Dotty Zippy

The Zippy strip of 9/10, in which our Pinhead, anticipating little balls of flash-frozen ice cream, embraces dot dot dot in two ways at once:

(#1) Ellipsis dots meet Dippin’ Dots at the carnival

Two very different uses of NOAD‘s noun dot-1 ‘a small round mark or spot’ (dot-2 is an archaic noun referring to a dowry):

— one use is a specialized sense referring to written or printed dots, further specialized for use ‘as one of a series of marks to signify omission’ (NOAD); from Wikipedia:

[An] ellipsis … (also known informally as dot dot dot) is a series of dots that indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.

But then even further specialized according to the purposes of the omission. Wikipedia’s musings on the possibilities:

Depending on their context and placement in a sentence, ellipses can indicate an unfinished thought, a leading statement, a slight pause, an echoing voice, or a nervous or awkward silence. Aposiopesis is the use of an ellipsis to trail off into silence — for example: “But I thought he was…” When placed at the end of a sentence, an ellipsis may be used to suggest melancholy or longing.

Zippy’s use in (#1) is of the “leading statement” variety: the ellipsis of anticipation.

— the other use is a fresh metaphor in a brand name, exploiting the visual similarity between small round marks or spots and very small spherical objects, in particular the small round balls of flash-frozen ice cream marketed as Dippin’ Dots. From Wikipedia:

(#2) A rainbow assortment of Dippin’ Dots (Wikipedia photo)

Dippin’ Dots is an ice cream snack invented by Curt Jones in 1988 [originally invented as cow feed when Jones, who specialized in cryogenics, was trying to make efficient fodder for farm animals].. The confection is created by flash freezing ice cream mix in liquid nitrogen. The snack is made by Dippin’ Dots, Inc., headquartered in Paducah, Kentucky.

… Because the product requires storage at temperatures below −40 °C (−40 °F), it is not sold in most grocery stores, as most cannot meet such extreme cooling requirements.

Dippin’ Dots are sold in individual servings at franchised outlets. Many are in stadiums, arenas, shopping malls, and in vending machines, though there are also locations at aquariums, zoos, museums and theme parks.

They come in a huge number of specific flavors. A small selection illustrated here (from the company’s website):

(#3) Ices as well as ice cream; most of the flavors are available by mail order

Now, until I came across the 9/10 Zippy, I’d never heard of Dippin’ Dots, and I still haven’t experienced them. I did look up the company stores closest to me in Palo Alto: (ca. 20 mi. south) in Milpitas, in the Great Mall of the Bay Area; (ca. 40 mi. east) in Livermore, in San Francisco Premium Outlets; (ca. 40 mi. northeast) in Emeryville, on Bay St.; (ca. 50 mi. southwest) in Santa Cruz, on Beach St.; (ca. 55 mi. northeast) in Concord, in the Sun Valley Mall. So: spread sparsely across the landscape.

This was the food part of the program. Now we come to the language part of the program, which is regrettably vast. I’ll do what I can with it, meanwhile asking you to remember where it’s all headed, which is ellipsis dots used to convey anticipation (as in #1). And yes, you will experience Carly Simon and her very pleasant anticipatory earworm.

But today has been yet another Sick Day and it’s very rapidly coming to an end, so I have to put all of this off until tomorrow. If you’ve ever wondered why the geometric figure the ellipse — the oval conic section — is so called, and what the hell that could have to do with ellipsis in language — well, I’ll get to that too.


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