Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Eustace Tilley for 2022

November 9, 2022

Personal background: I decided to declare today to be a Sick Day and have been doing only the minimal things of life, mostly dozing fitfully in my recliner chair, wrapped up in my bathrobe. (Meanwhile, workmen did serious work on the balcony above my patio, so I had them and their ladders and noisy tools all over my patio, but I just let this activity drift by on the fringes of my consciousness.)

Mingled in with my tortured dreams were actual useful thoughts about postings — I am pretty much incapable of not plying my craft, even in the most unlikely circumstances — including a really neat follow-up to my 11/7 posting “Centennial moments in NYC”, which has a section on the The New Yorker’s first cover illustration, a dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle — the gentleman now referred to as “Eustace Tilley”, who serves as a kind of mascot for the magazine. Rea Irvin’s original Tilley cover is used every year on the issue closest to the anniversary date of February 21, sometimes with a newly drawn variation in its place.

So, I wondered, what was the 2022 cover like?

Wow! Kadir Nelson’s “High Style”, with Eustace as a proud Black woman in butterfly-ornamented apparel, including a mask for the pandemic.

And then I wondered when you crossed the line from a (new) interpretation, version, or variant of an original cultural item (like the Eustace Tilley image) and moved into the territory of an abstract form, format, or pattern (something you might think of as a meme or trope — Eustace as a vehicle for, or expression of, cultural content). And I even thought of a linguistic parallel to this distinction: in playful variation of a fixed expressions vs. a snowclone.

What follows now is not a posting elaborating on all of this — I’m guessing I have maybe half an hour before I’m poleaxed by exhaustion again — but just a teaser. Please be patient.

(more…)

The proverbial dead cat

October 12, 2022

The 10/10 Piccolo / Price Rhymes With Orange cartoon is delightful, but incomprehensible if you don’t know the proverb whose standard form is now Curiosity killed the cat:


(#1) If you see that the proverb is the key to understanding the cartoon, you’ll be able to appreciate the pun on curiosity — with one sense given explicitly in the cartoon (in curiosity shop), the other available only implicitly, through the proverb and the reference to killing in the cartoon

The two senses, from NOAD:

noun curiosity: 1 a strong desire to know or learn something: filled with curiosity, she peered through the window | curiosity got the better of me, so I called him. 2 a strange or unusual object or fact: he showed them some of the curiosities of the house.

Sense 2 gives us curiosity shop, a store (like the one in the cartoon) that offers curiosities for sale; and cabinet of curiosities, a collection of curiosities for display. And from sense 2 we get the noun curio for the sorts of thing (visible in the cartoon) on sale at a curiosity shop:

noun curio: a rare, unusual, or intriguing object: they had such fun over the wonderful box of curios that Jack had sent from India. ORIGIN mid 19th century: abbreviation of curiosity. (NOAD)

(more…)

The Monster and the Minotaureador

September 21, 2022

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”.

(more…)

Three peanuts meet in a bar

August 18, 2022

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, requiring a boatload of popcultural knowledge to understand:


(#1) The easy part: these are three anthropomorphic peanuts, M, M, F from left to right, and they are sitting at a bar, with drinks in front of them (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Somehow the meeting of these three exemplifies the N1 + N2 compound N wingnut / wing-nut / wing nut (which has 4 senses in NOAD, plus a bunch more you can imagine). But how?

(more…)

Many a pickle packs a pucker

July 29, 2022

O pickle, my love / What a beautiful pickle you are!

Blame it on Nancy Friedman (@Fritinancy on Twitter), who took us down to the pickle plant in Santa Barbara on 7/18, citing these 5 delights, with their label descriptions:

Unbeetables (pickled beets with unbeatable heat) – pun on unbeatable

Carriots of Fire (pickled carrots to light your torch) – punning allusion to the film Chariots of Fire

¡Ay Cukarambas! (dill-icious spicy dill pickle spears) – complex portmanteau of the American Spanish exclamation ¡ay caramba! and the noun cuke ‘cucumber’

Asparagusto (pickled asparagus with a kick) – portmanteau of asparagus and gusto

Bread & Buddhas (semi-sweet bread & butter pickles) – pun on bread and butter (pickles)

(#1)

Pickles are automatically phallicity territory, and the Pacific Pickle Works in Santa Barbara CA (website here) doesn’t shy away from their penis potential, augmenting it by references to phallic carrots, asparagus spears, and unpickled cucumbers. If you have the eye for it, we all live in Penis Town.

