And Sarge was about to call the Lieutenant what?

I suspect the 1965 audience was expected to read-in a gender-based insult; but probably a mild one?

P.S. This one above appeared for an Arnold Zwicky analysis shortly after its GoComics reprint.

Bonus: from a little later in the reprint cycle.

I was almost going to say the casual acceptance of violence is actually a bit shocking. But on second thought, Beetle’s reaction is not fully accepting. (Yes, we regularly see Sarge beating on Beetle, but that’s mostly about raising a ball of dust, while Rocky’s “blackjack” or “sap” strikes a more sinister air, something like underworld associations.)

24 Comments

  1. Seeing that it’s 1965, could be a sexual orientation-based insult too. And that might explain the interruption before Sarge can finish.

  2. Mark M, that interpretation of the interruption also occurred to me. It’s a little disturbing that it implies an insulting (for the times) term that the cartoonist or papers weren’t willing to print but wanted readers to think of anyway.

  3. I expected Sarge to say “a poncey poofter.”
    What, you didn’t know M. Walker was a Python fan?

  4. Mitch, that is equivalent to a description of any ol’ “innuendo” or “double entendre”.

  5. … a puff?

    That might be mostly British slang, though. But a common enough term back in the sixties.

  6. Speaking of sexual-orientation, does the second comic have an innuendo to this as well? If not baseballs, then knocking out a few…what? There seems to be a whiff of “gay-bashing” here to me.

  7. My mother was from Wyoming, was born in the early 1900’s, and wrote with a cartridge fountain pen (medium split nib).. Her cursive writing was amazingly neat and consistent. Rarely have I seen any male writing that was like that.
    (I just did a Google search for “men vs. women, cursive writing neatness” and found that I’m not the only one with that experience.)
    When she wrote, only her pinky finger touched the paper (or desk); that’s another skill I never mastered.

  8. The second one was on GoComics just a few days after the top one, and I grabbed it as an add-in for the post which was already in the pipeline with the top one. It was also a little “problematic” by modern lights, altho in a different way I thought. Not about orientation nor really anything about gender, though perhaps Rocky’s readiness to go “knock out a few (men)” can stand in for a casual “toxic masculinity”. I didn’t read “gay-bashing” into it, but generalized “person-bashing” which is no more reassuring.

    Actually, there is a little bit of a syntax problem, if you notice I felt obliged to fill in an object for Rocky’s take on “knock out”, whereas Beetle’s question was fine with no overt object (and implicit “baseballs”). But how could Rocky really make that mistake when the short form is a fixed idiom?

  9. Good point, Chak; except that the strip lives on to today, and has purged a lot of that — except for Sarge always beating up Beetle. So it was striking as a “different times!” reminder.

  10. “Not about orientation nor really anything about gender, though perhaps Rocky’s readiness to go “knock out a few (men)” can stand in for a casual “toxic masculinity”.”

    I just feel that generally, if people are planning to go out for a fight, they have a target in mind. I’m not sure, but I would think it’s rare for even the most toxic male to wander into the street with a bat or ‘blackjack’ and just hammer on random men he encounters. Since Beetle’s comment seems to make a reference to something (“…a few.”), I just wondered what Rocky interpreted that to be. ‘Men’ just seems a bit too general to me.

    If anyone agrees with this premise, I’m sure a number of valid targets could be named, so there’s no need to list alternatives. However, perhaps due to growing up in a rather small, homophobic town where ‘gay-bashing’ was a regular Friday night activity of gangs of those toxic males you mention, my view has been skewed in that direction.

  11. Interesting essay referenced in Arnold Zwicky’s blog: “Analysis Of Bros Before Hos: The Guy Code”, By Michael Kimmel.

  12. Rocky just figured his pal Beetle had targets in mind — maybe someone insulted his mother or something. The important thing is Beetle needed help and Rocky had no problem helping out, no matter who the targets were.

    Back to the first strip. I doubt that, in 1965, a gag-a-day comic strip would be making intentional reference to homosexual individuals, even as an elided insult (though if it did, the insult would most likely be “fairy” or “sissy”; “poof”/”poofter” are distinctly British and the ‘f-word’ is too vulgar for the funny pages).

    That said, some of those words could apply to men seen as unmasculine without necessarily an implication of homosexuality. So maybe Sarge was going to say “sissy”.

  13. Powers parenthetically says (though if it did, the insult would most likely be “fairy” or “sissy”; “poof”/”poofter” are distinctly British and the ‘f-word’ is too vulgar for the funny pages).

    I agree, but I think there is an omission: “queer”. Unless that would have been in the too-harsh bin. But it was very common back then and, up to a recent “rehabilitation” or amelioration, was meant to be very cutting. Also note that the interruption by the officer-in-the-office (is that a Captain?) is “Quiet!” which in both spelling and sound resembles “queer” at the start — if that helps make it a likely substitution.

  14. Part of the problem, both with explaining Rocky’s confusion and the strip over all is the way he’s holding the bat in Panel 1. That’s not a normal way and would be pretty uncomfortable for any length of time.

  15. Re the second strip. Having noted the implication of the first one, and before realising what they were carrying, I was shocked (perhaps due to my British background) by the invitation to “knock out a few,” which I translated as a suggestion that they engage in a session of mutual self pleasure. Sorry.

  16. Kevin A – I used a cartridge pen also – until fairly recently when I ran out of cartridges and did not want to go out during the pandemic to look for more – and my hand writing, well in school it was suggested that I become a doctor as I wrote like one. I cannot always read my writing back and generally print instead of script as an attempt to make it readable, which does not work well either. (I have a good computer program to fill in any form I need to fill in on my computer, which does not have to be on the original copy of the form,and print out it to file.)

    It was not the pen – it was your mother that resulted in the lovely writing.

  17. 100% agree with John S – I had the same, instant, interpretation of “knocking out”. As I read down the comments it became more and more clear that this meaning is unknown in the USA. What he comes out carrying torpedoes that meaning, though.

    Now, if he’d come out carrying a magazine….. 😉

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