Archive for the ‘Linguistics in the comics’ Category

The existential question

October 11, 2019

In today’s Zippy strip, Zerbina and Zippy contemplate their existence — ever an issue for self-aware cartoon characters:

(#1)

How do we know we exist? And if this perilous sort of existence, created in the mind and (literally) at the hands of an artist, fails to be validated by those in the outer, non-cartoon, world, are we nothing but a dream (sweetheart)?

Perhaps a concern for all of us, but especially pointed for cartoon characters. Who will speak for them, especially now that Mad Magazine is gone?

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Two old cartoon friends

October 9, 2019

… in recent mail: border-collie-bereft medicos (from Scott Hilburn on 8/12/14) and Egyptian spelling contests (from Rhymes With Orange today), bringing the return of two familiar cartoon themes:


(#1) The POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) from Doctors Without Borders + border collies


(#2) A spelling bee done with hieroglyphs

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A rich internal life

October 8, 2019

(The beginning of this posting is about the complexities of conscious experience — attentional foci and internal lives — but midway through it veers into sexual matters, eventually into a raw account of steamy mansex, entirely unsuitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Zits strip from 10/5, about Sara and Jeremy’s fugitive thoughts:


(#1) Sara’s conscious attention is on her homework, but anxieties about her academic life and about current events intrude; meanwhile, Jeremy is consciously focused on listening to Sara’s lament, but finds thoughts of food intervening

What’s involved is a division between two parts of the stream of consciousness: an attentional focus, the central concern in what you are doing at the moment; and any number of peripheral concerns, matters that crowd your consciousness without being chosen for attention, these peripheral concerns together constituting what I’ll call your internal life at the moment.

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Suit and tie

October 7, 2019

The One Big Happy for September 8th, which came by in my comics feed recently:

(#1)

Miss Avis gives Ruthie career advice, and once again, Ruthie is up against the sense of a word — here, suit, roughly ‘costume in a masquerade’ — that she’s most familiar with, as against another sense — in the conventional collocation suit and tie, roughly ‘business apparel for men’ — that’s the most frequent one in the larger culture. A bunny suit for play, especially at Halloween, is a familiar part of her everyday world; she’s certainly seen men in suits and ties, but they’re from a different world, one that she merely sometimes observes from the outside, in much the same way that she views suits of armor.

Of course, becoming acculturated in the conventional adult world around her means learning that the default sense of suit has to do with business wear, especally for men, and that the costume-play sense is restricted to certain special social contexts.

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Musclemen from Mars

September 29, 2019

(There will be rampant male shirtlessness. Just a friendly warning, or an invitation, depending on your tastes.)

It’s a Zippy strip (today’s!). It’s another gender note (about masculinity). It’s yet another shirtless posting (shirtlessness as a prime masculinity display, in fact.) It’s about umliterature (physique magazines, in particular). And about camp (Flash Gordon). And of course, since the arousing shirtless campy musclemen are from Mars (or possibly Mongo), about SF. And finally, tucked in there inconspicuously in the last panel is an antique Griffithian self-referential surprise (from 1973):

(#1)

Male superheroes are extravagant embodiments of masculinity: they are, to start with, embodiments of great human power (conventionally associated with men), and then they have superhuman powers beyond that; their costumes are designed to encase their bodies, but tightly, so as to suggest, reveal, or exaggerate every bit of gendered anatomy (the broad shoulders, the musculature of the arms, torso, and thighs, and the genital package). (Beyond the powers and the costumes, there are the conventionally hyper-masculine faces.)

The strip begins with superheroes on this planet, but it ends, in the lower right corner, with (hunky) superheroes in space — “Musclemen from Mars” is what the Dingburgers are reading — and it turns out that space-traveling superheroes (as exemplified by Flash Gordon) are given to frequent bouts of shirtlessness (mostly while performing their feats of manly derring-do, but sometimes during the virtually obligatory shirtless torture scenes).

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Gender notes: the pinup push

September 28, 2019

(Dense with references to buttocks and their possible sexual portents, so not to everyone’s taste.)

