Sunday Funnies – LOLs, December 20th, 2020

In this age of “Use your inside voice” it’s good to know where the range of voice options reaches.

A bit of a LOL-Eww:

When we first saw this, it was in the black-and-white version sent in the Bliss daily email, and our first thought was to look forward to the color version and see how the notorious Twitter “bluecheck” verified-user symbol would be rendered. Not blue, in the event.

And a bit of LOL-Cynical:

In case you didn’t know, the “Nick and Zuzu” comic panels run as accompaniment to an advice column by Carolyn Hax. Sometimes they really depend on the writing and are totally CIDU without it. Other times, the comic is quite independent of the column which sparked it; and that is the case here. And the cartoons appear elsewhere, where the column is not available or even mentioned, such as GoComics.

But in case you are interested: the Hax column which had this as its illustration was at this link, which has a paywall but should allow some free visits.


  1. In case anyone reading that Bliss cartoon, and remarks in the post, is unfamiliar with the business about the Twitter “blue check” verification icon, here are examples of a checked and unchecked user stamps:

  2. Thanks for showing us what it looks like, Mitch, but what does it do or mean? And, more importantly, how is it funny? I know Bliss is sometimes funny and sometimes a head-scratcher, but this one is beyond the latter.

  3. Oh my, Ed, this Bliss cartoon was not meant to be challenging and provocative, like say a Frog Applause might be. It’s just a touching man’s-best-friend fantasy moment. This is one smart dog! And what he is wishing for, and trying to communicate to his human, is that he would like to have his identity proof submitted to Twitter administration so that he can be verified and his tweets will henceforth carry the (snobbish) blue check mark of a certified “celebrity”.

  4. Thanks, Mitch. I don’t use Twitter, never have, and most of what I do know about it comes from news reports on He Who Shan’t Be Named here.

  5. On the “amphitheater voice”: My 20-year-old amplifier has a selection of “sound fields” that simulate “concert hall” and other environments. “Arena” adds an echo, which is kinda cool. It recreates the experience of watching an old movie in a big, near-empty theater. I may have been one of the very last people to buy a ticket to see “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

  6. @ Boise Ed – That was precisely the reason that I deleted my account, right after they doubled the bandwidth of the sewage to 280 characters.

  7. YouTube also has check-marked verified content providers. Some time back they sent notifications to a bunch of verified channels that they were going to be stripped of that and would need to reapply. This, as you might guess, led to quite a furor and eventually a backtrack. It wasn’t clear why they were planning that, but no doubt it fit in with the new motto that Google chose to replace “Don’t Be Evil”, which is “Don’t Be Not Making Money!!!”.

  8. The pronouns have me all confused in the first strip. Are the two people having the discussion roommates with each other as seems to be stated in panel one? Or the green haired one someone else’s roommate as implied in the other panels?

  9. Wait, upon further review, I now think that they have different roommates. In the sentence “My roommate is bi!”, I was putting the emphasis on the word ‘bi’, which makes it sound like she is just discovering that the other woman (presumably her roommate) is bi. But putting the emphasis on ‘My’ totally changes the meaning.

    That’s the problem with drawn media.

  10. Mark M, yes the first dialog panel could be clearer with some word emphasis. But I don’t think it’s my that needs it — that would contrast with “your roommate” whereas we get “you”re bi”. So it’s more broadly all of “my roommate“.

    Anyway, I at first thought this was entirely equivalent to if the special condition had been an ethnic or national origin identity. “OMG you’re Thai! My roommate is Thai!”. That would be equivalent, if the next step were “You two should get together and compare notes,” in both cases. But since she is thinking in terms of romantic matchmaking, she seems to think a bi person can only match with another bi person. When in fact — or in principle — a bi person can match with a wider range of sex+orientation candidates.

  11. Wait, upon further review, I now think that they have different roommates.

    I think there’s only one roommate involved. Orange-hair is contemplating matching her own roommate with Green-hair herself, not Green-hair’s roommate.

  12. “The pronouns have me all confused in the first strip.”

    I envy you to have missed the entire politicization of the pronoun.

    “They” is accepted and correct default singular pronoun among this crowd. “They” is the orange-haired one’s roomate. A single person.

