Sunday Funnies for a new year! – LOLs, January 3rd, 2021

This LOL-Homage contributed by Andréa

Is it too soon or too late for one more Santa LOL?


Bllss (and Martin) on their own and on GoComics

Bliss in the New Yorker:

We *did* crack a smile, even if not literally LOL. But no doubt this must be “a LOL comic” by virtue of subject matter!


  1. The therapist’s clothing and decor seem, well, not really “unprofessional”, but suggestive of some particular schools of practice. Also, maybe he’s a neurologist, with that brain picture on his wall.

    The book club is brilliant for its garden pathing and twist. We recognize the Fight Club line, and expect it to go somewhere parallel to that, with something self conscious or meta, about the book club. Instead it is something with a clear need for secrecy, an outright criminal enterprise.

  2. I guess I’m not that impressed with the Eskimo language, if 50 words for snow is supposed to be a large number. Suburban white males at higher latitudes have at least as many words for frozen precipitation, most of which are obscenities.

  3. It remains a matter of some contention, much of the recent commentary originating from Pullum’s 1989 online remarks “The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax” , later reprinted in his book with the same title. There continued to be popular treatments of the question, some following Pullum, some disagreeing, and some just apparently unaware of it! On occasion Pullum or others on his side have been bothered by some such remarks and have been moved to reply, as in this 2013 note from Pullum in Language Log, also represented in this New Scientist letter called “War of Words” meant to answer a previous article in that periodical.

  4. But I was quite interested to see that MJSR apparently reads this comic as accepting Sapir/Whorf and that they wanted to answer it. But I had read the comic as being well aware of the Pullum and other debunkings, and illustrating a comedic reversal take which presupposes the debunking is correct.

  5. Did you know that Americans have more than two hundred words and phrases for the George Carlin word that starts with F?

  6. I remember a bit from the Odd Couple TV show, where Oscar relates some detailed note Felix left, and at the end put “FU”. Took Oscar a while to figure out it meant “Felix Unger”. Not exactly getting stuff past the censors, but sort of.

  7. I don’t see how Sapir/Whorf enters into it — in its strong form, it is the contention that you can’t talk about certain things if your language doesn’t have words for it, and by association, you can’t understand/think those concepts for which words are lacking. Th snow/Eskimo thing is merely the somewhat obvious contention that things which are important for a speaker will have many very finely shaded words and differentiation for areas in that important subject in their langauge. Whether or not it is actually true that Eskimos must find snow a very important thing and therefore have a lot of fine shaded differentiated words for it is really a red herring — the idea is more or less right, regardless of the quasi-racial, actual reality challenged packet it is presented in. If you say that professional skiers have a lot more words for snow than people who never see snow, it would be uncontroversial, and almost trivial. (That jargon arises in any specialized field is so obvious as to almost not need stating.) This cartoon just reverses the contention, pointing out the somewhat racist underlying narrative of the original Eskimo form. But it is not Whorfian! It might be Whorfian if there were an abundance of words in a language for something unnecessary, but because of that abundance, the speakers of the language nevertheless form an obsessive relationship to the unnecessary subject (white suburban males only obsess so much about their lawns because their language (presumably English) has an overabundance of words for lawn — but for that abundance, their peculiar obsession would not exist), thought that really would be inverted Whorfian.

  8. Wooops lost a comment. Let me paste something before losing that too.

    Among the many depressing things about this credulous transmis- sion and elaboration of a false claim is that even if there were a large number of roots for different snow types in some Arctic language, this would not, objectively, be intellectually interesting; it would be a most mundane and unremarkable fact.

    Horsebreeders have various names for breeds, sizes, and ages of horses; botanists have names for leaf shapes; interior decorators have names for shades of mauve; printers have many different names for different fonts (Caslon, Garamond, Helvetica, Times Roman, and so on), naturally enough. If these obvious truths of specialization are supposed to be interesting facts about language, thought, and cul- ture, then I’m sorry, but include me out.

    Would anyone think of writing about printers the same kind of slop we find written about Eskimos in bad linguistics textbooks’! Take a random textbook like Paul Gaeng’s lnfroducrionfnthe Prin- ciples of Language (1971), with its earnest assertion: “It is quite ob- vious that in the culture of the Eskimos . . . snow is of

  9. Okay, that was from the book version of Pullum’s article, at

    I was starting to type, that larK is correct, it seems to me, in saying the business about the number of words for snow is, if related at all, something of a backwards connection from what Sapir/Whorf needs. That is much the same point as in the passage I pasted from Pullum.

