From Arthur: “For me, the first panel would work as a stand-alone one-panel gag. But I can’t see any joke in the second panel. If Peters thinks people don’t know how to spell Barcalounger, he should have reversed it: Ms. Goose telling him to get off the Barcalounger and Grimm saying, he’ll stay on the Barkalounger. That puts the joke at the end, where it belongs.”


  1. A quick check on Wikipedia informs that the company making the chair was formerly Barcalo, named for the founder.

    But I at one time thought it had some connection (real or aspirational) with the city of Barcelona. If the cartoonist also thought that, they might have gone a step further to suppose (as I did not, BTW) that the chair name is pronounced with a “soft c”, like the name of the city, in English. …. Then her correction would actually sound different, and would succeed in saying “No, it can’t have anything to do with Bark, it’s a Barsalounger”.

    Possible, though founded on a mistake?

  2. Nice to see an extended citation of a “submitter’s comment”.

    I think both Arthur and the cartoonist, pace Dana K’s speculation, are taking “Barkalounger” and “Barcalounger” to be pronounced identically. So there is a bit of a leap metaphysically in our being able to tell which word either of them is using, and that they can too. That’s how we know, as do they, that Mom’s reply in the second panel is a correction. (Which we wouldn’t if what we were presented with was an audio clip.)

    But that’s “cartoon physics” for ya! Or “cartoon metaphysics”?

  3. I can accept the cartoon logic that the characters can hear the spelling difference between words that are pronounced identically. But regardless of whether the words are pronounced identically, we still have the issue that Arthur pointed out: The last panel is supposed to have the joke, and having a character make a factually correct statement explaining the misunderstanding isn’t a joke.

    It’s as if Abbott and Costello had ended their “Who’s on First” routine with Abbott saying “I think you’re misunderstanding, so just to be clear, the first baseman has an unusual name that’s spelled with the letters ‘w’, ‘h’, and then ‘o’.”

    (The Simpsons did something like this, but it was an anti-joke based on knowledge of the original skit.)

  4. Hmm, trying out a draft what it would then be:

    Panel 1: Mom: “Clear out, I’m going to sit in the Barcalounger”

    Panel 2: Grimmy: “Oh no, I belong right here, it’s a Barkalounger”

    Does that actually work better? Would hyphenating the name help (as it may in the comic we have)? WDYT?

  5. mitch4: Probably it works best as Arthur suggested, as a one panel comic. But for me, the main question isn’t “how could it be a better comic,” but “what joke was the cartoonist trying to make in the second panel?”

  6. I wouldn’t even use “Barcalounger” in the first panel. Just, “Get out of my chair.”

    PS: The Firefox spellchecker suggests “Barceloneta” for “Barcalounger”.

  7. An ‘a’ after a ‘c’ would make the ‘c’ hard; an ‘e’ after a ‘c’ would make the ‘c’ soft, so Barcelona and Barcalounger would never be pronounced similarly.

  8. “Barcelona and Barcalounger would never be pronounced similarly.”

    Not even by talking dogs who may not be clear on those rules? (Though they may have their own guidelines about pronouncing “Arf” vs. “Arrf.”)

  9. “An ‘a’ after a ‘c’ would make the ‘c’ hard; an ‘e’ after a ‘c’ would make the ‘c’ soft,…”

    I’m not sure those rules are universal. I used to play soccer with a Celt (or maybe he was a Quebecer?), and he told me there were some exceptions. He could have been wrong though. He wasn’t very reliable: he had a tendency to put up a facade of knowledge, which he at one point used to sell me on the acai berry diet.

  10. Just to be that guy: if you spell “Açaí” correctly, you will note the “c” has a cedilla, specifically to make it soft where it would otherwise be hard being followed by an “a”… (Same for “façade”…)

    “The exception that proves the rule!”

    (And was that Celt from Boston, per chance?)

  11. I wouldn’t call the cedilla version the correct spelling, so much as a possible spelling. ( ) lists the cedilla version as the less common variant. I understand that references to the dictionary can always trigger complaints that dictionaries are too descriptivist, so if you take a more prescriptivist view, I won’t argue the point.

    When I was a kid I never could make any sense of the phrase “the exception that proves the rule.” I asked a bunch of other kids and adults what it meant, and never got a satisfactory answer. It was only with the advent of the Internet that I was finally able to search around and find some explanations that made sense.