    “I have a roommate.” “What’s their name?” “Their name is Robert.” “What’s their major”. “They are an English major.” is now a normal and accepted conversation.

    (All snideness aside, I’ve actually relented and accepted this a few years ago, and will even defend it occasionally. But equally occasionally it comes off as sounding really weird as this strip does.)

  13. Oh, I see what’s confusing people.

    I think the situation is this.

    Orange hair is talking to a friend/classmate/associate but someone she doesn’t live with and finds out the associate is bi. She expresses excitement the associate is bi, and points out, that her roommate is also bi. (The two sentences are two different statements about different people.) The associate points out that she doesn’t know anything about this roommate and that the roommate is bi.

    I suppose Mark M. Is assuming the two sentences are the same statement repeated twice for emphasis as in “My god, you are a russian assassin! Wow, I can’t believe it. My roommate is a russian assassin!”

  14. Woozy, yes that is initially what I thought. But after deety and Danny Boy explained it, they light bulb went on. Thanks for that. I hate when someone else’s LOL is my CIDU! 😀

  15. Mitch4, The trick to enjoying Reddit is to pick your sub carefully. ELI5 (Explain like I’m 5) is full of interesting ,knowledgeable and helpful people, not unlike CIDU.

  16. Mark M: “I hate when someone else’s LOL is my CIDU!”

    I think it’s worse the other way around. When my LOL is your CIDU, it’s effectively like “Look how funny this is?” “That’s so unfunny I don’t even see how it’s a joke.” 😦

    woozy: “They” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun for a person of unspecified gender (e.g. “If anyone needs to go to the bathroom, they should do so now.”) sounds quite natural to me, and has for many decades. So the conversation flows naturally for me in this comic. I sometimes find it jarring or confusing when “they” is used as a singular pronoun for a specific person of known gender, as in your example with Robert.

  17. deety: “…she seems to think a bi person can only match with another bi person.”

    I don’t think this is part of the joke. Rather, I think it’s the equivalent of your Thai example.

  18. I’ll be careful not to let this get political in an argumentative way … but I wanted to praise the “OMG you’re both bi!” comic for managing to make a point in a way that is “educational” and gently critical, while still being firm in that criticism.

    Clearly the “authorial voice” feels that Orange-top, thru her (literally) starry-eyed enthusiasm, is saying the wrong thing and needs correction or criticism. And even after Green-top has explained the problem, she mostly repeats it!

    But the overall effect is not to condemn or berate her. And a part of the “message” seems to be that it does after all make a difference that she is clearly well-meaning. This is in contrast to those whose stand would be “being well-meaning is no excuse for persisting in doing the wrong thing”.

  19. “I think there’s only one roommate involved. Orange-hair is contemplating matching her own roommate with Green-hair herself, not Green-hair’s roommate.”

    I have to admit, I really can’t see how to read this in any way to see that green-hair has a room-mate involved..


    W.W:: “They” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun for a person of unspecified gender (e.g. “If anyone needs to go to the bathroom, they should do so now.”) sounds quite natural to me,

    Yes, but for an unspecified person. For a specified person (such as Orange-hair’s roommate) it is …. off-putting.

    And “anyone” really isn’t a singular person at all but an abstract of people of which an action will apply unspecifically to any one of them or multiple ones of them individually.

    I sometimes find it jarring or confusing when “they” is used as a singular pronoun for a specific person of known gender, as in your example with Robert.

    We don’t know Robert’s gender identity, just their name. And in this case it is Orange-hairs roommate (who presumably has an individual actual and specific existence).

    Which is precisely how it is being used in these situations. You’ve seen the “what is your preferred pronoun” questionaires haven’t you and that “they/them” is usually the third most common option? I’ve come to accept this a few years ago and will defend it, but I can’t ever really like it and wish another solution had been found instead.

  20. and wish <em>another</em> solution had been found instead.

    But not an invented word or set of words. “They/them” can work because they are words you have always used. “Ze/zir” etc don’t stand a chance.

    Yes, we invent, and import, and modify, words all the time. But generally nouns, verbs, and adjectives; not pronouns and prepositions and articles.

  21. Mitch,

    That’s what always bothered me about ze/zir – pronouns just aren’t introduced into the language. We resist that mightily. I agree that they/them is awkward, but it”s the best we can do right now, I think.