    The difficulty however, and why they seem connected, is that the underlying claims about the number of snow words does come from Whorf, from his anthropological work.

    Pullum’s book version accreted some layers after the original online appearances of the article, including clarifications or remarks correcting how he thought he had been misunderstood. Some of that , at the top of the book version, is saying he is not disparaging Whorf in his actual data collection, but the interpretation. So it is still tied together.

  10. More pasting from Pullum

    In this chapter, I take a rather more critical stance regarding the role of Benjamin Lee Whorf than Laura Martin did; in fact, I’m rather cruel to the memory of that fine amateur linguist. Since several readers of this piece when it first appeared (and after it appeared in abridged form in the inaugural issue of the academic magazine Lingua Franca), let me be clear about this. Whorf has a lasting place in the history of linguistics, a place few of us can aspire to. He is basically responsible for opening up our access to an entire language that had previously been inaccessible (the classical form of Mayan that lay behind the
    Mayan hieroglyphs until Whorf deciphered them); he coined lastingly useful terms (allophone i s an example) and introduced intriguing new concepts (the concept of a cryptotype, for instance); and he did impor- tant academic work almost entirely without having paid positions in the academic world-an uncommon achievement then, and one al- most unheard of now.
    But he wasn’t a god, and his contribution to Eskimo lexicography looks shoddy to me, so I poke some fun at him in this chapter, just as I am liable to poke fun at anyone who stumbles across my path. Lasting though his place in the history of linguistics may be, Whorf was guilty
    of his own small part of the amplification of a piece of misinformation, and deserves his own small share of opprobrium. Professor Martin has seen in writing numbers as high as four hundred (repeat, 400) given as the number of Eskimo words for snow. The four hundred figure came from a piece by a would-be author who admitted (under questioning by a magazine fact-checker) to having no source for the number what- soever. The nonsense that Whorf unwittingly helped to foster is com- pletely out of control.

  11. If someone says “The Inuit have 100 words for snow,” it’s unlikely that it’s intended simply a random statement (correct or not) about the numerical count of entries in an Inuit dictionary. Almost certainly their point is going to be that the Inuit have some different awareness or understanding of snow than we do. So while the numerical statement and the “different understanding” statements are logically separable, for all practical purposes they’re culturally equivalent.

  12. “But I was quite interested to see that MJSR apparently reads this comic as accepting Sapir/Whorf and that they wanted to answer it.”

    Um, I am flattered but really I just wanted to make a stupid joke. I’d stay and comment further on sophisticated things like Sapir/Whorf but I have to go shovel some #$@% off my driveway.

  13. Snickers: With a better tape measure, they could have picked furniture that was the right size, instead of having a giant lamp on a tiny table, a chair that can fit two people, but with a footrest that can only fit one foot, etc. . .

  14. The couple in Bliss must have a tape measure opposite to Robert’s.

    When we were buying a new fridge I measured the size of the old one and the size of the space we had. He did not want the basic 18 cu ft, top freezer we had before. He “needed” one of the ones where one can set the actual temperature one wants to have inside the fridge section to make his insulin is at the correct temperature as is the food (two different temperature ranges with a 4 degree F overlap – which I had been very good at temperature in the old fridge in that range.

    He found the smallest one that had this feature – a side by side that I was leery would fit – he insisted it was fine with his measurements. When we got home he measured again – we were okay as long as we could fit through the 9 inches of doorway to the rest of the house that would be left. I did offer to put the fridge in the adjacent dining room to make him happy – but we figured it would not fit in through the front (larger of our two) door and had to cancel it and buy the same basic 18 cu ft with top freezer as before.

    I have never been sure how his measurements could have been that far from my accurate ones – hope?

  15. Meryl, on some tape measures they make a point of informing you the dimensions of the casing are exactly two inches. So that if the configuration of the space you’re measuring compels you to place the tape measure directly on the line you’re measuring, you will know the amount to add back in, taken up by the case. If someone forgets to do that , their measurements will be off by that amount.

    Of course , coming up with a doorway width that is a couple inches smaller than actual is not the major problem that the opposite mistake can be. You just get pleasantly surprised how much easier it was than you thought it would be to get that big piece thru that doorway!

  16. Mitch4 – he was off by at least a foot in his measurement.

    He is, among other crafts, a woodworker and we know about the 2 inch measurement on some of his tape measures.

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