Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

Messin’ with words

April 8, 2020

The One Big Happy from 3/17, in which Ruthie and Joe perform some silly word play together, with Ruthie taking off on the word rattle on a spelling test for Joe:


(#1) Ruthie jokingly — note the expression on her face – interprets /rætǝl/ as Rat’ll ‘Rat will’ (with Auxiliary Reduction; see the previous posting on this blog, “It’s … it’s … it’s …”, about AuxRed)

Ruthie’s move, with a reference to Rat, provokes a grinning follow-up from Joe, who counters with a reference to Pig and some mildly naughty slang evoking U.S. black talk. They high-five in triumph. A sudden upwelling of urban street culture (and a pop-cutural cartoon allusion) in the midst of a spelling test. Their father patiently presses on.

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The Desert Island Psychiatrist

April 5, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro combo is also a cartoon meme combo: Desert Island + Psychiatrist:


(#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 notice the empty clinical couch, with its colorful pillow, because it’s the biggest thing in the drawing, and it’s right in the middle of it. You notice the psychiatrist, because he’s a human figure, of some size, with a significant face (our attention is drawn powerfully to faces).

Only then do you follow the therapist’s gaze and take in the little figure in the lower righthand corner: the tiny castaway under a miniature palm tree, on a desert island — charmingly presented as being in a colorful planter, so that it’s also one of the plants in routine office decor, matched by the ornamental foliage in the planter in the opposite corner.

We are both in a Desert Island cartoon and also in a Psychiatrist cartoon (where the therapist is doing shrink-talk), set in a stereotypical psychiatrist’s office (notably medical, down to the framed diplomas on the wall).

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Keep lettin’ him snooze

April 3, 2020

In the One Big Happy from 3/11, Ruthie belts her heart out for her dolls:


(#1) An intentional parody — well, burlesque, or travesty — performed with great enthusiasm by Ruthie

Look at the first panel of the cartoon. If the prosody of the first line, “Keep lettin’ him snooze”, doesn’t clue you in to the song being parodied, then maybe the diambic last line of the first stanza, “No spoon, one fork”, will do the trick. Or… you can wait for the last stanza, in the fourth panel, where Ruthie gives it to you straight.

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The triune Emperor of the Swamp: a muskrat, a fox, and a bear

April 3, 2020

The swamp is Pogo’s Okefenokee, and its emperor has three faces: Deacon Mushrat (a muskrat and a moral monster); Seminole Sam (a grifter fox); and P.T. Bridgeport (a huckster bear). Powerful members of the emperor’s inner circle include Mole MacCarony (aka Molester Mole) and Simple J. Malarkey, a malevolent wildcat.


(#1) The Deacon, Malarkey, and Mole (plus Mole’s minions, the bats Bewitched, Bothered, and Bemildred) at a 5/6/53 meeting of the Jack Acid Society

I found myself pulled into this world by Lisa Cohen, who wrote on Facebook on 3/31 that she’d just heard someone on the radio referring to [REDACTED] as a rabid muskrat, which made her suddenly feel more cheerful. Indeed.

The reference to metaphorically fanatical muskrats immediately, of course, called to mind Deacon Mushrat [Muskrat], a hypocritical conservative who speaks in Gothic text (as above), in Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip. And from that everything else fell out.

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Chez Le Fourmilier II

March 27, 2020

The Wayno/Piraro Bizarro of 3/25 returns us to Restaurant Row in Anteaterville:


(#1) The chef of Chez Le Fourmilier brings an ant farm to the table for the delectation of an enthusiastic diner wearing an ant bib (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

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Buzz me, baby

March 19, 2020

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes re-run strip, on Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (CFSBs), which offer “100% of the daily recommended allowance of caffeine”:


(#1) Just in case you had a fleeting moment of wondering about it, there is no caffeine RDA (recommended dietary allowance — recommended by the US National Research Council); the RDAs are for nutrients, and caffeine is not a nutrient

C&H Sugar Bomb strips. Hummingbird metabolism. The getting-high sense of the noun buzz and its verbing. The near-instant buzz of concentrated caffeine. Adalbert Stifter’s 1845 novella Bergkristall.

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Childish reanalyses

March 18, 2020

From Heidi Harley on Facebook yesterday, a dialogue in her household:

[Heidi, about a Terry Pratchett book]: “this story is set on a strange magical planet called Discworld”

Jasper [7,2]: “so the whole place has no squirrels, because it’s been de-squirreled?”

To which I wrote:

Every so often I complain about the reanalyses shown by the kids in Rick Detorie’s comic strip One Big Happy, as being strained and implausible. Then I see things like this.

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Higashi Day cartoon 6: Pi Day cartoon understanding

March 16, 2020

Two cartoons in my 3/14 (Pi Day) feed — a Bizarro and a Rhymes With Orange — that present challenges to understanding; if you don’t get certain cultural references, you don’t get the cartoons at all.


(#1) A Wayno/Piraro collabo; Wayno’s title for it is “Sectarian differences” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page). So, a snake and a frog, adversaries in real life; but then…


(#2) At the top level, a variation on woman’s complaints that they are given housewares as gifts on romantic occasions (suspend your gender assumptions); but then…

Then it’s no accident that #1 was published in the middle of March, three days before St. Patrick’s Day, which comes at the end of the mid-March run of special days and events (P2P: From Pi To Paddy):

— 3/14 Pi Day
— 3/15 Higashi Day on Ramona St. (see my 3/12/20 posting “Higashi Day cartoon 1: grim Bliss surprise”), but the Ides of March in the larger world
— 3/16 National Panda Day (see the Page on this blog on panda postings) — TODAY! (Take a panda to munch)
— 3/17 St. Patrick’s Day

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Higashi Day cartoon 5: hoods and newts

March 15, 2020

(Little kids, but I pursue them into the weeds of sexual anatomy, though without the photos or raunchy talk. Take appropriate cautions.)

The One Big Happy cartoon from 2/9:


(#1) Once again, about the kids finding a word (un)familiar in a particular sense: the apparel noun hood

And the OBH from 2/17:


(#2) And minute ‘extremely small, tiny’

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Higashi Day cartoon 4: tending the stone

March 14, 2020

(Yes, “Higashi Day cartoon 3: sentence-initial anymore” is still on its way; it’s just turned out to be gigantic.)

From various Facebook sources, a JAK (Jason Adam Katzenstein) cartoon on his Twitter site on 1/10/18, now, ouch, virally popular as most of the world is obliged to work from home:


(#1) Appreciate his facial expression

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