June 22, 2006

Beetle Bailey goes positively meta

In tune with our recent posts about substitutions for taboo language, a few days ago Beetle Bailey looked outside the frame and produced a strip that is actually somewhat funny:

There's also a serious anthropological point here, one that I never thought of before. Many cultures (and some of our own subcultures) proscribe praise just as much as blasphemy, scatology or obscenity. For example, as the Wikipedia explains,

Ashkenazi Jews in Europe and the Americas routinely exclaim Keyn aynhoreh! (also spelled Kein ayin hara!), meaning "No evil eye!" in Yiddish, to ward off a jinx after something or someone has been rashly praised or good news has been spoken aloud.

Some milder residues of such attitudes remain in expressions like "knock on wood". But I've never seen anyone using typographical bleeping to disguise the written expression of praise or good news, as has been done with blasphemy, scatology and obscenity in English texts at least since the end of the 17th century..

[hat tip to anonymous eric]

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 22, 2006 08:59 PM