Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Hipsters, beats, and raconteurs

September 26, 2016

Zippy has recently run through a series of five strips on these characters, with capsule biographies: Harry “The Hipster” Gibson (9/19), proto-beatnik Lord Buckley (9/20), jazz dj Symphony Sid (9/21), radio monologuist Gene Shepherd (9/22), and beatniks in general (9/23). The series:



September 25, 2016

Today’s Zippy, providing an extreme example of what it can take to make sense of a cartoon or comic strip:

Muffled? Why muffled? No helpful title, but two clues: the reference to the P.C. police and the strangely stiff figure of Zippy in the strip.


Figurative language to the rescue

September 24, 2016

The One Big Happy in my comics feed this morning (apparently from August 23rd):


Here, Ruthie doesn’t know (or has forgotten) the precise lexical item turban, so she uses figurative language to get a descriptive term. To understand this, you need to know about Jiffy Pop, of course.


Taking the job description literally

September 17, 2016

Two recent Dilberts:




First Dilbert and the quality assurance guy Alan, then the pointy-haired boss and Alan.

Standard dictionaries don’t seem to have the technical use of assurance in quality assurance, though there is a techie Wikipedia entry on quality assurance that relates the expression to the verb ensure, rather than to the verb assure that the literalist Alan sees in it.


Breaking bad

September 12, 2016

Today’s One Big Happy is mostly about Ruthie’s mistaking femur (a genuinely rare word) for fever (a common one):

But there’s also a crucial ambiguity in the verb break.


Another take on evolution

September 11, 2016

A Mick Stevens cartoon in the latest (September 12th) New Yorker:

On the surface, just about evolution, but actually about any leaving, from any place or situation. Please don’t go; we can make things better here!

Return of the Sam Gross balloon dog

September 10, 2016

In the latest New Yorker (September 12th), Sam Gross’s clown and his balloon dog return to the magazine:


Oh no! Not the chair!


Feet in footage, pawns at the pawnshop

September 9, 2016

Two cartoons in my feed yesterday, both turning on ambiguities: a One Big Happy involving foot, a Mother Goose and Grimm involving pawn:




How dinosaurs are made

September 8, 2016

A wonderful cartoon that doesn’t depend on words:

The elephant is just the medium of transmission.


Waltzing with Boynton bears

September 6, 2016

Posted on Facebook today by Steve Otlowski, this Sandra Boynton illustration of two bears dancing together by the light of the moon:

Clearly the bears that Uncle Walter went waltzing with. Wa-wa-wa-waltzing.