Comics That Made English Majors Laugh Out Loud

Cidu Bill on Oct 8th 2015


Filed in Bill Bickel, Comics That Made Us Laugh Out Loud, Doonesbury, Frank Sinatra, comics strips, humor, lol | 29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Comics That Made English Majors Laugh Out Loud”

  1. Kedamono Oct 8th 2015 at 06:15 pm 1

    Did a Google, and surprise, the top result for autocomplete was “obscene gerund”. It turns out to be a variation of “f***ing” or “f***in”. Several pages dedicated to this one strip.

  2. Winter Wallaby Oct 8th 2015 at 06:25 pm 2

    From that google search, interesting to see that this comic resulted in a threatened lawsuit:

  3. Cidu Bill Oct 8th 2015 at 06:43 pm 3

    Trudeau was probably happy only a lawsuit was threatened.

  4. Mike Oct 8th 2015 at 06:44 pm 4

    Isn’t (expletive) in panel 3 the same expletive as (obscene gerund) in panel 4? Why the inconsistent labeling?

  5. furrykef Oct 8th 2015 at 06:55 pm 5

    Actually, it won’t make English majors laugh out loud, ’cause they’d know it isn’t a gerund. A gerund in English grammar is verb used as a noun, not as an adjective. “Obscene participle” would have been better.

  6. Kamino Neko Oct 8th 2015 at 07:07 pm 6

    I wonder what the explicit anatomic reference was… Donkey? Richard? King Cnut’s name transcribed by a poor typist? Can’t imagine it was cat, since he was trying to intimidate her…

  7. Mike Oct 8th 2015 at 07:34 pm 7

    I think it has to be King Cnut

  8. James Pollock Oct 8th 2015 at 07:56 pm 8

    “Actually, it won’t make English majors laugh out loud, ’cause they’d know it isn’t a gerund.”

    That’s why the casino dealer is so puzzled by (obscene gerund). It’s a creative and original usage.

  9. Catlover Oct 8th 2015 at 10:33 pm 9

    Didn’t you guys do Mad Libs when you were little?

  10. Chakolate Oct 8th 2015 at 10:42 pm 10

    I don’t care if it’s accurate or not - I LOL’d.

  11. John Small Berries Oct 9th 2015 at 12:07 am 11

    Isn’t (expletive) in panel 3 the same expletive as (obscene gerund) in panel 4? Why the inconsistent labeling?

    Not necessarily. It could be “g–d—[ed]”, for example.

  12. Kilby Oct 9th 2015 at 06:26 am 12

    Trudeau played with grammatic euphamisms more than once, my favorite example is the strip from 22 May 1974.

  13. Powers Oct 9th 2015 at 09:10 am 13

    I’ve been amazed at how strongly this week’s strips have been personally attacking Sinatra. It’s really quite stunning to see in the funny pages.

  14. Mitch4 Oct 9th 2015 at 09:31 am 14

    The 1974 example in Kilby’s 12 is surely based in the way the White House tapes from the Watergate era were published. For that matter, “expletive deleted” entered common discourse that way.

  15. fj Oct 9th 2015 at 10:27 am 15

    I’m not entirely convinced that the obscene gerund is NOT an obscene gerund.

    Yes, it is being used as a adjective, and the present participle is the typical way we think of verbs being used as adjectives. However, consider the following two usages of the word “running:”

    Turn off that running faucet.
    Tie your running shoes.

    In the first sentence, “running” is the classic participle as adjective use: the faucet is running. In the second sentence, however, the shoes are not running, instead they are for running. Verbs, however, are not the only part of speech capable of masquerading as a different part of speech. Nouns can also act as adjectives. In the latter case, I would argue that “running” is a gerund acting as attributive noun (like “basketball” in “basketball player”): in short, it is a verb acting as a noun acting as an adjective.

    Does Mr. Sinatra think the boss is currently involved in ing or does he think the boss should be for ing?

  16. Kilby Oct 9th 2015 at 10:31 am 16

    @ Powers (13) - Reading from the beginning of the series, the point of the commentary was not just Sinatra’s lifestyle, but also the incongruity of the Reagan administration awarding him the Medal of Freedom.

  17. mitch4 Oct 9th 2015 at 11:55 am 17

    Visiting relatives can be tedious.

  18. Mike Oct 9th 2015 at 12:11 pm 18

    @fj I think you’re right. the obscenity f—ing (if we assume that’s what it is) doesn’t in fact describe the boss at all. It doesn’t describe the boss or the action or anything… so is it just an interjection?

