Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Annals of public art

August 30, 2016

(Mostly about art, of sorts, rather than language, though there are two puns.)

Yesterday’s Zippy took us to Tuscaloosa AL, home of Goldie:


From Roadside America:

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Collapsed and half-buried on Woods Quad, “Goldie 1971” was built by University of Alabama alumnus Joe McCreary. The rusted humanoid was meant to symbolize the collapse of Alabama’s steel industry, particularly the shutdown of the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham in 1972.

In fact, the 23-foot-long robot is made from scrap iron cast at the Furnaces by McCreary in 2009. The robot’s name was supposedly taken from graffiti left by a welder and discovered by McCreary while he was making the sculpture.

To us, Goldie looks a lot like the old Marx Toy “Big Loo” robot, which squirted water from its belly-button. But much more artistic, of course.


More Ruthian re-shaping

August 25, 2016

A One Big Happy (dated 7/27) in my comics feed today: once again, Ruthie re-shapes an unfamiliar expression, in this case the legal-tinged word offense (‘a breach of a law or rule; an illegal act’ — NOAD2), in the phrase first offense:

with first offense re-shaped as thirsty fence, a phrase that doesn’t make sense, but at least has the familiar word fence in it (and is very very close phonetically to first offense: initial f vs. 𝛉, unaccented ǝ vs. i or I).

I suppose it’s possible that at some point before the time of the strip, Ruthie heard first offense, didn’t understand it, and re-shaped it  But what the substitution really looks like is an old mishearing of first offense; mishearings very often don’t make sense, but do have parts that are recognizable words.

At this point, you’d really want to look at errors made by real, rather than cartoon, kids, in context.


November 11th, 2014

August 25, 2016

… was a banner day for cartoons in the New Yorker. Waiting a few minutes to get called in for routine blood tests at the Palo Alo Medical Foundation this morning, I chanced upon this particular issue of the magazine and found five cartoons of interest for this blog (plus some others I enjoyed but had no special interest here); all five were from artists already familiar on this blog.


Ya gotta know the territory

August 25, 2016

Another chapter in the long history of cultural background you need to see why some cartoons might be funny, or even to understand them at all. Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, cat to Mother Goose about dog:


Utterly baffling unless you know your 60s tv Westerns or are a big fan of Clint Eastwood.


Four more Steinbergs

August 25, 2016

Posting recently on Edward Gorey reminded me of another wonderful artist / illustrator / cartoonist (artillustoonist?), admittedly of rather different tone, and I’ve created a Page for him. Herewith, four more (language-related) drawings by Saul Steinberg.


Cartoon characters’ self-awareness

August 24, 2016

Yesterday’s Bizarro, way meta:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one — see this Page.)

The conceit here is that the characters that appear in comic strips are in fact actors playing roles, so that they can go on strike (among other things). Even more, when the actors are absent, the activities in the strips just go on without them, as if the actors had simply become invisible. Invisible waiter (on strike) takes order from invisible diner (also on strike).

It’s not called Bizarro for nothing.


Associating with Zippy

August 24, 2016

In today’s Zippy, our Pinhead falls into reveries of word association, prompted by the flatiron in his hand:


Not ironic words, but ferrous words, which takes us into the world of Ferris wheels, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris mowers, Ferris State (in Big Rapids MI), Tim Ferris (the self-help writer and entrepreneur), Ferris TX and Ferris IL, Southern folklorist Bill Ferris (former chairman of the NEH), and from there we could branch into ferries and fairies and all sorts of good stuff.

Meanwhile, from percolate and percale, we can get all the perks available to those who only stand and iron.

Gorey on evil

August 24, 2016

On Pinterest this morning, the first two panels of Edward Gorey’s The Disrespectful Summons (1971) (also in the collection Amphigorey Too):



Pleased by contemplating this reign of evil, I’ve assembled postings on Gorey into a Page on this blog.


Q-Neg scope in the comics

August 23, 2016

The One Big Happy in my feed today (dated 7/25):

It’s a question of the relative scoping of a quantifier ∃, of existence, and ¬, negation, with respect to the propositional-attitude verb (Ibelieve. In a crude informal symbolism:

¬ (∃ (X: one-word-you-said, I-believe X)) ‘there’s not one word you said that I believe’ (equivalent to ‘every word you said, I didn’t believe it’) — what Ruthie’s mother intends

∃ (X: one-word-you-said, ¬ (I-believe X)) ‘there’s one word you said that I don’t believe’ — what Ruthie understands


Leading by jargon

August 21, 2016

The Dilbert from a couple days ago, the pointy-haired boss exhibiting leadership:

I have often defended some uses of what outsiders think of as mere jargon as useful, even necessary, for insiders’ purposes. But there are fashions in everything, vocabulary included, and there are occasions when people paper over a lack of thought with verbiage.

When necessary, the pointy-haired boss can roll out a veritable jargonaut. And then pass the baton of leadership on to his nonplussed staff.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 992 other followers