June 26, 2007

Three taboo cartoons

From the Taboo Desk at Language Log Plaza, a small assortment of recent cartoons...

First, from Rob Balder's PartiallyClips, a new take on the puzzle of taboo words: taboo colors? taboo musical notes?

(Hat tip to Geoff Pullum.)
[Added in response to e-mail: The cartoon takes words to be the building blocks of a language, analogous to colors in artistic composition and notes in musical composition.  There's no question that larger constructs have been found offensive: the tritone interval, Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon -- and Rushdie's The Satanic Verses considered as a whole.  Unfortunately, the point is undercut by Balder's reference to "combinations of notes" rather than to individual notes.]

Then from Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, in a tribute to the Falklands War of 25 years ago, when Bell developed many of the characters in his strip If...: albatross!

(Hat tip to Steve Isard.)

This will require some background information, much of which can be found on the Guardian site and on the Wikipedia page for If...  To start with, Bell's cartoons are scabrously savage and dirty-mouthed, to a degree that, I think, would simply not be possible in a cartoon in a respectable publication in the United States. 

The Penguin (full name Prince Philip of Greece Penguin, also known as Pulp, later Lord, Quango) comes from a very reactionary family of Falklands penguins who are also anti-albatross bigots.

The asterisking here is not Bell's current style; his latest collection, If... Marches On (2006), spells out all the words in full.

Finally, a cartoon from Hilary Price's much much gentler Rhymes With Orange: when mathematicians swear.

The careful reader will notice that the mathematician's swearing makes no more sense in print than the non-mathematician's "@&#!"

[Addendum: well, I'm an idiot.  Several readers have pointed out that what's written in the thought balloon can be read as "Error!".]

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at June 26, 2007 12:26 PM