  12. I’ve encountered I guess three distinct interpretations of the exception proves the rule, two of which seem reasonable, and each of the latter two presented as a corrective to the “too easy” predecessor.

    1. The naive interpretation. This really says nothing that fits the proves, and is just a way of claiming “My example is exempt from your rule” or else “My generalization is exempt from your counterexample” without any further basis.
    2. The etymology interpretation. This finds proves coming from a form related to modern probes and meaning “tests”. (All of those as transitive verbs.) It’s a way of saying the hard cases are what really put a generalization to the test.
    3. The legal historical readings interpretation. If a text (law, court ruling, decree, etc) explicitly mentions an exception, when the apparent rule it would be an exception to is not made explicit, we can infer that the implicit rule was in use. Maybe it was stated explicitly elsewhere and has been lost, or maybe just they never thought it needed to be recorded.

    Example for (3). If the gatekeepers’ handbook at Disneyland in the 1960s said “Males with long hair are not to be excluded entry if under the age of seven years.” But nowhere does it affirmatively state that males with long hair are to be excluded. But the youthfulness exception “proves” that there was a rule for it to be creating an exemption from.

  13. @Mitch4, it’s an older usage, “prove” = “test”, as in “missile proving grounds.” See, for example, Spanish prueba, which translates as test

  14. Thanks Carl, that’s what my (2) was meant to cover. The “missile proving grounds” is a great example.

  15. I like the legal historial reading better than the etymology interpretation, thought they are both reasonable. But it took the invention (or at least the popularization) of the Internet for me to find them. Before, the only explanation I heard was the naive interpretation, and I found it maddening.

    Actually, regardless of the origins, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase used in normal conversation in any way other than as the naive interpretation.

  16. “Açaí” comes from the Portuguese, and so part of the question as to its correct spelling involves whether and how much it is still a loan-word rather than an English word in its own right. Assuming it’s well along the way of being its own English word, that brings up the question of how correct is it to use orthography symbols in English that are not actually part of its orthography set? Is it “façade” or “facade”? “Résumé”, “resumé” or “resume”? (Note that the middle version of the last one that seems to be most popular helps by giving an indication of the pronunciation, ie: the last “e” is not silent as you would expect for regular English words). (Similarly the cedilla alerts you to the fact that it should be pronounced Ah-sigh-ee, and not A-Kai (the accent over the i also indicates the two vowels are not to be blended).

    My comment about the exception proving the rule was in Mitch’s 3rd sense (in that having to use a cedilla to indicate that the “c” should be soft proves the rule that a “c” followed by and “i”, “e”, or “y” softens it), which I only fairly recently learned about and to me seems so definitive and logical that it should, to me, permanently put to rest those other two versions that had vexed me before. In fact, shortly after learning the true meaning of the phrase, I found myself able to apply it in a real-world situation: I found myself driving in Canada from the US, and wasn’t sure about the rule for turning right on red — therefore I was hoping to find a “no turn on red” exception sign to prove the rule.

  17. larK: After seeing my 10,000th English-language Ad for acai berry diets, I decided that it was an English word in its own right.

  18. Just out of curiosity, WW, how do you pronounce it, or do you even pronounce it, being as presumably you’ve only seen it written (10,000 times)? Does it have an internal-voice pronunciation?

    I only ask because for me, the e,i,y softening the c rule is so ingrained that I stumble when confronted with exceptions, and so for me, having the cedilla variant, as in façade, is extremely helpful to me.

  19. larK: I pronounce it with a soft c.

    Although, if I’m going to be totally honest, I pronounced it with a hard c before this thread started. 😮

  20. BTW, to illustrate the “naive” sense, in case anyone has been lucky enough to avoid it, I usually see the exception phrase used like this:

    Andy: Did you know that if you eat pop rocks and then drink soda, you will die?
    Bob: I ate pop rocks, and drank soda, and I was fine.
    Andy: That’s the exception that proves the rule.

    Even writing that example makes me a little mad.

  21. BARC is also the name of a famous animal shelter in New York, so I think Mother Goose is making a veiled threat that if he doesn’t move, out he goes. This would explain Grimm’s panicked expression too.

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