Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Masculinity comics 7

October 17, 2021

Now graduating from boys and normative masculinity to men and normative masculinity, but still in the comics. Via Verdant on Twitter, the Lieutenant and Sarge in an old Beetle Bailey (apparently from 3/30/65):


At issue is the status of illegible vs. neat handwriting with respect to normative masculinity.

Sarge, offering himself as an authority on the matter, identifies his own illegible writing as rough, and is about to brand the Lieutenant’s neat writing as, well, at least soft.

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The scent of a pumpkin

October 17, 2021

It’s that time of the year again, you can smell it in the air: Pumpkin Spice Season. For some, a keenly arousing moment, as in this e-card (#1 in my 10/26/17 posting “Three more pumpkin-spicy bits”):


(#1) A POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau): verb pumpkin spice up = noun pumpkin spice + verb spice up  ‘make more interesting or exciting’

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Masculinity comics 6

October 16, 2021

A fresh installment in this series on boys and (normative) masculinity, in this case illustrating Michael Kimmel’s first rule of the Boy Code and the Guy Code: that “[normative] masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” — in the One Big Happy comic of 9/19:


(#1) The ignominy of having to use the women’s room

Public restrooms in the U.S., especially large ones (in shopping malls, airports, and the like) can be daunting places for children, so it falls to caregivers to help them use the facilities, until they are large enough and experienced enough to cope on their own. Since caregivers for small children in our society are very predominantly women, it falls to women to do this work in most circumstances (family outings being one notable exception).

The consequence is that female caregivers will take a boy into women’s restrooms until the boy objects (as Joe does above) or she decides that he can go it alone (while, typically, she hovers fretfully outside the mensroom). Sites for mothers are packed with agonizing about the situation, and sites for parents in general are packed with complaints about how drastically unaccommodating public toilets are for children.

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A gruop of proofreaders

October 15, 2021

In The Guardian of 2/20/21: “Tom Gauld suggests some literary collective nouns – cartoon”:


(#1) The last collective noun — gruop — excited a certain amount of appalled attention from some readers, who seem not to have gotten the joke

Not just collectives, but terms of venery.

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Desert Island spelling

October 15, 2021

A wrenchingly funny E. S. Glenn cartoon in the latest (10/18/21) issue of the New Yorker:


(#1) The usual tiny cartoon Desert Island now has two neighborhoods: the customary grassy tropical island, plus a small beach zone, suitable for message-bearing  bottles to wash up on

Side notes: the castaway is shoeless, shirtless, and gaunt, his  makeshift cutoffs worn and patched — clearly, in a bad way. Meanwhile, Glenn has contrived to identify the castaway as Black (without shading his skin, as he did for the castaways in an earlier DI cartoon, reproduced below). Further, the cartoon imagines messages in bottles to be a kind of marine postal service, in which specific senders and receivers exchange messages in slow motion over great distances.

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Office zombies

October 12, 2021

The New Yorker daily cartoon for 10/11 by Navied Mahdavian and Asher Perlman commits an unusually long POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau):

“We both have work in the morning.”

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Enduring classics

October 10, 2021

Let me slide into this one.

In yesterday’s posting “Gilligan’s aisle”, I marveled at the fact that a profoundly silly tv show from 1964-67 (Gilligan’s Island) was still available enough to the pop-cultural consciousness to serve as the hook for a punning Bizarro cartoon. It’s achieved some sort of classic status.

And then today’s Rhymes With Orange comic turns on a computer game that counts as antique in that world: the computer tiling game Tetris (released in 1984, for the Electronika 60 computer). The comic:


(#1) Incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t know about the game Tetris and how it looks on the screen; otherwise, this just looks like a peculiar depiction of the idiom rain cats and dogs (whose etymology is unknown, though you can find a pile of inventive speculations about it)

But it seems that pretty much everybody knows about Tetris, so the comic works.

Then, as a bonus, it turns out that today’s Rhymes is a re-play of one from 2010, eleven years ago.

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Gilligan’s aisle

October 9, 2021

The 10/2 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

A pun on isle ‘island’ vs. aisle ‘a passage between shelves of goods in a supermarket or other building’ (aisle sense b in NOAD (below)). But none of this makes any sense unless you know significant details of an American tv comedy from about 55 years ago: Gilligan’s Island (1964-67), in particular, that the show was about seven castaways from a shipwreck, including the goofy Gilligan, attempting to survive on a tropical island. Hence the tropical fruit-flavored rums and liqueurs. (It’s a nice subtle touch that the cartoon Gilligan appears to be lost in his attempt to choose a bottle.)

So: Gilligan’s aisle … Gilligan’s Isle … Gilligan’s Island.

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Masculinity comics 5

October 8, 2021

Start with the Zippy strip of 6/29; focus on the second panel:


(#1) A generic diner setting, plus Nancy‘s cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s three rocks, unaccountably numbered for reference (see my 9/22/17 posting “Three rocks”)

Double dactyls for boys

Snarfity-barfity, Grossout and Slapstick, those
Champions of ick, masters of pow:
Boys by the age of six, nix on the feminine,
Slam with the Stooges, shout it out loud

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Masculinity comics 3

October 7, 2021

On the value of a big brother (and his responsibilities). The One Big Happy from 9/2:


(#1) Joe and his younger sister Ruthie

If Joe had a big brother (not too much older than he was), then by the codes governing masculinity in modern American society, it would be that brother’s duty to join adult male figures (fathers, uncles, coaches, etc.) in instructing Joe (and other younger boys, but especially his younger brother Joe) about the practices, attitudes, and behaviors of normative masculinity, and in enforcing those teachings. Older boys have pretty much full responsibility for the practices, attitudes, and behaviors specific to kids (kids having their own elaborate social worlds); and, in fact, they are the primary vectors passing on normatively masculine values.

The special virtue of a (somewhat) older brother is that not only is he a guide to the normative world of boys, he’s also around a lot of the time, so he’s a kind of built-in wiser buddy. Someone you can, for example,  engage in imaginative conflict play and active adventures with. Cool. And besides that, he’s older and stronger and can be a buffer for you against the world.

Meanwhile, Joe is himself an older brother, but his younger sibling is a girl, and that relationship calls up a different set of responsibilities: not to induct the younger child into the world of her normative gender, but merely to do the buffer thing, to serve as her protector, as a stand-in for her father. We don’t see much of that in the One Big Happy strip, though.

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