Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Orienting your speech (balloon)

May 18, 2022

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro strip, with a detective in a pickle:


(#1) Since the readers of the strip are taking the point of view of the detective, we are in the same pickle (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

How did this happen? Well, first, in this strip, speech balloons are treated as physical objects (containing a representation of speech) that people carry around with them and display to others. So when RH (the hood on the right) is talking to LH (the hood on the left), facing him, with his back to D (the detective), his speech balloon is also facing LH, with its back side to D, so that it can’t be read (by D, or by us).

But wait. This assumes that we are viewing things as if we were in a theater, fixed in our seats while the story unfolds in front of us on stage; what we can see (and hear) depends on how the actors orient themselves. Suppose instead that we’re watching (and listening to) a film; then the cameras (and microphones) go wherever the director wants them to, providing a constantly shifting visual (and auditory) focus on the unfolding narrative.

If the cartoon view is filmic rather than theatrical, then the speech balloons could show us whatever the cartoonist wants us to see — and that can be done even if speech balloons are treated as physical objects (rather than as meta-information). Yes, there are examples.

I know, nobody expects the filmic exposition. (And no, I won’t stop working this Pythonic gag.)

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The heifer executive

May 17, 2022

Yesterday’s wry Rhymes With Orange strip, wordless and spare-looking, but packed with tons of meaning on two fronts, the dairy and the managerial; meanwhile, it presents a challenging exercise in cartoon understanding.


(#1) If you see that there’s something sweetly funny about a dairy cow managing a business, well, that will do — but the pleasure of the cartoon is in the details

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Bingo!

May 16, 2022

Today’s morning name, which led me back to an onomatomanic Zippy strip from 7/3/21 (yes, I work extremely slowly):


(#1) Zippyesque repetitive phrase disorder, aka onomatomania, fixated on exploding magic bingo bombs

This being a Zippy strip, exploding magic bingo bombs are a real thing; Bill Griffith doesn’t just make up stuff like this.

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Now serving at the Raven Cafe

May 11, 2022

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with the POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy = Edgar Allan Poe (the American writer and poet) + po’ boy (the superb New Orleans submarine sandwich):


(#1) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy is a N1 + N2 compound N, understood as having the head, N2, semantically associated with the modifier, N1, by (the referent of) N2’s being named after (the referent of) N1 — parallel to the Woody Allen Sandwich (a tower of corned beef and pastrami) at NYC’s Carnegie Deli

(Plus the allusion to Poe’s poem The RavenQuoth the raven, “Nevermore” — in Grimm’s, “I had it once, but… nevermore”.)

If you were a betting person, you would surely put some money on this MGG strip as not being the first to use this particular POP — of course, that would be fine, it’s all in how you develop the joke — and you would win.

Just on this blog, in Zippy postings from 2016 and a Rhymes With Orange posting in 2017.

Plus bonuses: a texty with a pun turning on the ambiguity of /póbòj/ as either po’ boy or Poe boy; and two cartoons turning on Edgar Allan Poe / Po’ Boy understood as a Source or Ingredient compound (parallel to shrimp po’ boy) — yes, Edgar Allan Poe in a po’ boy, in it, good enough to eat.

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The discovery of smoke

May 8, 2022

A Mick Stevens cartoon from the New Yorker of 4/18:


(#1) The giant black cloud of smoke, largely obscuring its discoverer, made me laugh out loud when this issue arrived last month

But I didn’t post about the cartoon because it seemed to have neither a linguistics point nor a gender & sexuality point (nor to engage with other of my passions — music, art, food, plants, animals, mathematics, men’s bodies, shapenote singing, Switzerland, my medical conditions, and so on).

Ah, man of little faith. There is almost always a linguistics point to be found; and, if I’m willing to exercise some ingenuity, a gay point too. And so it is here.

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Flagging your identity

May 7, 2022

Friday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro (Wayno’s title: “Logo Design”):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

There’s a relatively straightforward implicature from what Superman says, that there was a time when he didn’t wear an identifying logo — “the big red emblem” — but used only his spit curl (BrE kiss curl) to identify himself.

(Well, there is the rest of the costume, including the cape, but I suppose the idea is that those items would merely identify him as some superhero or another, speeding through the streets and airspace of Metropolis, but would fail to distinguish him from all the others. While the spit curl would have been something unique; it could have been, oh, a goatee, red eye shadow, pixy ears, a big butch metal neck chain, red knee pads with S on them, brass knuckles, high-heeled boots, any manner of things, but a spit curl ought to work.)

