Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Caribou with a pair

March 14, 2019

From Chris Waigl on the 10th, this bulletin from Alaska, the 2/24 Nuggets cartoon by Jamie Smith (inksnow.blogspot.com) in her local paper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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[Chris:] [Since the cartoon is set in Alaska]  the animals depicted presumably are caribou (NOT reindeer). Note that in caribou, females have antlers, often quite elaborate ones.

Also [since it’s illegal to kill caribou cows, but legal to hunt bulls,] the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a remarkable multi-page illustrated leaflet about sexing caribou in the wild [here]

Ok: the idiom grow a pair; antlers on female caribou/reindeer; the distinction between caribou and reindeer; and as a bonus, an Ink & Snow blog posting “Bear Den” from 3/10 on the use of trademarked characters in cartoons.

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Car wash cartoon understanding

March 13, 2019

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro cartoon:


(#1)(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 7 in this strip — see this Page.)

You need to recognize that the cartoon takes place in a garage and you need to know that detailing is a kind of car care. And you need to recognize that Nick is the Devil (note horns and tail). That’s all pretty easy.

Then you need to know what detailing a car has to do with the Devil — and for that, if you don’t know the saying The devil (or Devilis in the detail(s), you’re just stuck. You’ve missed a devil of a pun (on detail).

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Roland B. McRiver

March 11, 2019

In my comics feed yesterday (presumably originally in print on 2/11), a One Big Happy in which Ruthie uses a doll to take on the personality of Tina Turner covering the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Proud Mary” — “Rollin’ on the River”:


(#1) Ruthie burlesquing “Rollin’ on the River” as “Roland B. McRiver”

Background: the CCR song, the Tina Turner version, Tina Turner herself, the Tiny Tears doll — a ton of pop culture. And then Ruthie’s burlesque, which reproduces, in its mangled way (Joe: “Make her stop. PLEASE!”), all three verses of the original and its chorus.

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Boynton: hippos and an occasional pig

March 10, 2019

Cue from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky yesterday, to a posting by Sandra Boynton on Facebook on the 7th:

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Day 5,347 of my quixotic project to entirely redraw my seven earliest board books. I’m doing this so that the line and colors will print better, and the layout is better balanced. I hope. (It’s really very fun, in a hyperfocused sort of way.)

EDZ recommended reading the comments, “for adorable linguistic content”. Indeed: on naming conventions and on the cot/caught merger, among other things.

And then a Boynton for Pi Day, coming up this week (on the 14th). With a celebratory pig for the occasion.

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Hard Tundra

March 4, 2019

Adventures in cross-dialect understanding in the One Big Happy strips of 2/1 and 2/2, both featuring Ruthie and Joe’s playmate James:

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The MetaCat

March 3, 2019

From various friends on Facebook who know that I’m interested in meta-comics, this 4/21/17 Imbattable strip by Pascal Jousselin, in an English translation:


(#1) Imbattable (‘Unbeatable’) is a bandit superhero in a yellow and black costume

Among Imbattable’s superpowers is his ability to break the walls of the cartoon’s panels and freely move between them. With the result that temporarily, in the fourth panel, the cat is in two places at once — a phenomenon that unsettles both the cat and the old lady.

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The wherewolf

March 3, 2019

Passed on by Joelle Stepian Bailard, this Cyanide and Happiness strip by Rob DenBleyker from 9/30/10:

A tour of the interrogative words of English.

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Body-location, event-location

February 27, 2019

The One Big Happy from 1/31, expoiting a pervasive ambiguity in location adverbials, in this case the interrogative where:


(#1) Body-location where (Joe’s intended interpretation) vs. event-location where (Ruthie’s perceived interpretation)

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Eat the sugar bomb for the beanie

February 27, 2019

A series of three Calvin and Hobbes strips (re-run on the 25th, 26th, and 27th) in which Calvin undertakes to eat four boxes of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs to get a gee-whiz official beanie. A return to cartoonist Bill Watterson’s attacks on sugary breakfast cereals and the way they are marketed to children, especially through the stratagem of describing them as part of a healthful breakfast (in #2 below):

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Inhaling pop culture

February 27, 2019

Today’s Zits, featuring teenage boys goofing off, but in a specific way:

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Thereby presenting an exercise in cartoon understanding that’s a snap if you’re plugged into American pop culture of the past century, but is something of a challenge otherwise.

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