1. Not clown fish.

    I’d think there would be a better joke (not very funny, but better) if he was referencing where you usually see clowns; lion tamer fish, acrobat fist, etc.

  2. Water Marx?

    No…. I got nothing. But isn’t this a strip that does visual puns? Marx in School?

    I guess it’s clown fish but… I don’t really think of film comedians as ‘clowns’.

  3. I’d guess that the artist is saying Groucho Marx was a clown. And of course, there’s a coral accompaniment.

  4. Eh. Now Gummo fish and bears, that makes sense. Or Harp(o) seals, that would be something.

  5. It can take a while to put on full clown makeup. It’s a lot easier to simply don a pair of Groucho Marx glasses.

    These clownfish go the easier route by using Groucho Marx glasses. (Otherwise, their clown makeup would dissolve away in the water…)

  6. What I don’t understand is what the bird in the diving suit is doing down there. If it were a duck on a string with the secret word on it, that I’d get.

  7. Hunh, good question, Scott. Maybe because the branching coral looks like a tree, so it deserves a bird. And come to notice it, all the things that are touching the seabed seem to have ripple lines, as though that were the surface of the water, with air above it.

  8. As the image that Mitch4 posted confirms, the weakness in this drawing is that Marx wore round glasses (just like Lennon), and not the square ones shown here. Groucho’s moustache may have been square, but not his glasses. In addition, the cutesy smiles on most of the fish seem out of character.
    P.S. @ Scott – The authors named this feature “Yaffle”, which is one of the nicknames of the “European green woodpecker”. I’ve already complained often enough about their habit of tucking their mascot into every single comic, but this appearance is an exception: I thought the gag of putting the bird into a scuba outfit was better than the primary non-joke.

  9. P.P.S. My comment (including a link) was sent to moderation. The bird is a European green woodpecker, known in some places as a “yaffle”, which is the name of this comic.
    P.P.P.S. @ Bill – Could you ad that name to the tags for this post?

  10. @ Brian in StL – So far the only birdless exception has been the “Prison Mime” tryptich. The “Yaffle” drawings are undated, so I was not able (nor willing) to hunt down the original to see if the bird had been cropped out.

  11. Kilby, thanks for that Abkhaz stamp!
    It is interesting that their Cyrillic transliteration for ‘Marx’ uses five letters, ‘Маркс’, breaking the ‘x’ down into its sounds ‘ks’.
    Do you happen to know, was that the usual treatment for the name ‘Karl Marx’ in Russian?
    (I ask out of a bit of personal interest, as my own surname is ‘Marks’ in five letters in English.)

  12. @Mitch4: in Russia, it’s MAPKC as well for Karl Marx. But the Marx brothers’s father was born Marrix in France and changed his name when he immigrated to the USA.

  13. Thanks, Olivier. As I mentioned, my family name is Marks, and my grandfather’s name in America was Charles Marks. But conceivably (I can’t ask him) before he emigrated from the USSR in the early 1920s his name in Russian might have been indistinguishable from that of Karl Marx.

  14. What’s with G and H in Russian? I don’t know much about Russian, but I know that Anthony Burgess adapted Russian words for the slang in A Clockwork Orange, with “gulliver” for “head” and “horrorshow” for “good”. So Russian has both the G and the H sounds? Or is it just one sound somewhere in between, and “hulliver” and “gorrorshow” don’t sound like English words?

  15. There’s a rather famous figure in Russian history known as either Abram Gannibal or Abram Hannibal . He was from Africa, and was an ancestor of Pushkin.

    The Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abram_Petrovich_Gannibal has this passage about his name: ‘It was during his time in France that Abram adopted the surname “Gannibal” in honor of the Carthaginian general Hannibal (Gannibal being the traditional transliteration of the name in Russian)’

    Nabokov included an essay about Gannibal as an appendix to his translation of Eugene Onegin.

  16. голова (‘galova’) means head and starts with a g. H doesn’t exist in russian. Xорошо (‘khalasho’) means good and starts with a x, a very harsh r, usually transcribed as kh in english. Usually, h is transcribed as g in russian, even though g is pronounced the hard way, as in ‘good’, or ‘гoлoва’.