(more…)

Take it from the man on the can

July 17, 2022

Another adventure in dubious commercial names and slogans. In the past few days the hyperkinetic tv pitchman Phil Swift — the id of the Flex Seal company, the Billy Mays of liquid rubber — has been assaulting my senses with a slogan that annoys me every time — just the way it was supposed to — because I get the sleazy sense of the commercial’s slogan

Take it from the man on the can

(‘from the guy sitting on the toilet (doing his business)’) instead of the innocent sense ‘from the man whose picture is on the label of the can (of Flex Seal)’. (In passing, I note the mini-festival of metonymy here: the man isn’t on the can, his picture is; well, not on the can itself, but on the label affixed to the can.) Let me start with a photo of an exemplary Flex Seal can:


(#1) You will note the absence, on the label, of a face of any person whatsoever, much less Phil Swift; as far as I can tell, the labels are all like that, and that’s no accident: Swift’s face is entirely beside the point — you’ll see that plenty in the commercials — because the ad’s all about taking your thoughts, memorably, into (or onto) the toilet

(more…)

What I tell you three times is true

July 16, 2022

Today’s Zippy strip takes us to triple Dinerland in Rockford MI (as it was before it closed in 2011), in a celebration of the rule of three — a narrative principle that favors trios of events or characters in all sorts of contexts:


(#1) The Three Musketeers (in the Dumas novel and the movies), the Three Little Pigs (vs. the Big Bad Wolf in the fable), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (the 1966 epic spaghetti Western), and the Three Stooges (the vaudeville and slapstick comedy team best known for their 190 short films)

The rule of three in a little while, but first, the diners of Rockford MI (a town of a few thousand people about 10 miles north of Grand Rapids).

(more…)

Stories from Sloganville

July 13, 2022

(What can I say? There will be dipsticks and dipshits, so eventually this posting will be at best borderline for kids and the sexually modest.)

News commentator explains that in citing the slogan

You can pay me now, or pay me later. (the pay-me slogan)

the day before, he’d attributed it to the wrong advertiser, adding that the right one was FRAM oil filters. The slogan conveying that you can pay some money now for a good oil filter — or you’ll pay more later when your car breaks down (though of course with wider applicability, conveying at least that you can pay for prevention, or you’ll have to pay more for the remedy).

And then added with a big grin that FRAM was also responsible for the slogan

The dipstick tells the story. (the dipstick slogan)

conveying that you should check the dipstick regularly (and change the oil when it looks dirty) and serving more generally as an exhortation to monitor the state of any important mechanism regularly — in particular, using the sexual slang dipstick ‘penis’, as urging men to check their dicksticks regularly to make sure they’re in working order.

The dipstick slogan came first, 80 years ago. By thirty years into its career, the slang uses of dipstick (for both ‘penis’ and ‘fool, stupid or incompetent person; obnoxious person’) were spreading, so FRAM switched to the pay-me slogan, which is much harder to raunch up (but not impossible, in a world in which high-end prostitutes, of both sexes, accept payment by credit card).

(more…)

Some people call me Piggie

July 11, 2022

Appearing in my FB as a response to my 7/4 posting (for Fathers Day) “I am a good Boy for you, Daddy” (about Daddy – Boy relationships), this remarkable billboard (without identification or comment), featuring a pig-cop character — Mister Piggie — getting oral with an inert character Boy :


(#1) Pig Kisses Boy! Pig because he’s a cop? Pig because he’s unable to control his sexual impulses? (or, of course, both); I suppose that’s supposed to be life-saving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but still: ick

The text looks like a book title (or maybe a quotation from a book), attributed to some Bobby Peters we’re expected to recognize. Is the billboard advertising a book by football player and game analyst Bobby Peters? About whom I had trouble getting much information, but then that’s an alien world to me. I spent maybe half an hour fruitlessly trying to chase Bobby Peters down, and then a search on “some call him pig” turned up a Boing Boing posting “Some call him pig!” by Rob Beschizza from 3/3/22. To start with, the football Bobby Peters has nothing to do with it; it’s about a Columbus GA mayor named Bobby Peters. And there’s a 50-year history of “Some call him Pig!”.

(more…)

Toad away, groaning

July 6, 2022

From Verdant on Twitter this morning, a link to this carefully set-up elaborate pun from cartoonist Eric Scott (in a strip published today):


(#1) The set-up introduces the crucial words, but indirectly:

(more…)