46 Comments

  1. Was the CIDU tag included by mistake? If not, then I’m not sure what part isn’t understood.

    The letters in squares are all taken from the Periodic Table of elements.
    The letters spell out words:
    “nah”
    “Yes Mother”
    “Funk” (With the N replacing a C)
    “OMG” (Which means Oh My God)
    “Argh”

  2. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout tags.
    But I do see some open questions.
    Do you also get a sense that the responses (spelled out by the blocks) are meant to sound youthful-peevish, like text-speak or generational conflict? (Yes, I understand that “Yes, Mother” is not restricted to answering one’s own actual mother.)
    Was this use of element blocks in spelling in fact pioneeered by the Breaking Bad titles designers, or did notable instances predate that?
    Thank you.

  3. Ofc funk is a word on its own, even when suggesting a spelling-neighbor. And there probably are some strong smells in that lab. (And even more in the lav, hahaha.)

    I agree with Danny that that “Yes, Mother” is not restricted to answering one’s own actual mother , and would add that it seems most tellingly used with peers, to say they are acting too directive.

  4. This literally made me LOL. I agree with Pete in that I can’t figure what’s not to understand. Then again, I call myself chemgal for a reason, so I might be biased.

  5. Not predating, but King Crimson, the venerable* band, uses element blocks to spell out stuff. I think the first time was for the Elements of King Crimson 2014 box set. The letters all apply to real elements and are used, in the small boxes, along with the correct numbers, to refer to band members like Robert Fripp (Rf, 104, which is really Rutherfordium) and Tony Levin (Lv, 106, Livermorium).

    https://www.dgmlive.com/news/2014%20Tour%20Box%20download

    The big boxes K and Cr for the band name are also real elements, but the elemental numbers relate to the release date (20 and 14) and not the real numbers for K (Potassium) and Cr (Chromium), which are 19 and 24. If only King Crimson had thought to do this first back in 1924!

    *Fun Fact… it is 45 years between 1924 and the founding of King Crimson in 1969, but 45 years between 1969 and 2014. (Which reminds us that Apollo 11 is nearer in time to the end of the Great War, aka WWI, than it is to today).

  6. And let’s credit the cartoonist with entirely using only genuine chemical element symbols. I’ve seen some cheap-and-crummy examples that just use whatever letters they want, in any which way.

  7. Ugh, pet peeve of mine, non-native English speakers inventing new forms of English, in this case the use of “Funk” for “Fuck” — it doesn’t work! Native Speakers don’t do this! it’s not your language, show some respect! Yes, I know, I’m over-reacting, and trying to tame the whirlwind — language is what it is, anyone can and does change it, and that is that, no matter what I think of the subject. Like I said, pet peeve, being German and a native English speaker, and the German’s proclivities in inventing non-existing or misapplying English words (twen, handi, mobbing) — you have your own damn language: use it!

    (I know in this case it’s not a German doing it, but still riles me, and yes, we’ve seen and discussed the use of “funk” in this comic before…)

  8. (I know in this case it's not a German doing it

    Yep, info at Wikipedia makes the artist Finnish, but I guess your growling at Germans could be transferrable.

    we've seen and discussed the use of "funk" in this comic before...

    Sorry, probably before my time. But just this morning, just above here (or below, if that’s how your display works), I pointed out that “funk” is a perfectly valid English word, and actually contributes something of its own here.

  9. “Funk” is a perfectly valid English word, and it has its own meaning, which is not as an interjection nor a replacement for a verboten invective (did you see what I did there?). That it has a meaning that could be tied to this particular scene just confuses the issue, because I have great certainty that it was not meant as such, and these types of failed communication, where one party intends less and the other party understands more, but not the intended, have plagued me all my life, where I am stuck in the middle, trying to interpret between two people who don’t know they are not actually communicating, or minding my own business, but watching as ever more elaborate misconceptions arise… Like I said, pet peeve, because it would all be so much better if the one party didn’t pretend more knowledge of the target language than they actually possess; and worse, when it becomes quasi-correct, but only in the non-native speaking population, that is even worse, because you now have a permanent source of miscommunication. All my German friends who list their favorite hobby as “surfing”, by which they mean “wind surfing”, and not, you know, “surfing” — imagine being a resort in Hawaii and the guest wanting to go “surfing”, but he really means “wind surfing”. Or imagine the Hawaiian going to the north coast of Germany and asking to be set up to go “surfing”. All needless confusion! Why do the Germans insist on calling “bullying” “mobbing”? “Mobbing” is an already existing English term with its own meaning that is slightly but significantly different, though allied to, “bullying”. Why not use a German word? Why not use the correct English word? Why misuse an already existing English word? This doesn’t help communication, it actively hinders it!
    Sorry about all the Angst

