Archive for the ‘Jokes’ Category

The sourdough self-starter

August 12, 2023

The Rhymes With Orange strip of 5/9/21, with a play on two senses of self-starting (and self-starter):

(#1) The strip illustrates the noun self-starter, very roughly ‘an independent go-getter’, which has a derivative adjective self-starting; but the strip is about making sourdoughs, which come in two types, the first of which is said to be self-starting (in its fermentation), while the other type needs a push from baker’s yeast to ferment properly

So: a kind of pun — indeed the best sort of pun, in which the meanings of both of the expressions involved (whether homophones, as with self-starter (and self-starting) here; or merely near-homophones, in “imperfect puns”) apply to the situation in the joke or cartoon. In #1, the sourdough is a self-starter both in the go-getter sense (through the miracle of personification, in which the dough is a human-like being) and, since no yeast is required, also in the self-starting sense.


Aardvarkman on the Impostor Syndrome cartoon

June 15, 2023

About a Jules Feiffer cartoon — still not unearthed (and it’s possible that there’s more than one) — that I recollect one way (described in yesterday’s posting “The Impostor Syndrome cartoon”) but cartoonist Dave Sim (creator of Cerebus the Aardvark) recollects a different way, in a review of Feiffer’s 1993 book The Man in The Ceiling, as quoted on the A Moment of Cerebus blog (“an unofficial cite celebrating the comics art of Dave Sim & Gerhard”) in 2015.

In today’s installment, the Sim account. And then a brisk survey of  Sim, the strip Cerebus, and the character Cerebus (and yes, there will be an explanation of the name).


The Impostor Syndrome cartoon

June 14, 2023

Whiling away yesterday morning at the CA DMV in Redwood City — being shepherded by caregiver Erick Barros through the process of renewing my senior ID from the state of California, which involved an interview and then a new photo — I entertained Erick with a retelling of the Jules Feiffer Impostor Syndrome (IS) cartoon as I recalled it, because our conversation had wandered onto the IS and because the joke that’s the hinge of the cartoon plays with ambiguity in a surprising, and especially satisfying, way.

Today I’ll just re-play the account in my 10/30/14 posting “Impostor Syndrome” and (exploiting the resources of OED3) unpack that joke into the lexical items that make it tick.

(It turns out that the cartoon has been described elsewhere (in cartoonist Dave Sim’s account of his conversation with Feiffer about an Irwin Corpulent cartoon of Feiffer’s), as having a very different resolution for the IS story. Four solid hours of searching through the materials available to me — including every damn cartoon in Feiffer’s thick volume Explainers: The Complete VILLAGE VOICE strips (1956-66) — did not, alas, produce an actual IS cartoon, neither the one I recollected nor the one Sim recollected. That search goes on.)


Don’t ask! 2

May 25, 2023

A Peanuts strip, featuring Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty:

(#1) But wait! Patty’s Don’t ask! is not a request for Charlie not to ask about her feelings (which would directly contradict her requesting Charlie to ask about her feelings); instead, it’s an exclamation (in Yiddish English) conveying Patty’s dismay at feeling really crappy

We have been through this use of Don’t ask! previously on this blog, in the aptly named posting of 1/31/21, “Don’t ask!”:



December 22, 2022

Two especially satisfying examples of the elfshelfism, a riddle form presented visually:

(#1) Image: a cute furry mammal clinging to a bone. Punchline: lemur on a femur. (note: like elf and shelf, lemur and femur are (perfect) rhymes; unlike elf and shelf, however, they’re rare and remarkable nouns)

(#2) Image: a buxom woman reclining provocatively on a pile of Mexican food. Punchline: Dolly [Parton] on a tamale. (note: for most American speakers, Dolly and tamale are perfect rhymes, but for a substantial minority of American speakers, and for many others, they’re half-rhymes)


The pickle slicer joke The pickle slicer joke

July 31, 2022

On this blog, a Bob Richmond comment on my 7/29 posting “Many a pickle packs a pucker”, with an old dirty joke that turns on the line “I stuck my dick in the pickle slicer” — with Bob noting, “I’m sure Arnold can provide an appropriate grammatical analysis”. The hinge of the joke is a pun on pickle slicer, which is ambiguous between ‘a device for slicing pickles’ and ‘someone who slices pickles (esp. as a job)’. You don’t need a syntactician to tell you that, but what I can tell you is that this isn’t some isolated fact about the expression pickle slicer, but is part of a much larger pattern that a linguist like me can bring to explicit awareness for you, so that you can appreciate something of the system of English that you (in some sense) know, but only tacitly, implicitly.


Classic joke #444

July 22, 2022

We might as well just give them numbers. (This particular joke is 2/3 of a devil.) From Verdant on my Twitter on 7/15/22, this old Shoe strip:

(#1) Body-location (of the tattoo) vs. event-location (of the tattooing); Verdant provides this as a comment on my 2/27/19 posting “Body-location, event-location”, where #444 appears in a One Big Happy strip and is traced back at least as far as the antique Joe Miller’s Jest Book

To which Verdant adds yes-I-said-yes Molly Bloom’s:

confession when I used to go to Father Corrigan he touched me father and what harm if he did where and I said on the canal bank like a fool but whereabouts on your person my child


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).


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:


The cadenza and the coda

April 29, 2022

Morning names for today (4/29), set off by a cadenza in a Mozart piano concerto that was playing when I got up just after midnight for a brief whizz break. The word cadenza led me immediately to coda, both musical bits coming at the end, also both sounding sort of Italian (which, in fact, they once were), indeed sounding very similar at their beginnings (/kǝd/ vs. /kod/) — but it turns out that though their etymologies both go back to Latin, a cadenza is a falling (or, metaphorically, a death) and a coda is a tail.

(#1) A tv ad: Help me! I’m in a cadenza and I can’t get up!

(#2) A linguistic Tom Swifty: “Coda, my ass! That’s a coati or a koala, I don’t know which”, quoted Cody in Kodiak.