    Besides, it kinda destroys the whole purpose of a pronoun: if you can’t remember the name, you can always use a pronoun. 🙂

  22. It you are going to invent a pronoun who on earth thinks inventing them with unpronouncible traditional cryptic letters is a good idea. “xe/xer” and even “ze/zir” is absurd and horrorifyingly unpleasant to look at. If you are going to make up a pronoun why make it the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard?

    Why not something simple such as: “ip/pes” or “laf/lafeir(pronound luh-feir)” or some some such. Surely something is wrong with you if your first thought is “‘xer’ is a good choice”.

  23. Well, as I said, I don’t favor the idea of new constructed pronouns . But setting aside that general reluctance, we can still weigh in on which of those might be better or worse from some perspective, as Woozy has done.

    And then I will put in for “ze” or maybe more “zey” that it is like what a speaker from a language where they don’t have either of the “th” sounds would say when trying to say “they “ . Also familiar from parody heavy French accent. “Are zey ear yet?”

  24. “Yes, but for an unspecified person. For a specified person (such as Orange-hair’s roommate) it is …. off-putting.”

    For you, perhaps. For me, since I don’t know Orange-haired roommate’s gender, it sounds natural to me. I’m not making a political or grammatically prescriptive statement about whether it should sound natural to you. I’m just saying it flows well for me.

    As for the Robert example, when I hear someone’s name is “Robert,” I tend to assume they identify as male. Again, I’m not making a prescriptive statment. Perhaps it is wrong of me to assume so. I’m just explaining why the dialogue in the comic flows naturally to me, while I find the example with Robert slightly jarring.

  25. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has an sf story with some fifteen or so named characters; all the names are unisexual ones like Hilary or Dale or Fran, and none are identified as to gender.

    Her notes on the story in a reprint anthology said that yes, they are a mixture of male and female, and yes, she as author knows which are which, she’s Not Telling — a reader will have to work with hir own assumptions. (Well, Yarbro didn’t say “hir,” that’s just my own favrotie/least-bad neutral pronoun.)

    Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the story — I’m pretty sure I read it in her collection CAUTIONARY TALES (1978) but don’t have a copy handy.

  26. “For you, perhaps. For me, since I don’t know Orange-haired roommate’s gender, it sounds natural to me. ”

    Does it? It’s beginning to sound more natural to me but it’s not natural yet. There are degrees of specifity. “I tell everyone they should get married”. “‘Hmm, someone spilled soda here it seems’; ‘They did?'”. “My friend told me someone in his roommates office got food poisoning’ ‘What did they eat?'” “‘My roommate’s bi! You should totally date!’ ‘But I don’t know anything about them.'” “Facebook notice: Today is Robert Allium’s birthday! Write on their wall to let them know you are thinking of them”.

    Some of those feel more natural than others.

  27. In L. Frank Baum’s “John Dough and the Cherub”, Chick the Cherub was frequently referred to as “it” which jars some but I find perfectly okay. (Chick the Cherub did have a gender; we were just never told what it was.)

  28. In the excellent Ancillary science fiction series by Ann Leckie, the main human civilization has no real concept of gender, although individuals have distinct “plumbing”. The language doesn’t have pronouns or nouns that distinguish male or female or anything else.

    Leckie chose to have the first-person narrator (Breq and [spoiler]) translate from her language using female pronouns and nouns rather than made-up gender-neutral ones. Even after traveling for a number of years outside of Radch space among people where gender does matter, she has trouble figuring out which native speech forms to use.

    You, the reader, have to think a bit differently when she refers to everyone as she or her, rather than s/he or zir or whatever. Only a few characters are ever explicitly identified as male or female.

    Some readers and reviewers did not care for this style.

  29. Brian in STL: I particularly enjoyed the first book of that series. There was something disconcerting about not knowing the sex of the narrator, even though it made no difference to most (all?) of her interactions.

    In spoken Chinese the same sound is used for “he” and “she” (and “it”). Last year I listened to a short story on tape, and made the sexist assumption that the main character was male. It was disconcerting when I later looked at the written version and realized that she was female, since it changed the way I viewed a number of the interactions.

