Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

The refuse joke

September 25, 2022

Passed on, back on 7/21, by a friend on Facebook, a dumpster texty (of murky origin) with a (N vs. V) pun that works in spelling (REFUSE) but not in pronunciation —

N /ˈrefˌjus/   vs.  V /rəˈfjuz/

— plus, as commentary, Dylan Thomas expanding on the improbable (not to mention grotesque) V reading of the text (as opposed to the obviously intended N one). Which will then take us to Harry Diboula’s “Je refuse”, a French zouk song of lost love, which ended up in romantic Paris from the Kingdom of Kongo by way of the French Caribbean.


(#1) Like all right-minded people, I reject the idea that I — or, more precisely, my bodily remains — should be stored in black plastic sacks and placed in dumpsters. Ick. Je refuse!

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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”.

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Mortal power

September 9, 2022

The 8/11/22 Rhymes With Orange, exploiting an ambiguity in the noun killer as the modifier N1 in N1 + N2 compounds, in this case in killer abs (literal ‘abs that are killers, abs that kill’ vs. figurative ‘abs that are killer / remarkable’):


(#1) In the worlds of advertisements featuring beautiful people, the health and fitness literature, and soft porn, figurative killer abs are commonplace; abs that kill, however, have (so far as I know) never once appeared on a police blotter

Wider topic: the figurative modifiers of mortal power — premodifying killer (killer abs, a killer app), postmodifying of death (the cruise of death, referring to a penetrating sexual facial expression).

Male body parts and sexual connections between men plus a ton of linguistic expressions in their social contexts, what more could I ask for?

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Cartoon-cat fame-naming your cat

September 5, 2022

From my 8/15 posting “Fame-naming and family history”:

My intention was to get on with Cats 4, about naming cats for / after famous cats — in particular, famous fictional cats; in further particular, cats in cartoons and comics. If I name my cat Stallone (after the actor) or Rocky (after the fictional pugilist), I’m fame-naming a cat; if I name my cat Cheshire (from Alice in Wonderland) or Pyewacket (from the Salem witch trials and then various films, for example the wonderful Bell, Book and Candle (1958)), I’m cat-fame-naming my cat; if I name my cat Garfield or Sylvester, I’m cartoon-cat-fame-naming my cat. This is intricate, but pretty straightforward. And the topic of Cats 4 will in fact be the cartoon-cat-fame-naming of cats.

This is Cats 4. Where you could, if you were so moved, name your cat Garfield:


(#1) A lined notebook / journal for cat lovers (available via Amazon)

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The character of a creature

September 5, 2022

… as explored in the playful animal artwork of photographer Yago Partal, available for inspection in his 2017 book Zoo Portraits and for sale from his on-line site. The book cover, which shows a panda character holding a portrait of a koala character:


(#1) The portraits are meant to bring out characteristic features of a creature — not, however, as abstractions, but as embodiments in highly individual animal personages, with their own personal names: Bao the giant panda, Cooper the koala

Yes, I’m playing with two senses of character. From NOAD:

noun character: 1 the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual: running away was not in keeping with her character. … 2 a person [AZ: perhaps, better a personage / a figure / an individual] in a novel, play, or movie: the author’s compassionate identification with his characters.

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CalWord: the Calvin Theory of Word Use

September 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 (the commencement of September) The Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from 9/1/92, reprised in my comics feed on 8/30:


(#1) We can achieve intergenerational incommunicability! Yes we can!

Calvin articulates a view of word use, call it CalWord, which comes in two parts:

Endless lability. Any word can be used to convey any meaning. In the CalWord view, a word is merely substance — pronunciation or spelling — that can be put to any use.  So words are the stem cells of the linguistic world. From NOAD:

compound noun stem cellBiology an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cell arise by differentiation.