As it happens, in his early appearances, starting with Action Comics #1 in June 1938, Superman had the S shape on his chest, but not on his forehead. What to make of that? — Has he forgotten? Is he confabulating? Or does his use of “is too subtle” not implicate a spit-curl-only period?

Perhaps it merely conveys that when he started his career he, or maybe Martha Kent, realized that spit curls alone apparently are, as a general matter, insufficient to distinguish exceptional individuals from the herd, so added the logo from the beginning; in that case, he might have said “an S-shaped spit curl apparently would have been too subtle [for our purposes]”, so they axed the spit curl completely in favor of the much less subtle logo.

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Bro-xclamation

April 23, 2022

If you wanna be one of the guys, you gotta talk like one of the guys. The lesson of this masculinity cartoon by Hartley Lin in the New Yorker of 4/25 & 5/2:

Being one of the boys here is fitting into (what I’ve called) a male band, a group of mutually supportive, like-minded, and like-acting bros. (See the section on “The social organization of men in modern America” in my 1/6/21 posting “Another 1996 Superbowl moment”.) Like-acting because the band monitors its members’ behavior and enforces the band norms, which the band members see as matters of masculinity display.

Two kinds of masculinity display. A core type that I’ll call negative masculinity display, characterized by avoidance of anything that smacks of women or girls. And a more purely conventional type — positive masculinity display — characterized by adhering to local norms of behavior that are simply “how guys do it” — stuff that males pick up from other males. (The terminology is loosely based on negative and positive politeness; see the Wikipedia section on the politeness types, following Brown & Levinson.)

Green Hand (who’s a green ‘inexperienced’ ranch hand) has come up short on a linguistic bit of positive masculinity in this band of ranch hands: as the older hand explains to him in an avuncular way, the appropriate bro-xclamation there for expressing exuberance is yee-haw, not yahoo. Now, if Green Hand had used yoo-hoo, he would have been off on two linguistic counts: in negative masculinity (yoo-hoo is fairly strongly gendered, for use primarily by women); and in actual semantic content, yoo-hoo being a call, not an expression of emotion.

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Three cartoons for 4/12/22

April 12, 2022

(Warning: as is my way, a soupçon of smart-ass street talk.)

Two on gendered topics, plus another cartoon that’s incomprehensible unless you recognize one of its elements (and only incidentally has a gendered bit in that element).

Masculine identity for young teens in a One Big Happy (a re-play from 4/26/10 in my comics feed today); a display of femininity in today’s Rhymes With Orange; and then, in today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, on the equipment needed for a night lighthouse (with an incidental display of maleness).

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Easter bunnies

April 10, 2022

(Intensely into men’s sexual parts and man-on-man sexual acts, in street language, so completely inappropriate for kids and the sexually modest.)

Today is Palm Sunday, and then next weekend come Good Friday (plus the first day of Passover) and Easter Sunday. (I might have left the church, but I still have the liturgical calendar in my head.) The religious holiday of Easter is, as the Christians tell it, a remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

The modern American secular holiday of Easter is a wholly different occasion, with Easter parades (with hats), Easter bunnies (and some chicks), Easter baskets (lined with green faux-grass), Easter eggs (actual hard-boiled eggs, candy eggs of many sorts, decorative eggs of plastic, metal, jewels, whatever), egg hunts, chocolate, Peeps, god knows what else. All of it at some considerable distance from Golgotha.

For Easter this year, two things: a Mike Twohy cartoon in the 4/11/22 issue of the New Yorker. On rabbits, easter egg hunts, and modern corporate culture. And then in an e-mail ad a few days ago for a Next Door Studios gay porn flick for Easter. Featuring Easter eggs, a grotesque outsized Easter Bunny figure, and a visual metaphor for gay spitroasting (a three-man sexual act) — those eggs are poised at both ends of a naked, sexually receptive man.

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The Aussie firedog

April 8, 2022

(There will be a few excursions in passing about men’s bodies and man-on-man sex. If you can manage an appearance or two of the sexual verb fuck, you’ll be ok.)

From Ann Burlingham a couple days ago, a greeting card with a photo from the 2020 Australian Firefighters calendar, showing a man and his dog:


(#1) How to read the man, how to read the dog, and how to read the relationship between them

It turns out that there’s an amazing amount of content packed into this photo — I’ll try to reveal a bit of it here — and the photo leads to much more, including andirons, Dalmatians, lexicography, and the cartoonist George Booth.

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