CSotD: Funny triggers

xkcd starts us off with a cartoon that is funny but that then sends me off on a tangent.

Obviously, what she proposes is not what anyone means by “putting the toothpaste back in the tube,” but I think that, if you squirted toothpaste out on the sink, you could probably get it back in the tube by holding the tube upward, squeezing out the air inside and then letting it vacuum up the spilt toothpaste.

But you’d only get a little bit at a time, and, given the cost of toothpaste, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

However — and granted this is already overthinking it — it’s still not my point, which is that I’m betting the expression arose back when toothpaste came in metal, not plastic, tubes. And if you think getting toothpaste back in a plastic tube is more effort than it’s worth, well . . .

. . . well, okay, you probably never thought that. But never mind, because I’ve got more quibbles.


For instance, this Bliss (AMC) is, at heart, just another “kids staring at phones” gag, which is on a par with “saggy jeans” gags, though I can remember that, when phones first became a thing, people would post videos of phone-gazers walking into stuff.

I’m sure people still do that from time to time, but I also think they’re learned to split their vision, similar to the way a marksman keeps both eyes open even though he’s only using one to sight down the rifle barrel.

Most of your vision is focused on the phone but some of it is looking at the ground in front of you. I think.

No matter, because what caught my semi-distracted eye was the sign, which is a take-off on lawn signs that say “Drive Like Your Child Lives Here.”

Which trigger this old editor because, while I agree with their sentiment, the damned signs should read “Drive As If Your Child Lived Here.”

It’s speculation against fact — your kid doesn’t live here — and so requires “lived,” not “lives.”

Drive as if I were — not “was” — a rich man, Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum.


And then here comes Lio (AMS) who thinks “fun” is an adjective, which it sorta kinda is, but, even if it were (speculation against fact), that’s not how degrees of fun are expressed.

Fun is a noun that can function as an adjective, but things are “more fun” not “funner,” to which I would add that something can be “so much fun” but can’t be “so fun.”

Grammar Girl agrees with me, and goes, reluctantly, into use of “fun” as an adjective, with “boring” and “yellow” as parallel examples.

Point being that things can be “more boring” but not “boringer” and “yellow” is a primary color, so either something is yellow or it isn’t.

It can’t be “more yellow,” though it might be a “brighter yellow” if you’re talking about light rather than pigment.

Something can be a darker brown because brown isn’t a primary color, so you’re really talking about the admixture of other colors which produce brown. Though not “tan” or “burnt sienna.”

Anyway, “funner” is not a word.

But that is one hell of a grasshopper.

In fact, it’s the grasshoppest.


Meanwhile, this New Yorker cartoon by Theresa Burns Parkhurst is funny except I didn’t laugh.

I got it: Guys don’t quite understand “Trouble Talk,” in which you are supposed to express sympathy by volunteering that you know how they feel because you’ve been through something similar.

Women mostly get it right, though I’ve heard them hijack the conversation, too, and turn their friend’s discussion of a problem into a discussion of theirs instead.

But there’s a bitter taste here that kept me from laughing and made me wonder, if she knew he’d do it, why she told him anything.


By contrast, Pat Byrnes goes straight at an egotistical bully, and I laughed rather than winced.

I think it’s the exaggeration.

Burns Parkhurst offers a gag that’s realistic, except that the woman says something she is too decent to say out loud, while Byrnes creates an absolute travesty of the boardroom sin in which the bigger ego seizes credit for something someone else said earlier.

Byrnes does well to make it a male-to-female interaction. It happens to guys, too, but women are the ones who have raised it as an issue, so the reader is better able to recognize the parody.

What’s interesting to me is that I see Byrnes’ cartoon as a joke about bullies, but Burns Parkhurst’s cartoon as a joke about men. I think she’d have needed multiple panels to make it a joke about a particular type of guy, while his exaggeration lets him make the more farcical point with a single image.


Anyway, the Burns/Byrnes factor offers a segue to talk about creative types with (nearly) the same last name, and Adam@Home (AMS) had an arc about his wife’s new book, and this episode totally cracked me up.

I know authors who look like themselves on their book jackets, but there are indeed Smolderers and Thoughtful Ones and it reminds me of the photographers who used to set up in the mall to do “glamour shots” in which they’d doll you up and take a picture that nobody would ever recognize.

And then there are those who have a “photo face” they snap into whenever a camera appears. Ann B. Davis looked exactly the same in every picture she ever took, whether as Schultzie on the Bob Cummings Show or as Alice 20 years later on the Brady Bunch.

These people must wear out bathroom mirrors the way tennis players wear out backboards.


This Pooch Cafe (AMS) is silly, but it reminds me of a biker buddy who started dating a very straight Jewish girl, and I mention her religion because her parents got one look at his long hair, tattoos and gang colors and suddenly she was off to a kibbutz in Israel.

She shocked’em, all right.

But I think he really loved her.

After she was gone, he drove by on his bike and heaved a brick through their picture window.


18 thoughts on “CSotD: Funny triggers

  1. With all due respect, Mike, when you’re a kid, “funner” is always a word. And, it’s always the adults who make the world “less fun” by over examining it.

  2. Searching the Library of Congress newspaper archives, the earliest I find “toothpaste back in the tube” is in humor fillers in 1939.