  10. verboten invective (did you see what I did there?).

    Thank you for avoiding the moderation/approval cycle!

  11. As to why “funk” doesn’t work as a replacement, it has to do with the sonorant nature of the nasal “n”, which totally mismatches the hard stop of the obstruent “k” in the original word; native replacements for the word tend to have the same or similar obstruents ending a short, single syllable (crap, fug, frack, frick). While “funk” does end in a nice hard plosive “k”, it adds the nasal sonorant before the plosive, which, unlike the obstruent, can continue for an indefinite amount of time, making for a quasi extra syllable, and thus not matching the stresses of the vital parts that define the form of the word to a native speaker. It just sounds all wrong…

  12. I didn’t notice the first time this was posted here several months ago[*] that the tile cut out for Nitrogen has been pasted over a tile (presumably Carbon).

    “I’ve seen some cheap-and-crummy examples that just use whatever letters they want, in any which way.”

    Wha…. but what’s the point? If its cheap and crummy whatever letters any which way, how and why are we supposed to think it’s chemical symbols?

    []do you guys, *really, not notice repeats immediately?

  13. I’m very happy to applaud larK’s description of the phonetics (though I think the orthographic ‘n’ in “funk” might be accounted an eng rather than /n/ — not a big point, since both fit larK’s description as nasal continuant / sonorant) — but am not 100% convinced about the argument for the psychological force of the phonology. But good job, and you may be right.

    Still, Rowan and Martin made hay for several years with remarks about “your Funk and Wagnall’s” !

  14. “Ugh, pet peeve of mine, non-native English speakers inventing new forms of English, in this case the use of “Funk” for “Fu*k””

    But that’s not what’s occurring. Notice there are two tiles in the space. The artist is self censoring and joking that a Nitrogen tile was pasted over a carbon tile. And as with most self censored in might not be natural. Imagine a comic strip where a guy is cursing and his word balloon has a “hsia” in hand-written alternative script on a post-it not taped over the last letter.

    The cartoonist wouldn’t be claiming “fuchsia” is a viable alternative for the curse. In fact part of the joke is it so obviously isn’t.

  15. Oh, very nice observation, Woozy, that the N tile has been pasted over another, presumably a C. This does make it a conscious joke about the politeness / Bowdler factor!

    In the admin backend we do have a very nice search function, which will find text strings in previous posts and comments. When I look for “breaking bad” there are some half-dozen comments found, but I don’t see them discussing the periodic table tiles trick. Something else might turn up a previous use of a comic — most notably a better memory!

  16. For reference, here is the image from the earlier CIDU appearance Woozy found:

    (And to double down on it being memory issue, that earlier appearance seems to say “submitted by Mitch”!)

  17. Hey, take a stroll through that December 2019 thread and have fun noting to what extent some of us were saying the same or different things as we did today!

  18. Mitch4: Both Funk and Wagnall were real people and those were their real names. Both attended my alma mater, Wittenberg (then College) in Ohio. Rowan and Martin were not just making up names or words….

  19. “Hey, take a stroll through that December 2019 thread and have fun noting to what extent some of us were saying the same or different things as we did today!”

    To my chagrin, I see I said the native speaker would say “fudge”, which has the sibilant ʒ sound, which means I’m going to have to revise my statement above… So you see, what is really essential is the short vowel immediately followed by the stop, which “fudge” has — what comes after the stop isn’t that important, gets de-stressed, so it’s OK, really! English is stress timed 😉

  20. larK – “surfing”, by which they mean “wind surfing”, and not, you know, “surfing”

    And some people say “hockey”, by which they mean “ice hockey” and not, you know, “hockey”! Infuriating!

