rainbow”, the leprechaun tempts, hoping to hook the kid on Trippy Charms (the leprechaun’s eyes suggest that he’s pretty far into a trip himself) — and so evokes a second ad theme, in the “taste the rainbow” campaign for Skittes-brand fruit-flavored candies.


See my 8/23/13 posting “Share the rainbow”.

2 Responses to “A jointed-limb portmanteau and a sugary front-clipping”

  1. bashurst Says:

    When I was young, some older people still spelled “bus” with the initial apostrophe, meaning they had omitted “omni” but were not so ignorant that they didn’t know the “correct” spelling of the word. I used to look on this as the written equivalent of a wink.

  2. Nancy Friedman Says:

    One of my favorite podcast names is Gastropod, which is not about mollusks. Rather, it “looks at food through the lens of science and history.” https://gastropod.com/

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