Social fencing. Socially distributed variants can serve as social fences, separating the Ins from the Outs and impeding the Outs’ ability to comprehend and communicate with the Ins — impeding, for example, one generation’s ability to comprehend or communicate with the generations after it. The fencing effect is very noticeable for lexical variants — different bits of substance for the same use (soda vs. pop, say); or, especially relevant here, different uses for the same substance (gay ‘lighthearted, carefree’ vs. ‘homosexual’ vs. ‘foolish, stupid, unimpressive’, say).

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Breaking through the wall

August 30, 2022

Today’s Piccolo / Price Rhymes With Orange strip is a play on specific American tv commercials (with some gentle old-age mockery folded in), so will be baffling to any reader who doesn’t recognize the Kool-Aid Man mascot or know the wall-breaking “Oh Yeah!” tv ads featuring KAM:


(#1) There is, however, a hint to the reader in the “So not kool” (with kool instead of cool) in the title panel; note also the generational disparity reinforced by the GenX so there (see my 11/14/11 posting “GenX so“)

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More from 1982

August 29, 2022

… and on comic conventions. Following up on my 8/26/22 posting“Moon Over Palo Alto”, on my 82nd birthday, with reminiscences of 1982: from Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County Facebook site, posted yesterday (my thanks to George V. Reilly on FB today):


(#1) 🐧 Opus tries to get in to see an R-rated shark-from-space archaeologist-adventure flick (a nearly naked Indiana Jones does battle with the Sharknado from Mars) — hoping, perhaps, for some intense violence (disembowelments!), or at least for the whiff of sex (a little skin!)

[BB on the strip for:] July 13, 1982.  A good place to point out what often isn’t obvious to pop-culture fans: there had rarely been comic strip animals that talked to people.  Take a moment to consider this (I never did, not surprisingly).  In movies and comics, animals talked to each other… but hardly ever to us.  Aside from Bugs Bunny (slapstick license, one supposes) and Winnie the Pooh (the imagination of Christopher Robin), it remained, with very few exceptions, an invisible suspension of reality they never dared to go.  -bb

FB commenters noted passing animal-human exchanges in various strips, but Opus interacts with humans as a matter of course. Though he’s a penguin, nothing human is alien to him. Or to his buddies of various species.

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Moon Over Palo Alto

August 26, 2022

Facebook ads alert me to the fact that the Mid-Autumn Festival is fast coming — mooncakes! mooncakes! time to get your mooncakes! —  and that it’s on the early side this year — Saturday 9/10 (with the holiday extending over the next two days) — so comes just a few days after my 82nd birthday, Tuesday 9/6, which this year is the day after the American end-of-summer holiday Labor Day (also a MascMeatHol, that is, masculine meat holiday, though this posting will be meatless).

I have decided to more or less wrap most of  these things together into a Moon Over Palo Alto event, with red bean mooncakes (no yolk) that I have already ordered, on a day during the 9/3-9/10 period (day, time, and place still to be determined) in honor of 1982, which has lots of good associations, including red bean mooncakes (acquired in San Francisco’s Chinatown that spring for Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky’s 17th birthday, Valentine’s Day regularly coming close to Lunar New Year — another mooncake holiday).

What I’m about to acquire:


(#1) A box of 4 Imperial Palace red bean mooncakes (no yolk); the red beans in question (here, in the form of a sweetened paste filling the mooncakes) are not the red beans of the New Orleans dish called red beans and rice, and the objects called mooncakes are (full-)moon-shaped but are not in the CAKE category of foodstuffs (instead, they’re in the PIE category)

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The rabbits are gaining

August 25, 2022

From Aric Olnes on Facebook yesterday, the cartoon / gouache painting “The Rabbits are Gaining” by Greg Stones:


(#1) On a snowy slope, four determined rabbits (their ears streaming back in the breeze) in a canoe are gaining on two penguins on skis (one of them looking back, no doubt in anxiety, at their pursuers)

My alternative title: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you” – Satchel Paige (in a June 1953 Collier’s magazine profile of Paige)

The penguins are one of Stones’s recurring creatures, in his charming, pointed, anxious, goofy, edgy compositions. Two examples on a theme…

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