  21. And I think nobody at all says “polo” meaning “water polo” and not, you know, “polo”.

  22. I am kind of surprised nobody has mentioned football.

    Hey, Lark, does your pet peeve swing both ways?
    For example:
    ACHTUNG!
    ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENSPEEPERS!
    DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKEN.
    IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
    ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.

  23. In the fine TV show “The Good Place” the offending word was replaced with “fork”. Literally, as that’s what would come out of a character’s mouth, leading to bits like, “What the fork? Why the fork can’t I say ‘fork’?”

  24. He, He, He.

    Even if I do laugh at my own joke.

    … in a peculiarly high-pitched voice.

  25. Yeah, “fork” totally demolishes my rant, too — the liquid r is even worse than a sonorant n… I guess I could qualify my way out of it by saying only non-rhotic dialects can use fork or fark… Ever more qualifications! ;-P

  26. Except that at least “fark” is definitely accepted in rhotic dialects.

    (I agree though, there’s something wrong with using “funk” as the substitute)

  27. [temporalparadox –

    I was going to make a sodium joke, but then I thought, “Na”.]

    Just don’t use salty language.

  28. Old element joke: I asked my neighbor how he got his tulips to grow so well. He said, “I just mix the bulbs with some fertilizer and barium.”

    I got some fertilizer at the garden store but I couldn’t find anything with barium in it. I had to go to a chemical supply store to get barium. I planted the bulbs with fertilizer and barium.

    Nothing sprouted.

    I asked the neighbor what could be wrong. He said, “Did you barium too deep?”

  29. If everybody isn’t sick of me yet, I really am interested in what it is about “funk” that doesn’t work for me (and apparently not for Dave in Boston either). I think I was on to something, but too quickly wrapped everything up in a too convenient bow. It seems more that it has to do with the opening and closing of the mouth and the injection of a quasi-syllable into the word-shape: an r is open, so you can go from the vowel to the r without closing, and then go to the stop: the shape of the word-envelope of open directly to stop in preserved, whereas with a nasal you have to close, so basically you’re dividing into another syllable, and that’s what the problems is. I posit that a diphthong for the vowel would also not be an acceptable replacement: fake? Fiat? Oik?

  30. Well larK, I respectfully disagree about funk. That’s why I brought up Rowan and Martin “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall’s”. Said with rapid casual speech, the ‘and’ shortens and you get funkin’ which I (and years of audiences) easily hear as a substitute.

    BTw, cxp, thanks for the additional info about the real-life people, Funk and Wagnall. I didn’t know anything about their background, but naturally assumed the publishing company with that name was reflecting the founders or something like that. The F&W Dictionary (and a little less so the F&W Encyclopedia) was at one time quite well known, and I think Laugh-In was counting on viewers to recognize that along with hearing the cover-up joke.

  31. I have a copy of the two-volume Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary from about 1960. It came with the Encyclopedia Britannica set my parents bought.

  32. One of my (many) pet peeves is someone noting that “The dictionary says…” without specifying which dictionary (or sayint “Webster’s says…” without realizing there have been many “Webster’s” dictionaries over the last century plus, and the name has long ben generic so any bozo can use it.

    Why, yes, I AM a (retired) academic librarian; how did you guess?

  33. I think “Roget’s Thesaurus” and “Hoyle’s Rules of Games” have also become generic.

    What’s interesting about that is that if you are going to buy a “Roget’s Thesaurus” or a “Hoyle’s Rules of Games,” you will probably want an up-to-date version with all the latest words and games, not the last edition Roget or Hoyle worked on before he died.

  34. narmitaj –
    Is roller hockey okay to call hockey or is it the same as calling ice hockey – hockey?

    A friend in college (who Robert knows since 2nd grade) used to play roller hockey which is how I know of it).

  35. Meryl, I think ice hockey is the one that can lay claim to unmodified ‘hockey’. Besides roller hockey, another that probably always needs to retain its specializing modifier would be field hockey.

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