    Toothpaste tubes have been plastic for as long as I can remember, but my memory doesn’t go back to 1939.

  3. I don’t know when the conversion to plastic took place, but I’m old enough to remember metal tubes — which provoked fights between people who rolled them up from the bottom and vulgarians who squeezed them in the middle. Since they didn’t spring back, squeezing them in the middle was clearly lazy and wasteful.

    Today, people who want to quarrel can still argue about leaving the cap on, but a lot of toothpaste has the cap attached, which reduces the Bickersons and Lockhorns to over-the-roll or under-the-roll kvetching or, possibly, talking about what is really bothering them.

    That last part was a joke. Never happens.

    As for “funner,” my kids grew up with two journalists as parents. They’d have been better off squeezing the toothpaste in the middle than dropping “funner” into conversation.

  4. I disagree with your assessment of Theresa Burns Parkhurst’s cartoon. I read that and laughed because she is pointing out a trait of a narcissist. I know, I was married to one. Narcissism is not a male only trait.

  5. How about “yellow” as a metaphor for cowardice? “This dirty yellow rat ran away when the police game, but his even yellowier companion surrendered and turned state’s evidence.”

  6. The OTHER endless war is between cartoonists and editors is over the use of proper grammar versus how people…especially kids…actually talk. “Faster and Funner” is exactly how Lio would write that sign, thus, fitting the context of the cartoon and the strip itself. “More Fun” would have diminished the humor. But good luck trying to get an editor to agree with that, which is why cartoonists are funner than editors.

  7. I suspect you’re having some fun with us today, as I’ve never known you to be a prescriptivist pedant before. “Funner” is fine in this context, as are “ain’t” and “gonna” and shoulda done did” in others, and you know it. You ain’t foolin’ me.

    Am considering some toothpaste experiments. Not sure I can get my wife’s buy-in. Will report back if successful.

    Re: Wiley’s endless war with editors, I’m reminded of a copy editor who objected to my drawing of a car by pointing out that it couldn’t possibly be traveling fast enough to get airborne and that car tires are round, not oval. I reminded everyone that this was a cartoon car, not a real one, and if they wanted it rooted to the ground with round tires, thus omitting any visual cues that it was in motion at all, they were welcome to draw it themselves. Also, coyotes do not turn into accordions when you drop an anvil on them.

  8. I remember metal toothpaste tubes, too, and if I remember correctly, the end was crimped, not sealed like those newfangled plastic ones. You could just unroll the end, then put the toothpaste back in. I never did, but I did unroll one to see where the red stripes were coming from. This was sometime during the 1960s-1970s.

    And if I may rephrase the Distinguished Mr Miller’s comment in three words, “grammar ain’t style.”

    Finally, a co-worker once chided me for using the phrase “more better.” I actually said “more, better” but she didn’t hear the comma between the two. Where’s Victor Borge when you need him?

    The last time I wrote a long comment regarding grammar, I made a hideous grammatical error, which is what one usually does when writing about grammar. Did I do it this time?

  9. Some merchant, I think Sunset House, used to sell keys for toothpaste tubes to make it easier to roll them up from the end. Looked like sardine can keys.

  10. So I was trying to remember the toothpaste with stripes. I quickly threw out “Yipes! Stripes!” because, as the jingle then says, it was Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe Gum. And I thought about Ultra Bright toothpaste, a taste you can really feel, new Ultra Bright gives your mouth sex appeal.

    No, not that either. Then it hit me: Stripe Toothpaste.

    Sometimes you’ve got to dumb yourself down a bit. Dumb in that case being an adjective acting as a verb with all sorts of comparatives and superlatives.

  11. One of the Colgate Total toothpaste subspecies is Fresh Mint Stripe; we have a tube in the bathroom right now. The blue stripes aren’t as crisp as I remember the red ones being in Stripe Toothpaste. I think Colgate simply layers the colors when the tube is filled, as opposed to the old Stripe which, IIRC, actually had separate compartments and dispensed the red from holes around the mouth of the tube opening. Perhaps Fred King can confirm or refute?

  12. The “Drive As If Your Child Lived Here” sign would cause fewer eyebrows to lift when the snow piles up around the sign, causing it to read “Drive Like Your Child”.

  13. “Brain” is not a verb, either. “Help yourself brain better?” No thanks.

    Neither is adult – but “I can’t adult today>” kinda makes sense.

  14. Mark J: when I opened the tube all I could see was white, though I suspect that if I had delved a little deeper I might have found the red. I didn’t want to get in trouble with my mother, so I closed it up.

    Mark T: what feels even wronger [sic] is a kid wearing a tie.

    Solon, et al.: Anyone remember Colgate Tooth Powder in the oval metal can? I used it for years, but it’s no longer readily available. You can get it from India, but shipping isn’t cheap.

  15. Per Google, turns out striped toothpaste can be created both ways: striped in the tube all the way down, which can be used for more than one color added to white (e.g. Aquafresh), or white in the tube, with the added color in a well forming a ring around the outlet, with separate small apertures encircling the inside of the nozzle to effect stripe-on-dispense (e.g. Stripe Toothpaste).

    Dissection of the latter arrangement can be found here:


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