The poutine checkup

Yesterday’s (3/16) Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, with poutine checkup as an outrageous pun on routine checkup — something for the celebratory days of mid-March, from Pi Day on the 14th through St Patrick’s Day today:

(#1) A regular checkup on the state of the patient’s poutine — the fries, cheese curds, and gravy of this Quebecois specialty (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 7 in this strip — see this Page)

Meanwhile, the patient is presented as stereotypically Canuck — among other things, wearing a tuque (that knitted wool watch cap) and earmuffs.

Wayno’s title for the cartoon: Say “eh” — evoking another piece of Canadianness, the discourse particle eh; see, from my 5/18/14 posting “… plus four”, this New Yorker cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz:

(#2) On the (mostly) Canadian discourse particle eh, used (roughly) to confirm the attention of the listener (but appearing here in a medical exam in the place of ah); Canadianness is signaled by the RCMP uniform

Some notes on the pun. On the phonological side, the pun has /p/ corresponding in /r/ in the model — pretty much as far apart as two consonants can be. But  the /r/ in the model is part of a two-word, four-syllable composite nominal (routine checkup) that’s a frequent collocation, so it’s easy to see that a pun is involved (assuming, of course, that you know about poutine).

From NOAD:

adj. routine: performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason: the principal insisted that this was just a routine annual drill.

Here in routine checkup > poutine checkup.

The celebratory days of mid-March, most of them with extensive joke traditions of several kinds:

— 3/14 Pi Day: jokes about π as an irrational number; puns on the syllable /paj/, as in Python; and variety of pie-based jokes and cartoons

— 3/15 Ides of March / Caesar’s Day (with puns on  Ides /ajdz/, jokes about Caesar salad, stabbings, and more); plus a local holiday in my household, Higashi (‘east’) Day, when for many years Jacques and I set off to drive from Palo Alto east to Columbus OH

— 3/16 National Panda Day; and the rarely noted St Poutine’s Day (which I will elaborate on below)

— 3/17 St Patrick’s Day, with jokes and cartoons touching on everything having to do with the Ireland of lore and fantasy

Now a brief digression that combines poutine and St Patrick’s Day. For this we go to — first surprise — Pete’s Poutine in Bellingham WA, not terribly far from Canada, but quite some distance from Poutine Central, back east in Quebec. In any case, here’s some Pete’s Poutine with some especially dark and delicious-looking gravy:


Then it turns out — second surprise — that Pete’s Poutine has on at least one occasion offered a St Patrick’s Day Poutine special. Irish Quebecois eats in the American Pacific Northwest. What a fabulous idea!

Now to much stranger cultural by-ways, in the tale of St Poutine. Very briefly:

— 3/16 St Poutine’s Day:

Émile Zazie, the cheese curd monarch of the Montreal metro, was carried to heaven when an underground reservoir of especially dark and rich poutine gravy gave way and drowned him on the spot. The date of his miraculous transfiguration, March 16th, we now celebrate as St Poutine’s Day. On this day we hoist a can of poutine gravy in his sacred memory.

(#4) St Hubert Poutine Gravy in a 398 ml can

In parts of rural Quebec, St Poutine’s Day totally overshadows the annual celebrations on either side of it — the ecstatic mass stabbing rituals of Caesar’s Day on the Ides of March, 3/15; and the public green emesis accompanying the parades and patriotic displays of St Patrick’s Day on 3/17. St Poutin’s Day is a messy affair — there is no elegant way to appreciate this tripartite miracle of food (the solid basis of the fries; the great gift of the rich squeaky cheese curds; the unifying overarching spirit of the gravy) — but clean-up is a snap compared to what you’re faced with on Caesar’s Day or St Patrick’s Day.

Another day for eating poutine. From the New England Historical Society, “Happy St. Jean Baptiste Day! Live free and eat poutine! Many Americans view Bastille Day as the big French holiday, but for Franco-Americans from Canada it’s St. Jean Baptiste Day on June 24.” (Note: despite the exclaiming, this is a genuine site.)

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