From The Mary Sue site, “We’re All Kinds Of Obsessed With Nicola Scott’s Nightwing Drawing Highlighting His Assets: Gotham’s ass indeed”, by Kate Gardner on 9/20/19:


(#1) Dick Grayson evolves into pinup-push Nightwing (hat tip to Kim Darnell)

The title says it all. In her latest art depicting DC characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman throughout the years, comics artist Nicola Scott drew the evolution of Nightwing, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, ending with art of him in a pose usually reserved for male artists drawing female characters, and we’re totally obsessed with it. It’s about damn time that men had to push their tush out alongside their female counterparts.

A pose signifying (women’s) sexual availability, with a long history, but especially as made famous by movie star Betty Grable in 1943:

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Present at the creation: the weaponization of sarcasm

September 25, 2019

A Mick Stevens Caveman cartoon in the 9/30/19 New Yorker (about to arrive in the mail), memorializing a signal moment in the cartoon Stone Age:


(#1) The weaponization of sarcasm in prehistoric times

The later history of weaponized sarcasm is vast, but certainly reaches one of its high points in 1970 in the career of British gangster Doug Piranha. During a period of perhaps 70 years sarcasm has spread to become, in the view of some cultural critics, absolutely pervasive in modern society, at least in the Anglophone world.

Meanwhile, the idea that elements of culture can be weaponized — used like bludgeons not just against individuals, but also to aggressively serve social or political purposes — has recently become fashionable.

(And then, of course, there’s the question of the semantic work that the derivational suffix –ize does in converting various groups of lexical items to verbs (as in N weapon > V weaponize).)

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Chocolate-covered amidst the statuary

September 21, 2019

Today’s Zippy takes us to the shore of Lake Erie, in the roadside realm of Dolly Dimples (but, startlingly, it will end with the minstrel-show character Rastus and the Cream of Wheat box; you never know where things will go these days):

(#1)

DD is actually selling chocolates, statuary, and tchotchkes, not hamburgers. Her head is indeed unrealistically gigantic, but even with this selling point she’s probably not going to leave Silver Lake NY to pursue a failed movie career in L.A. (note the whimsical tense-aspect-mood semantics of intending to pursue a failed career).

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The hurtful dog

September 18, 2019

Back on the 13th, David Horne passed on this cartoon on Facebook:


(#1) Explosm-style dog hurts man with words

This is in fact a Cyanide and Happiness meme, a 4-panel cartoon template with all the artwork taken, as is, from a particular Cyanide (Explosm.net) cartoon, and all the words too — except for the dog’s dagger to the heart in the 3rd panel. Meme sites supply the template; all you have to do is fill in your own nasty words in the 3rd panel; you get to judge what would truly wound your intended audience.

In this case, David’s FB readers included a large number of people who had failed to finish their PhD dissertations, or completed the work over long painful self-doubting years, or finished but without any enthusiasm for the dissertation they somehow squeaked though with, or gave up before embarking on the task at all (believing that they could only be defeated) — or who were close to people who went through such experiences. Waves of pain washed over quite a few of David’s FB friends, me included.

On the other hand, others found the cartoon wickedly funny, which was David’s first response, and I appreciate that reaction too.

To come: more on the Explosm Hurtful Dog meme, and on uncompleted PhD dissertations, and on another Explosm cartoon involving that same dog, whose bark turns out to be much, much worse than its bite, even though its bite is exquisitely painful.

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The outrage of a new menu

September 18, 2019

Today’s Zippy takes us to the banks of the Connecticut River in Chicopee MA, to a historic diner, and to the bizarre foods that Zippy fancies:


(#1) If you’re Zippy, everything goes better with a dollop of Valvoline on it — and, maybe, some canned beets:

(#2)

Zippy and Gladys are in Al’s Diner, a well-known feature of Chicopee, a northern industrial city that took advantage of the falls on the Connecticut to drive mills — which then entangled the place in the slave economy of the early 18th century.

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