  19. Boise Ed Oct 9th 2015 at 04:53 pm 19

    Clicking the “Like” button for Bill [3].

    Kilby [12]: Thanks for that link.

  20. furrykef Oct 9th 2015 at 06:00 pm 20

    Mike — it’s actually an expletive in the literal, technical sense. That is, it’s a word that carries no semantic meaning.

    Incidentally, from what I understand, the word “expletive” came to mean “profane word” through the use of “expletive deleted” in the Watergate transcripts. I believe most if not all of the words that were deleted were expletives in the technical sense, but the public, not knowing what it meant, assumed it meant “profane word”, and so people started applying it to profanities that are not expletives. For instance, if you say “I stepped in dog s***” then you are not using a true expletive because the word “s***” carries semantic meaning.

  21. James Pollock Oct 9th 2015 at 06:39 pm 21

    In the military, “f—ing” is punctuation.

  22. Mark in Boston Oct 10th 2015 at 10:29 pm 22

    “f–ing” is also the only word that is ever used to divide other words into two parts.

    As in “un f—ing believable.” “Im f—ing possible.”

  23. Boise Ed Oct 10th 2015 at 11:13 pm 23

    Mark [22]: I seem to recall, from My Fair Lady, “abso-bloomin’-lutely.” And I’m sure I’ve heard others, that I can’t bring to mind just now.

  24. mitch4 Oct 10th 2015 at 11:20 pm 24

    Oh no, Mark, it is not the only word that can be used that way, though typically it will be an expressive or taboo word. Begging furrykef’s pardon for throwing around “expletive” , the formation was at times called “expletive infixation”. There is a wikipedia article under that designation, .

    I regret that they don’t have a reference-out to “Studies Out in Left Field: Defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley on his 33rd or 34th birthday” as I thought the topic was introduced into semi-serious modern linguistics around 1971 in an essay in that volume by Quang Phuc Dong of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology [Jim McCawley himself], but the only article I see there with that authorship is Ënglish Sentences without Overt Grammatical Subject” [like “F— you”].

  25. mitch4 Oct 10th 2015 at 11:33 pm 25

    It may be from “Some Unnatural Habits” by U Pani Shad, on pp. 34 and following in that volume.

    Also a general search on “epithet infixation” turns up quite a bit, including early in the results this note by David Stampe at with the following passage:

    (The following material may not be suitable for children.)

    In his article “Where you can shove infixes”, the infamous Quang Phuc
    Dong, writing under the pen name James D. McCawley (In: Syllables and
    Segments, ed. Alan Bell & Joan Bybee Hooper, Amsterdam: North-Holland,
    1978), noted that -fuckin’- and other infixable epithets optimally go
    between a light and a heavy beat, as in fa3nta1stic (where 1=primary
    accent, 2=secondary accent, etc.): fa2n-fu3ckin-ta1stic. Now, this is
    just the same rhythmic pattern as in Adjective Noun constructions like
    du2mb yo1kel. Epithets are “infixed” even here: du2mb fu3ckin yo1kel.
    Like non-lexical elements such as clitics and affixes, epithets are
    backgrounded by being placed, as Wackernagel put it, in the accentual
    shadow of lexical elements. There is already a place in a 2 1 beat
    pattern for a minimally (3) accented element, namely on the 3-rest that
    comes between them, exactly as in common time music (1 3 2 3 1). If
    infixing epithets in phrases is natural, for accentual reasons, then it
    is a natural extension to infix them also in words that have multiple
    beats. After all, because of the association of accent with lexical
    meaning, we often treat such words as compound: alcoholic (workaholic),
    hamburger (veggieburger), helicopter (helipad, jetcopter), and so on
    for hundreds of examples.

  26. mitch4 Oct 10th 2015 at 11:35 pm 26

    (Additional long note on epithet infixation pending in moderation. A note copied from Linguist List went ahead and used some words…)

  27. mitch4 Oct 10th 2015 at 11:53 pm 27

    And thanks go to Ed for cutting thru the theoretical verbiage and giving an example!

  28. Dave in Boston Oct 11th 2015 at 12:15 am 28

    Both “bloody” and “bleeding” can be used this way. (And, a fancier-pants term is “tmesis”.)

  29. Boise Ed Oct 11th 2015 at 02:45 am 29

    Aha! What I was trying to think of earlier was a whole nother phrase — sticking “whole” within “another.”

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