36 Comments

  1. P.S. The second one is a CIDU for me. I know about pinning tails on donkeys, but I don’t see why they would have hired a unicorn, unless it’s just supposed to be surreal.

  2. @Kilby; Unicorns are special and magical, so expectations would be that having one on the team would produce great results. There may also be some intended connection to a “unicorn company”, which is a start-up worth at least $1 billion.

  3. Is the 3rd one
    -take your child to work
    -a play date gone wrong, or
    -a meeting of ventriloquists?
    It works on so many levels! (channeling Phoebe)

  4. Fun fact: “earworm” is of German origin: https://www.thelocal.de/20181008/der-ohrwurm

    As far as unicorns go, the below-linked article has this to say: “… Not to be confused with unicorn companies—startups valued at $1 billion or more—“unicorn” employees, for me, are staff who possess a unique set of qualities that make them extremely rare and valuable. Like actual unicorns, they’re hard to find, but once hired, offer up enormous benefits in the workplace….”

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-signs-youre-unicorn-employee-ryan-holmes

    And for the final one, is this incident proving that the “dummy” the ventriloquist had been using on stage had been a tiny living person all along?
    (Surely that’s a common trope, but I can’t find any evidence to back that thought up.)

  5. Now that comic reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode “Caesar and Me,” in which a down-on-his luck ventriloquist resorts to petty theft, driven by his dummy, only to be abandoned by his dummy, who played dead literally wouldn’t talk to investigators.

    There was another episode of TZ that featured a ventriloquist and dummy, but neither would seem to fit the trope of a “dummy” that’s actually a living small person in disguise I was attempting to get at.

  6. Grawlix: I used “earworm” in English before it made it into English, and people gave me all kinds of grief for it, even though I thought even if it wasn’t a common term, it should be pretty self-explanatory; not so! So I had to wait for the popular culture to catch up to me…

  7. larK: Was “earworm” a German expression? We English-speakers like German expressions, but we like to keep them in German: Weltschmerz, Schadenfreude, Weltanshauung, Wanderlust.

  8. Earworm seems to be a pretty recent adoption. Like the last 5 years or so. As far as I know, there was never a word for it in English before.

    @MiB: I’d add Wunderkind to your list. But it seems to me that, apart from Schadenfreude, most of those words are going out of fashion. (Interesting: Firefox spellcheck has no problem with either of the German words in this paragraph, but doesn’t like earworm.) Earworm is at least a literal, though incorrect translation. The proper translation for Ohrwurm is “earwig”.

  9. @ DemetriosX – Your “proper” translation applies only to the word when it is used for the insect.
    P.S. @ MiB – There’s also “Kindergarten” and “Gesundheit”. The funny thing is that even in the U.S., the former word is spelled (correctly) with a “T”, and virtually all Americans who use the latter word pronounce the medial “d” correctly (like a “T”).
    P.P.S. Looking at that list again, I couldn’t resist the following nitpick:

  10. P.P.P.S. In addition to the story by Mark Twain (mentioned in Stan’s link), I remember reading a children’s book (probably somewhere between 4th and 8th grade) that featured the same kind of “Ohrwurm” (the only way to get rid of it was to give it to someone else). Unfortunately (or fortunately), I can only remember two words of the insidious refrain, which was not enough to turn up the title in an Internet search.

  11. I had no idea earworm had been around so long. I’m reasonably certain I didn’t come across it until the last 5-10 years. Perhaps it didn’t make it to the west coast until after the mid-90s.

    And I’d say earwig is perfectly reasonable as a correct translation. German culture has the same connection of earwigs crawling into people’s ears that Anglophone culture does. That’s where the German term for the song comes from.

  12. Stan: then I had even more reason to be miffed by the almost violent reaction people had against the term when I used it (late 80s/early 90s); I am bilingual, and English is actually my stronger language, but it’s amazing how people will pile on any perceived weakness: you dumb kraut, you can’t say that in English!
    (I’m assuming that I was just automatically translating the term from German, but maybe I did actually hear it used in English; DemetriosX, this was East Coast, so it hadn’t made it there, either — maybe it spread out from Minnesota…)

  13. Grawlix,

    When I was a wage-slave, I used to categorize my cow orkers as mules, workhorses, and unicorns. The mules (of which I was one) did by far more work than they should have, the workhorses did a good and reasonable job, and the unicorns thought all they needed to do was look pretty and chat all day.

    Unhappily, the unicorns outnumbered the mules by a factor of two or three.

  14. @ Chak – That one little extraneous (but fortuitously placed) space (in “Cow Orkers“) made me laugh more than than any of the comics in this thread.

  15. P.S. @ DemetriosX – Even if “Ohrwurm” is the “official” German name for the order “Dermaptera” (earwigs), I’ve never heard anyone in Germany refer to one of those insects by that name; around here they are always called “Ohrenkneifer” (“ear pinchers”).

  16. Anthony Burgess was a musician and a very prolific composer, so he did have tunes in his head. I don’t think Mr. Burgess here is Anthony Burgess. From what I have read about him, when he checked into a hospital he probably did so as John Wilson.

  17. Kilby, I wish I could take credit for ‘cow orker’ but it was a common thing on usenet, once upon a time.

  18. Kilby: “Homer Price”. Although I remember seeing this somewhere else recently so maybe it already got posted in another thread here…

  19. @ Dave – Thank you very much for the answer! It took me a while to rediscover what the question was, but when I looked up the name, I immediately recognized that it was exactly the right book (from the doughnut machine on the cover). Every once in a while it’s really valuable to dig up a few old CIDU threads.

  20. I think it was the Enderby novels that gave me the idea it was an invention of Anthony Burgess’s to use “trick cyclist” as a slang substitution for “psychiatrist”.
    But then I later saw it in some other writers, and eventually in some sort of slang dictionary or jargon collection.

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