The Ides of Kliban

Some deep archival research from elGeo. He noticed this one on GoComics for 15-Mar-2021 (that is, the Ides of March):

And he recognized that the above was adapted from this other one, which had been published in Whack Your Porcupine (1977) and ran on GoComics on 14-Oct-2015:

Let’s leave elGeo to editorialize a bit:

It’s hard to believe that B. Kliban himself had made the second version – the wit in the original is completely lost in the second.  I particularly liked that the Greek looked suspiciously like John Belushi after a toga party, although I’m pretty sure that Animal House was released after the cartoon was published. 

I enjoy seeing old familiar cartoons sometimes – after all, there’s plenty of room on the internet for legacy stuff – but this one bothered me.  Even though the estate owns the copyright, the reworked one just seemed like vandalism.

For a bit of IDU element, does anybody care to share some knowledge (or new reading) on the chronology and interaction of the Greeks and the Etruscans?

30 Comments

  1. I don’t know Early Etruscans, but I know Kliban (well, his cartoons). One of my regrets was not bringing my Kliban books when we last moved. not priceless, just paperbacks, but yeah, priceless.

  2. For what it’s worth, I analyzed the top image and determined that the caption was machine-generated and not handwritten. So, Kliban joins the ranks of Charles Schultz and Matt Groening, who both have had their distinctive handwriting digitized for others to use. I would hope someone has thought to do the same for Walt Kelly, whose word balloons were works of art in and of themselves.

  3. The Ides were something of a mid-month observance in every month, but not generally an excuse to tie one on.

    If you consider “Late Greeks” to be Alexander’s empire, then they were kinda too late for early Etruscans by a few centuries, but I suppose you could stretch things to let them overlap a little. Greece had a few colonies in Italy and Sardinia, which had some contact with Etruscan societies farther north in Italy, but IIRC no actual conflict. By the time there was significant conflict between the two cultures, Etruscan peoples had been absorbed into Roman society.

  4. Thanks, dvandom. I had the feeling the particular ethnic / civilizational identities were not deeply chosen, but just a convenient way of labelling the earnest early-birds (with their 20th Century lunchboxes — good thing those didn’t make it into any excavations!) and the reveler. And of course there is something like punning going on, with “early” and “late” being used both for clocktime daily schedules and the way historians or archaeologists would use them.

  5. When the late Roger Ebert lost his voice to throat cancer, there were so many years of recorded broadcasts that the technologists who built an advanced speaking machine for him were able to use those clips to reconstruct an artificial voice that was a pretty good match for his own.

  6. This isn’t tagged a CIDU but I don’t understand the vandalized Ides of March one.

    “The Ides were something of a mid-month observance in every month, but not generally an excuse to tie one on.”

    Has it come to mean that since? Is that what the joke is? I’ve never heard that. The Ides are the 15th of a month. I’ve never heard of any other meaning.

  7. woozy wrote: “The Ides are the 15th of a month.”

    May I be pedantic for a moment? On some months the Ides was on the 15th. On others it was on the 13th. You can remember the dates with this rhyme my dad taught me:

    “On March, July, October, May, the Ides falls on the 15th day. On all others it’s the 13th.”

    If you think that’s confusing, consider this joke:

    Q: What did the pedant say to Julius Caesar?

    A: Beware the eighth day after the Nones of March!

  8. Huh, I more readily thought of nones as one of the canonical hours. But if it is a day, and still means ninth, how does the arithmetic work out for your joke?

  9. Mitch4 asked: “how does the arithmetic work out for your joke?”

    The nones of a month is Day Nine before the ides. Meaning that the ides is Day Nine after the nones.

    Notice I didn’t say “nine days after,” but rather “Day Nine.” That’s because, if you start counting (with 1 / I) at the Nones of a month, by the time you get to “Day 9 / IX” you’ll be at the Ides of a Month.

    In English, we normally say that the Ides is eight days after the Nones. But back in ancient Roman times, they would say it’s nine days away, since they see no reason not to count the current day. Hence the name “Nones,” and why the joke uses “eighth day after.” (This is also the cause of many “off-by-one” translation errors.)

    But don’t feel bad if you didn’t get the joke. Only nerds would get it. The joke isn’t really meant for non-nerds.

    If you still don’t get the joke, ask a nerdy friend. If you don’t have any nerdy friends, you can usually find some nerds at the bakery section of your local supermarket shopping for pies on March 14th. Unfortunately, that’s the day before the Ides of March, so if you have any “ides / nones”-related questions (that you’ll inevitably have on March 15th), you’ll have to wait almost a whole year (or as an ancient Roman would say, “a whole year”) to find one.

  10. “If you think that’s confusing”

    Why on earth would I think that’s confusing?

    “You can remember the dates with this rhyme my dad taught me: ‘On March, July, October, May, the Ides falls on the 15th day. On all others it’s the 13th.'”

    Why would that be any different than… just remembering the months? (And yes, I say the same thing about the rhyme “30 days, hath September, April, May, and December”.)

    ” Beware the eighth day after the Nones of March!”

    Right, the pendant says “Be sure to go to the store the day before tomorrow”. That’s a riot.

  11. Another “off-by-one” is “On the third day He rose from the dead.” I always wondered how Easter Sunday could be three days after Good Friday. But no. Good Friday is Day 1, Holy Saturday is Day 2, Easter Sunday is Day 3.

