CSotD: Lexicological Levity

I don’t think squirrels are crepuscular, but apparently Harry Bliss and Steve Martin — teaming on this Bliss (Tribune) — do, and who am I to argue with them?

I’ve never charted squirrels to see what they do around noon, and perhaps they aren’t diurnal, but then nobody’s out at noon, at least not in the summer, when any animal with a lick of sense hides away.

I learned “crepuscular,” the term for animals most active at dawn and dusk, at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo but, while there were squirrels there, they were outside the cages rather than in them and so had no plaques explaining their sleep patterns.

It’s a lovely word, though damned hard to work into conversation.


“Wherefore” is also a delightful word, which everyone learned the meaning of in ninth grade when we had to read Romeo & Juliet except for those of us who were sitting in the back of the room drawing cartoons and hoping that, if called upon to read a part, it would be “First Citizen” so we could read our one line and go back to drawing.

Though, in defense of this Speed Bump (Creators), my sister is doing a lot of on-line genealogical research, which has nothing at all to do with magic lamps but does suggest that she may indeed have an app that tells her wherefore we are who we are and perhaps Juliet has one, too.


Still on the topic of schoolhouse dramatics, Big Nate (AMS) has tapped into a particular sore point with a story arc that began here and continues at GoComics.

I wish it were only in school plays that smart kids are portrayed as bespectacled Brainiacs, but it’s reinforced in TV commercials and elsewhere. However, I find it particularly annoying when smart kids in school plays are outfitted in oversized glasses, since their overall mission should be to encourage thought.

And don’t get me started on Sheldon, who began as a sympathetic Aspie on Big Bang Theory but was then spun off into a new series as a little Brainiac, though, granted, one apparently with good vision.

For several years, I ran a Quiz Bowl program that involved teams from two dozen schools, and, if you didn’t have at least one Aspie on your squad, you weren’t going to win. Some of them wore glasses and some of them didn’t, but none of them wore bow ties.

Though stereotypes can sometimes be justified: My favorite moment came when one of the schools had an end-of-the-year awards ceremony and their Quiz Bowl team, fresh from a trip to Nationals, took a turn around the gym in lab coats, pushing a cart with a globe, a microscope and similar accoutrements, to the cheers of their schoolmates.

In faciem tuam!


Juxtaposition of the Smart Girls

Wallace the Brave (AMS) has recently added Rose to its cast, and she’s still working her way into the mix. It is already clear, however, that she is a very different Bright Little Girl than Amelia, who, as seen in that first strip, is a bit like Alice Otterloop with a few more years under her belt.

Rose is something of an anchor so far, perhaps a bit more contemplative than Wallace or Amelia, and I’m at once anxious so see how she develops and anxious that she not be rushed into a fixed role until it’s all been thought out.

I particularly like that Wallace, Amelia and Rose are smart and yet still kids, while Spud is everyone’s best friend and devoted shadow — like Porky Brockway or Larry Mondello — and Sterling is mad as a hatter.

In a lot of strips — among which I would count Peanuts — the girls are primarily antagonists for the central male characters. Cul de Sac was an obvious exception to that, but Wallace the Brave seems to be assembling a larger, more fleshed out ensemble.

One hallmark of a well-constructed strip is that a particular gag can only be carried off by a specific mix of the characters. If you can place the joke in anybody’s mouth, it may be a good joke but your characters are flat.


And as long as we’re playing vocabulary games today, here’s Super Fun Pak Comix (AMS) and a bit of deep trivia you’ll probably never get to use: The Irish word cinnte — pronounced “KINCH-eh” — indicates certainty, which makes it a funny nickname for the ever-doubting, ever-pondering Stephan Dedalus.

Irish has no word for “yes” but uses the verb to be, “ta,” which explains why old school Irish are more apt to agree by saying “It is,” though they do say “aye” from time to time.

So if you said (in Irish) “It’s a lovely day,” the response would be “Ta, cinnte,” or “It is, sure.”

As for Buck Mulligan, the original was a whole book in himself, a brilliant physician, poet and writer of filthy and/or blasphemous doggerel, including the Ballad of Joking Jesus, which Joyce dropped into that chapter of Ulysses, as well as a poem he managed to get published by a conservative journal ostensibly to welcome our brave boys back from the Boer War.

The Gallant Irish yeoman
Home from the war has come
Each victory gained o’er foeman
Why should our bards be dumb.

How shall we sing their praises
Our glory in their deeds
Renowned their worth amazes
Empire their prowess needs.

So to Old Ireland’s hearts and homes
We welcome now our own brave boys
In cot and Hall; neath lordly domes
Love’s heroes share once more our joys.

Love is the Lord of all just now
Be he the husband, lover, son,
Each dauntless soul recalls the vow
By which not fame, but love was won.

United now in fond embrace
Salute with joy each well-loved face
Yeoman: in women’s hearts you hold the place.

Now go back and read the initial letter in each line.

Finally today, a bit of Reader Service for fans of “King of the Royal Mounted.” Vintage Comics Kingdom couldn’t find the next week in the current storyline, but voila!


Note: Neither mad dogs nor Englishmen are crespuscular.

7 thoughts on “CSotD: Lexicological Levity

  1. I learned “crepuscular” from one of Wodehouse’s Mulliner stories. I manage to use it at least once every five years.

  2. If the conversation were properly extruded, it shouldn’t be too hard to work ‘crepuscular’ into it.

  3. Thanks for the Lassie and Beaver links. Neither is something I’d think to seek out, but both were enjoyably interesting and led me down rabbit holes.

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