Archive for the ‘Obscenity’ Category

Friday word play in the comics

April 28, 2017

Two cartoons to end the week: a Rhymes With Orange with a four-word play and a Bizarro with a POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau):


The Cantonese American dish moo goo gai pan ‘chicken with button mushrooms and sliced vegetables’, with a pun on each word: onomatopoetic moo, onomatopoetic goo, the informal noun guy, the Greek god Pan.


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

Doctors Without Borders + Border Collie(s).

(Note that there are a lot of things you need to know to appreciate these comics.)


Let’s just call it “grammar”

July 20, 2016

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

A visit to a theme park with a linguistic theme: it deals, at least, in onomatopoeia (rattle for the sound a rattlesnake’s tail makes), palindromes (expressions that read the same forwards and backwards, like the names Anna and Otto), and portmanteaus (like palindomedary, palindrome + dromedary) and their visual equivalents, like the palindromedary in the cartoon, a nice counterpart to Anna and Otto.

What to call a place that displayed such things — and anagrams and chiasmus and puns and limericks and knock-knock jokes and sports chants and ritualized insults and auctioneers’ patter and damning with faint praise and Cockney rhyming slang and all sorts of culture-specific phenomena that are manifested in a language (in this case, all are manifested in  English) but are not part of the system of that language, the way, say, Subject-Auxiliary Inversion is part of the system of English. Instead, they are things you can do with, or in, the language.

But we have no good word (or other fixed expression) for this rich assortment of language uses and rouitines, so (as in other cases) the poor overworked word grammar is pressed into service. And the theme park is called Grammar Land.

More sexual fap(p), plus shlick

September 11, 2014

Background: a posting on the verb fapp (with variant fap) ‘to masturbate furiously’ and one on the exclamation of annoyance Fap!. And now reader Paul comments on the former:

My understanding is that fap as onomatopoeia comes from [the webcomic Sexy Losers]

I do not know when the second p started to appear.

There seems to be some agreement that Sexy Losers at least popularized the sexual verb, whether or not it originated it — and that takes it back to 1999. Also in 1999 in Sexy Losers, the feminine counterpart, shlick (Urban Dictionary in 2004: “The onomatopoeic representation of female masturbation”).

Two examples, with the strips reduced to the final panel, and genitals cropped:

SL #158 “War Games” 10/13/02, in which guys find that long sessions of gaming can improve their ejaculation distance:


SL #166 “Psychology Games” 12/24/02, with both terms:



It was 42 years ago today…

July 10, 2013

From John Lawler via Facebook, a link to my 1971 Linguistic Inquiry squib on manner-of-speaking verbs (like snap in Kim snapped that it was time to leave), along with a captioned image of the Rice Krispies elves:



At the X line with remarkably named pornstars

July 6, 2013

(Warning: This posting has an image of man-man sex that is right at the X line — that’s one of the topics of the posting, in fact — and some frank description of gay sex, so it might not be to everyone’s taste.)

In my e-mail yesterday, a stirring ad from Lucas Entertainment (Michael Lucas’s porn flick company, not George Lucas’s film company) for its film Lovers in Paradise, with a shot of Wagner Vittoria penetrating Tiziano Fuentes — an image that I’ll show some distance below the fold; it’s technically not X-rated (there’s no penis, testicles, or anus visible in it), though no one could mistake what’s going on there. As in my posting “X or not?” of 5/19/13, I’ll muse some on where the X line gets drawn.

First, though, a description of the scene and some information about three remarkably named pornstars (these two and Vittoria’s pornstar boyfriend Diego Lauzen).


Onomatopoeia in the comics

July 2, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

The onomatopoetic lexical items murmur, yodel, belch, and gargle give Bill Griffith an excuse for the phrasal overlap portmanteau Yoko Onomatopoeia.


December 23, 2012

A story from almost 50 years ago, in Cambridge MA, in which a young woman talks with exasperation about the slapdash housekeeping skills of some male friends of hers sharing an apartment in Cambridge. One of them had done a load of laundry, washing, along with a lot of dark clothes, a brand-new fuzzy yellow garment, with the predictable unfortunate outcome that, as she put it:

*Everything* was covered with little yellow greeblies!

Ann and I hadn’t heard the word greeblies before, but from the context and the word’s sound, it was clear what the greeblies were: little bits of fluff (which attached themselves unwelcomely to other things). And when we told the story to others, no one had any problem dealing with the unfamiliar word.

(Greeblies are relevant in my life right now, because I’m washing my new plush bathrobe, which has shown some tendency to shed the occasional greebly here and there, and has to be washed on its own, not even with other dark-colored clothes, so as not to risk a plague of dark blue greeblies. Not for me the mistake of those guys back in Cambridge.)

And it seems that people have invented this noun (and the similar noun greeble), independently, many times, using the phonosemantic resources of English to craft a new word that vividly suggests the image they have in mind.


Think of the children

August 24, 2011

It’s hard to talk about taboo vocabulary without someone explaining that children need to be protected from “adult” language, because it’s intrinsically damaging to them. So with “adult” imagery — at least (in the United States) if it’s sexual in character, but not (in the United States) if it’s violent. Ruben Bolling’s Tom the Dancing Bug on the subject:

For those of you outside the Americas, Cheez E. Chainsaw’s is a play on Chuck E. Cheese’s (Wikipedia page here). (Local note: The first Chuck E. Cheese’s was located right here in Santa Clara County, in San Jose, in 1977.)

Censoring web images

July 19, 2010

When I linked to my recent Tom Bianchi posting (complete with photos) in a Facebook posting, Emily Rizzo pointed us to

An article in the NY Times [“Policing the Web’s Lurid Precincts”, in the Technology part of the Business Day section for today] on the low wage workers who screen and censor web images including, presumably, this photo. Not a good job to have…

Apparently the job of dealing with “despicable and illegal images” (in the words of a former MySpace security officer) is very stressful, and the company reported on here, Telecommunications On Demand, tries to help the screeners over the rough spots (decent pay and reasonable hours might be a big help — I suspect these are contract workers who don’t get benefits, either — but that would cost more than the current arrangement). Other companies actually hire counselors for the purpose.

Then again, Facebook relies on its users to turn potential offenders in.

I wonder when They will come for me.

(Note: none of this counts as censorship, within the meaning of the law in the U.S., since it’s regulated not by any sort of government entity, but by private companies — there’s that problematic private again — who are merely enforcing the rules they have obliged users to agree to.)


May 8, 2010

Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album came by me as a random selection on iTunes Friday morning. It immediately launches into things with the perky little song “Sit On My Face”, which clearly describes a sexual act (reciprocal oral sex), throws in a couple double entendres on blow (in be blown away), and once uses sixty nine itself (in a verbed version: “Life can be fine if we both sixty nine”).

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission found the song “actionably indecent”, and in 1992 took legal action against KGB-FM in San Diego for playing it and eventually fined the station $9,200. Somewhere along the line it became an incredibly popular — often-requested but for legal reasons never played on the open air — song on the Dr. Demento radio show of novelty songs, comedy, and other oddities.

I’ll take a look at the notion of indecency at issue here (it seems not to be primarily about the use of specific words) and muse some about the status of the expression sixty-nine.