1. Perhaps the air quotes used correctly would imply that it’s not actually manure, but something even more disgusting. I’m thinking that as manure is from animals, where might this “manure” have come from instead?

  2. This is interesting because it’s a case of one of us not reading the strip enough times. I had to read it 5 or my times myself; CIDU has taught me that the most obvious, most simple strips can have some secret property that keeps me from getting it right away.
    Anyway, Stan’s answer matches mine; it’s up to us to ponder what the stuff might be, one of the fears the man has seems likely to be that it might not work as a fertilizer.

    (Wow, I feel like this is the first time I broke down that word, firtile – izer. I’m thinking a lot more things could be called fertilizer.)

  3. Stan says air quotes and the blog title says scare quotes. (The cartoon just says quotation marks.) Can those be the same thing?

  4. When I first saw the cartoon in my local deadtree, I misread “hoping the quotation marks were misused” as “hoping the quotation marks were misplaced” — e.g., that he was hoping the sign was intending to say: “free” manure. I couldn’t come up with anything funny in that, so when I reread the cartoon correctly and still couldn’t come up with anything funny about it, I felt I’d at least broken even.

  5. I’m reminded of an anecdote, told of a President of the United States who was President even before I was born; I’m not sure which one. He was addressing a group of farmers and said “As everyone knows, what makes the land produce is manure! Manure, manure and more manure!”

    His wife was in the audience, and another woman said to her, “Good heavens! Can’t you tell him to use some other word than ‘manure’?”

    She replied: “It took long enough to get him to say ‘manure’.”

  6. Yeah, my impression was the same as Stan’s, too — he doesn’t want to think about what scare-quote-“manure” even would be, since manure is questionable enough.

    And the story is about Harry S and Bess Truman. I can’t find out whether it’s actually reliably attested, but it’s a common anecdote.

  7. Air quotes are usually a form of scare quotes, just ones used in speech rather than writing.

  8. This is one of those rare jokes that actually get funny the more you think about it because nothing actually works but the impossible scenarios that don’t work get more and more amusing to contemplate.


    A lot of times people use quote marks to represent emphasis or stress. It’s really weird and annoying but surprisingly common to weird effect. Such as: Please close the “door” when not in use. Or “Employees” must wash their “hands”.

    So if someone is offering:Free “Manure”, you’d hope they were really just trying to say: Free manure. The thought that it’d be ersatz manure is just too weird to contemplate. So Stan has it.

    But I’m not sure it’s supposed to be something even grosser than manure– just the concept that ersatz manure is so surreal.

    It’s an odd strip as manure is by anyone who isn’t a gardener very low desire and perceived quality of value but to a gardener its a very useful commodity.

    Beckoningchasm has an interesting idea though. I can imagine a non-gardener wanting to putting his used misc junk on the curb for free and first thinking to put up a hipster self-effacing sign: Free sh!t, but then thinking it’d be a really funny meta joke to pretend to be euphemistic and and use scare quotes and have the sign: Free … um …. “manure”. Then it’d be funny and a gardener drove by and actually did think “Free Manure! That’s awesome”.

    That’d make for a funny joke. Let’s call that Plan B. However it’s hare to imagine an old queen-size headboard, some random cables, and a particleboard bookcase can really be mistaken for manure upon inspection. But if you got some thing that was brown and flaky and a big pile of it…. it’d be very disturbing if it wasn’t manure.

    It’d be funny if he were spreading DVDs of a Suzie Orman special, Children’s Speak ‘n spell without batteries, fidget spinners with a corporate logo on it, a used cat bed, etc and saying “I sure hope this is actually gardening manure…”

  9. Thanks for the postings on my CIDU…and I’ll follow Mitch4 with a hoary oldie. His was better.
    It was election time and the politician decided to go out to the local reservation and try to get the Native American vote. They were all assembled in the Council Hall to hear the speech.

    The politician had worked up to his finale, and the crowd was getting more and more excited. “I promise better education opportunities for Native Americans!”

    The crowd went wild, shouting “Hoya Hoya”. The politician was a bit puzzled by the native word, but was encouraged by their enthusiasm.

    “I promise gambling reforms to allow a Casino on the Reservation!”

    “Hoya! Hoya!” cried the crowd, stomping their feet.

    “I promise more social reforms and job opportunities for Native Americans!”

    The crowd reached a frenzied pitch shouting “Hoya! Hoya! Hoya!”

    After the speech, the Politician was touring the Reservation, and saw a tremendous herd of cattle. Since he was raised on a ranch, and knew a bit about cattle, he asked the Chief if he could get closer to take a look at the cattle. “Sure,” the Chief said, “but be careful not to step in the hoya.”

  10. I think a good part of the idea of the strip is that people will take anything if it is free.

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