  17. I’ve wondered about h > г for decades and on reading this I finally decided to Hoogle it. I found these replies in 9-year-old Yahoo! answers (https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120103175000AAXyLKH):

    It’s been shifting in the last century or so (we have Хиллари rather than Гиллари Клинтон), but historically, Russian Х was never H, but Kh, that is, only the equivalent of German “ch”, Greek khi, etc. The sound written as “h” in English and most other Western European languages is considered non-existent in Russian, with “g” for its closest approximation. As I said, it’s no longer the case for the English H, but something as traditional and well-established as the Russian spelling and pronunciation of “Hamlet” isn’t going to be affected by the shifting trends anytime soon if ever.


    There was a g>h shift in some of the Slavic languages (Ukrainian, Belarusian, Czech, Slovak and High Sorbian to be exact). . . . Russian was affected only slightly and irregularly, but indeed enough for a speaker to think of [h] as an allophone of [g] rather than of [x].

    Some non-Western names are also changed this way – Yokohama – Йокогама (Yokogama), but their number is very limited to traditional cases. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are not part of this tradition and they are Ханой and Хо Ши Мин respectively.


    In Middle ages Russian “G” sounded differently. It was very close to “H” in latin language. If you know how to pronounce latin “H” then you will see that old Russian “G” and English “H” sound very similar. In modern Russian in some regions they still pronounce “G” old way (for Russians – like in Ukrainian language, between Х and Г).

    Pronounciation of “G” changed but words are still written in old way.

    [Incidentally, Russian Х doesn’t sound like any English dialect’s R but does sound like a harsh French R.]

  18. During a vacation on one of the Greek islands, I learned that a large amount of familiarity with the classical Greek alphabet (inflicted by math and physics courses) did not help as much as I had expected in deciphering modern Greek. The pronunciation rules (and the values of the letters) have changed over the millennia, so that (for example) the letter “β” is not used for the “B” sound as I had expected, so that a “bar” (pub) was not spelled “βαρ”, but rather “μπαρ” (effectively “mpar”).

  19. It was an amusing experience as I stood and painfully sounded out words in Greece until the point where I could hear what I was saying and decode the word. I vividly remember decoding καφέ φραπέ: k..ka..phi…kafee…kaffay…coffee! Phi..fff…r…ffraa…pi…frap..frappi..frappay…frappe! Coffee frappe! The simultaneous triumph and the realization that I was at the equivalent reading ability of a four-year-old was very amusing to me.

  20. @larK: same thing happened to me with arabic.
    @Treesong: russian x doesn’t sound like french r but like dutch g 😜.

  21. Someone told me a story of a person who was lost in Greece and had studied some Ancient Greek. He was hungry and thirsty but he could only think of the words for bread and water. Water as we all know is hydros, as in hydraulic. Anyway, the people he talked to thought he was crazy. The modern words for bread and water are totally different. The old words are Bible words, and hydros means holy water and the word for bread means the consecrated host. So there was this starving man going around asking for holy water and communion wafers.

  22. Olivier, yes, Russian ‘kh’ doesn’t sound like French r, but it’s closer to ‘a very harsh’ French r, in your words, than to any sort of English r.
    And for anyone who wondered about MiB’s story, like me, modern Greek words for ‘bread’ and ‘water’ are ψωμί and νερό. ‘Modern Greek ψωμί [psomí] (“bread”) derives from Koine Greek ψωμίον, diminutive of ancient Greek ψωμός (“morsel”).’

    Also, ‘ψωμός is first attested at Odyssey 9.374, when Polyphemus [‘one-eye’ to his buddies] vomits out “man morsels” (ψωμοί τ᾽ ἀνδρόμεοι) in his wine-induced stupor.’ Eww.

  23. Not sure of the exact time – but after WWII Harpo went to Russia to entertain as part of a general (no military generals) exchange program. It is way in the back of my head, but I remember reading about same in, I am presuming “Harpo Speaks”

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