    Unlike Leckie, the book wasn’t intentionally blurring the gender lines – I just can’t tell if a Chinese person is likely male or female based on their Chinese name.

  30. There is a hint to her actual sex in the early going and there is a supplemental short story that confirms it.

  31. Over in the Chess thread, I posted a comment saying

    (I’m thinking of this as sort of by Ellery Queen, but maybe not an actual story by them and instead an editorial remark in one of those miscellany books edited by them.)

    Was this a commitment to use “they”-forms for even known individuals of known sex?
    Errrm, maybe; but maybe also a joking allusion that “Ellery Queen” wasn’t strictly speaking an individual at all, but a pseudonym for a writing partnership.

  32. Pronouns aside, shouldn’t the first voice balloon in panel 3 be coming from orange hair?

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  33. D McKeon: Pronouns aside, shouldn’t the first voice balloon in panel 3 be coming from orange hair?

    Hmm, I don’t see how it would work under your suggestion. Orange-hair shouldn’t be saying “I don’t know anything about them” — they are her roommate after all. So by me, it works okay as drawn. Green-hair is just giving her reaction in two steps, which are in the two balloons.

  34. I’m going to be honest. I can’t see how that strip can be interpreted any other way than the way below, and the only two ways I can see it being not understood is if one thinks either 1) “they” = “more than one person” or 2) Orange hair is talking about green-hair being her roommate. And those two ways the strip would make no sense.

    Panel 1: Orange-hair (to green-hair): You’re bi! OMG, I have a roommate who is also bi” (If you interpetted this as “Wow, you’re my roommate and you are bi so I have a bi roommate the next three panels can not make sense.”

    Panel 2: Orange-hair: You two should totally date! (If you interpretted as green-hair being orange-hair’s roommate and the subject of everything orange-hair said in panel one than this panel simply can not make sense as we have know idea whom she is talking about.)

    Panel 3 (first bubble) Green-hair: I don’t know anything about your roommate though. (If you interpret “they” as more than one person this can not make sense. Who the heck is she talking about?) (If you interpret this as orange haired talking this can not make any sense unless orange-hair is bi-polar and having a conversation with imaginary voices in her head. How did she jump from gushing about green-hair dating her roommate to a bizzare comment in response to no-one that she doesn’t know some other person. Who is she talking about and what does it have with anything she’s been saying in the first two panels.)

    Panel 3(second bubble) All I know is that your roommate is bi.

    Panel 4 Orange-hair: See! That’s why you are perfect for each other.

    I really can’t see it any other way.

  35. Woozy, that’s a very clear explanation. I think almost everybody commenting on that comic has been in agreement with that fundamental reading. Or in some cases eventually, if not initially.

  36. The worst is when you’re a true introvert who absolutely does not want to have any kind of relationship with anyone else and someone tries to match you up with another introvert who also absolutely does not want to have any kine of relationship with anyone else. You’re perfect for each other.

    No, wait, that’s the second worst. The worst is when you don’t want to have anything to do with anyone and they match you up with someone nobody wants to have anything to do with.

  37. For a couple days, following along with this discussion, I’ve been meaning to check whether I can still find Anthony Burgess’s M/F on my somewhat disordered bookshelves. I did look up the Wikipedia articles, and others, to remind me of how it went, but they are all being “good” about not revealing some late-disclosed secrets in the text.

    [Spoiler warning]

    Probably not really needed, as my memory is so vague. But the book has some twists about some characters’ sex identity not being what the reader was encouraged to assume by default. Pronoun tricks required to keep it under control, yet not cheating. In the case of the first-person narrator it actually is easier than with the third person pronouns needed for everyone else.

    Also, if I’m not just misremembering, we are given to understand early that the central character is biracial. But it is specified only on the last page that they are African and EastAsian.

  38. I just ran into this example: “For example, Aisha observes that Dany is always late to work. She assumes that they are not as committed to their job.”

    I can’t understand the logic behind this. Why is Aisha a “she” and “Dany” a “they”? Are we to assume that these are the preferred pronouns of each of the characters? Or did the writer just reject “They assume that they are. . .” as too awkward? Or is there some other reason to give Dany a gender-neutral pronoun, but not Aisha?

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