The Monster and the Minotaureador

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with an instance of one of the house specialties — the Psychiatrist cartoon meme — rich in mythic resonances, and incorporating a bovine Nietzschean pun:

Not just any old ruminant on the couch, but the chimeric monster the Minotaur, reflecting guiltily on, oh, the young people sacrificed to him in the Labyrinth, and now confronted with a Theseus figure, in the form of his therapist (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

Wayno’s title, another pun, but a perfect one this time: “Bull Session”.

Truly, I don’t know where to start unpacking all this stuff; it’s all intertwined. Ok, the puns first, beginning with the simplest one:

ruminate. Explicit in the cartoon: figurative ruminate (‘think deeply about something: we sat ruminating on the nature of existence‘ (NOAD)). And then evoked by the cartoon, bulls being cud-chewing animals: literal ruminate (‘(of a ruminant) chew the cud: goats ruminated nonchalantly around them‘ (NOAD)).

bull session. Literal bull — the male bovine — vs. bull in the idiomatic compound bull session; plus literal session, as in therapy session (NOAD‘s 2 [a] a period devoted to a particular activity: gym is followed by a training session) — vs. session in that idiomatic compound:

noun bull session: North American an informal, typically impromptu discussion, especially among a small group: I heard sharper political talk in the all-night bull sessions. (NOAD)

grazing into the abyss. The model for the pun is the catchphrase gazing into the abyss, originally a quotation:

Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.

He who fights with monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

— Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

And then the imperfect pun graze for gaze — ruminants being grazing animals:

verb graze: (of cattle, sheep, etc.) eat grass in a field: cattle graze on the open meadows (NOAD)

The chimeric monster the Minotaur. Which knits everything together. From Wikipedia:

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur is a mythical creature portrayed during classical antiquity with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, a being “part man and part bull”. He dwelt at the center of the Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of King Minos of Crete.

Young men and women were sent into the Labyrinth as sacrifices to the Minotaur; eventually, Theseus slayed the Minotaur (with the aid of Ariadne and her thread, which do not figure in the cartoon).

The portmanteau Minotaureador in my title. A title for Theseus:

Minotaur + toreador ‘bullfighter’ = Minotaureador ‘Minotaur-fighter’

Meanwhile, Minotaur is a compound noun of ancient Greek, composed of the personal name Minōs (for the king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa, whose wife Pasiphaë gave birth to the Minotaur) + tauros ‘bull’.

As for toreador itself: in Spanish,

noun toro ‘bull’ → verb torear ‘to fight bulls’ → noun toreador ‘bullfighter’ (with the agentive suffix –dor)

3 Responses to “The Monster and the Minotaureador”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I’m pretty sure that the “bull” of bull session is a shortening/euphemism for bullshit.

    Also, “slayed”? I’ve come to live with (if not entirely accept) dwelled and kneeled, but this one bothers me.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Agreed on the bull of bull session, which I should have noted.

      As for the PST of slay, slew is way archaic / literary for me (I arch my eyebrows involuntarily when I say it), so slayed is all I’ve got, and I’m reasonably comfortable with it. You, of course, are welcome to opt for the alternative, or to find ways to avoid using a PST for this verb. I won’t diss your choices if you don’t diss mine.

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