    It comes from not having a zero, I suppose. Musical intervals are like that too. C to C is not zero, it’s 1 (unison). C to D is a second, and so on.

  12. “In English, we normally say that the Ides is eight days after the Nones. But back in ancient Roman times, they would say it’s nine days away,…”

    Baseball announcers today do something like that, too. A pitcher who worked Monday might work Friday with five days’ rest, even though it’s actually 4×24 hours*. That never made sense to me, either.

    *Actually, 4×24 minus about 3 hours, assuming both games start at the same time of day.

  13. larK wrote: “I still don’t understand what supposed to be funny about the first one!!”

    I’m not entirely sure, either. Maybe the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” sounds less like it’s trying to warn you of a specific day, but rather like it’s trying to warn you about a sketchy person on the street. (After all, “ides” isn’t a word you use every day (or even monthly), so it’s hard to blame millennials for thinking it could refer to a person of disrepute.)

    And that’s what this cartoon is doing… It’s showing us that, as far as the bulk of society can figure out, an “ide of march” is a drunk guy who hangs out near alleys, ogling the pretty women that walk by. Oh, and we have some inkling that it has something to do with Ancient Rome, so that’s why there’s a toga and ancient Greco-Roman temple.

    There isn’t so much a punchline as there is the observation that “nobody knows what an ide is anymore, so what we see here could probably pass for one.”

    Sigh… O TEMPORA, O MORES!

  14. woozy wrote: “the pendant says ‘Be sure to go to the store the day before tomorrow’. That’s a riot.”

    The way I heard the joke was when a friend asked me, “Why are you wearing the same clothes as the day after yesterday?”

    I got all defensive, saying “I know what I was wearing the day after yesterday, and these aren’t the same clothes!”

    After having a few laughs, my friend pointed out the error of my ways. (We were ten years old at the time.) That’s also a riot.

  15. elGeo asked: “Does anybody care to share some knowledge on the interaction of the Greeks and the Etruscans?”

    I’ve read that the Etruscan alphabet was mainly derived from the Greek alphabet. The Latin alphabet (that’s the one we use!) was derived from the Etruscan alphabet.

    You can read more about this at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_alphabet

  16. Maybe the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” sounds less like it’s trying to warn you of a specific day, but rather like it’s trying to warn you about a sketchy person on the street. (After all, “ides” isn’t a word you use every day (or even monthly), so it’s hard to blame millennials for thinking it could refer to a person of disrepute.)

    .. It’s showing us that, as far as the bulk of society can figure out, an “ide of march” is a drunk guy who hangs out near alleys, ogling the pretty women that walk by.

    There isn’t so much a punchline as there is the observation that “nobody knows what an ide is anymore, so what we see here could probably pass for one.”

    ….

    By that reasoning Ides of march could be a sharp turn on a steep cliff, or an unscrupulous lawyer, or a bad cook.

    Okay, I can’t blame this poor hypothetical millennial for not knowing what an Ide of March is but I will blame this person, whose existence is for us boomers to deride, for coming to an utterly baseless assumption with absolutely no context.

  17. As noted, the Greeks had a lot of influence on the Etruscans — alphabet, art, pottery — but it was more like the not-quite-so-early Greeks and the early Etruscans.Etruscan power was broken by the Greek city of Syracuse in Sicily around 350 BC, or around the time Alexander was born.

    The Roman calendar system was weird. The first of the month was the calends, the nones was 4 or 6 days later, and the ides eight days after that (using non-inclusive counting). Everything else was so many days until the next calends. The Roman saying for never was “until the Greeks count time by the calends”, because those silly Greeks used the ridiculous system of numbering the days of the month.

    And inclusive counting runs all through the ancient Mediterranean.Somebody upthread mentioned the Resurrection and you can find it in the Old Testament, too. For the Greeks, the Olympics (and the other international games) were held every five years, even though they were on the same four-year schedule as the modern Olympics. The last year of one Olympiad was the first year of the next.

  18. Actually, the term “le calende greche” (the greek calends) is still used in Italian with the same meaning of never.

  19. The Ides are the full moon, the Nones are the first quarter moon. The new moon – the beginning of the month – was the Calends.

    Why the Nones was called “nine” when it would normally be on the 7th day is a good question.

  20. OK, there was further confusion on my part in that I thought the first of the two presented was the original, and the second was the vandalized version, which was why I thought it important to try and understand the first one because I thought it was the Kliban original. I reread the text up there, and now I understand the second one is the Kliban original, the first the bowdlerized version that we old farts are too smart to understand…

  21. Sorry about that, larK. I should have done some editing, or added interpolations into elGeo’s text. It was an unfortunate side-effect of the plan to start with the recent publication which referred to the Ides (a recent real-world date) and was what set off elGeo’s look into the past. However, that put the earlier, original issue on the bottom though he was calling it first, and the modified recent re-issue on the top, even though his text was calling it second.

  22. @ignatzz: It’s nine, because it’s nine days (counting inclusively) before the ides. That’s the counting forwards thing again. I do wonder why there isn’t another named day between the ides and the next calends.

  23. Mark in Boston – after a few years of going to mass with my husband (every Christmas and Easter as long as I find out when the masses for him) I pointed the same thing out to him – it is the second day after not the third. His reply was a shrug and “let’s leave now before it ends so there is less traffic”. Just for anyone who might not know – we are going to church for him as I am Jewish.

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