Originally “chalk pencil”

Thanks to Carl Fink for sending this in. He says “I do understand the joke, but …” and then details ways he can’t understand how such bad drawing can pass itself off as professional cartooning.

Meanwhile, the usual gang of idiot at CIDU HQ Central has to confess that I don’t completely understand the joke. Is it a tradition in this family that “our mealtimes will be like going out to a nice restaurant”? Does the dad’s remark to what Carl calls “the monstrosity” daughter presuppose something like that?


  1. I don’t get it at all. Do kids normally toss crayons under tables at restaurants?

    As for the art, I’ve seen plenty worse.

  2. I did criticize the art in specific ways, but looking at it now, I should have mocked the dialog. Who (in US English) would say, “… so it seems like we are dining …”?

    Note to nitpickers like me: yes, it can’t be dialog with only one person speaking. I know.

  3. Many “family restaurants” I have been to have paper placemats, or even entire paper tablecloths, and provide crayons for kids to draw with. You may remember the placemats with the kids’ menu on the front and mazes and word searches and so forth on the back? That sort of thing, and sometimes even more extensive.

  4. I’m with Pete on the art. Herman and In the Bleachers come to mind as much worse offenders.

    Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I would say that the majority of sit-down restaurants offer crayons for kids. The paper usually has games they can play and often includes a kid’s menu. As for the dialogue, inserting the word “that” after “so” might make it clearer.

  5. I’m in the “style is style” camp. To use a rock music analogy, you’re nuts if you think Neil Young is a good singer, but you’re also nuts if you think Neil doesn’t sing well. He off-pitch exactly the way he wants. Same with comic style for me. It can be jarring at first, but as the artist sinks into their style, I’m usually along for the ride. Hated Overboard’s style at first, loved the dialog. Now it would be jarring to me if Chip Dunham changed up his current style.

  6. “You even tossed crayons […] restaurant” suggests that this is the last in a series of things the dotter has done recently to make it seem that the family lives at a higher economic level than the reality (and only this one involves restaurants). Perhaps, as Saoirse Ronan’s character does in Lady Bird, she has recently pretended to a schoolmate that she lives in a far bigger house than she does; or has stolen an iPhone 13 to seem rich and up-to-date; or has claimed that he “parents” are just foster-stooges and in fact she is a princess.

    The art work to me is OK, except that the (presumably) mother and father are sitting opposite each other at plate level and the same distance from us, but their feet are positioned as though the mother is much further away. Also, there don’t seem to be any table legs.

  7. I guess the tabletop is too large to be supported by a central single pillar?

    Yes, ianosmond”s reminder about coloring-invited placemats is very helpful in clarifying the sense of this!

  8. My original complaints:

    What’s up with the kids? The “squashed Dennis the Menace” on the opposite side of the table could be a perfectly valid cartoon boy in other comics, but he’s in a completely different art style from his presumptive parents.

    My real question is, what is the monstrosity sitting nearest to the viewer? Is that supposed to be its head, the asymmetrical pointy and undersized blob showing above the chair? Why doesn’t it have arms? Who broke its ankles, so that its feet hang down at a 90 degree angle from the chair like that with no shins showing?

    And now that I look at the drawing, why does only the dad get any cutlery? Why are the edges of the glasses scalloped like that? Why is the mom’s glass of what is apparently mercury rippling so much? Is an earthquake happening?

    And those crayons are freaking enormous! I don’t have kids–is there a current trend to crayons longer than an adult’s hands and thicker than their thumbs? Then again, the dad’s fork appears to be as long as his forearm.

    When writing that, I completely missed the levitating table. Apparently, at least one of the family is a spirit medium.

  9. Back at the email stage of things, I was going to object to Carl that not every tow-headed five-y.o. boy in cartoons is a Dennis wannabe or meant-to-be — but I got lost in some rabbit warren of wondering just what tow is anyway; and why are only boys said to be tow-headed; and why tow-headed rather than tow-haired?

  10. What I got almost immediately, but no one seems to have commented on, is the double hit on this family’s conception of what the well-to-do do — they are so deep in the breeder world, that they don’t even know that real restaurants don’t have crayons littered on the floor! So, the progression is from real restaurants where you care about the food and atmosphere; down to day-care restaurants where you can somewhat lighten the burden of your daily hell by letting the monsters run wild scribbling on the table cloth and throwing crayons around all while eating nuggets and macaroni and cheese; down to not even going out at all anymore.

    Another aspect that no one has raised is the possibility that they are not going out not from financial concerns but due to pandemic concerns.

  11. So Mitch, you dragged me down the towhead rabbit hole, and what I find interesting, after the somewhat banal discovery that “tow” is a word for short or broken fibers of flax or the like, which unsurprisingly is less used nowadays than back when sewing and such was much more popular (as well as fibers other than cotton), is the more interesting (to me), final definition of “tow” that in Scotland and parts of England means “rope”. So is that the progression to the verb “tow” that we all still know, from tow, fibers of flax and such, to tow, a rope, made from fibers of flax and such, to tow, what you do with a rope? Or is it instead tow, fibers, and tow, the verb, both existing independently from other sources, but then speakers familiar with both come up with tow, a rope, because of a false conjoining of the two meanings? (Well, to answer my own question, if you read the detailed etymologies MW gives, it seems that the two come from different sources, and the meaning tow as rope seems to have developed straight from the verb, so the only false conjoining gong on is by me… I also learned I’ve been mispronouncing towheaded as “tao-headed”, at least in my head, because how often do I actually get to say it? Oh, and as for your contention that only boys are towheads, duckduckgo gave me about an equal number of pictures of boys as girls when I searched for “towhead”, make of that what you will…)

  12. And just think of the worrisome images that come from hearing it as toe-headed!

    Thanks for that summary from digging at the authoritative sources. Etymonline seems to agree that the noun meaning ‘rope used in towing’ comes from the verb. A tiny bit later, but still listed as the same noun entry, is the meaning “act or fact of being towed” which I take to be the one involved in an example like “I got a tow from the auto club.”

  13. I found another definition of ‘tow’ : it’s a sandbar sticking up in a river. At a stretch, that might work for ‘tow headed’, I think.

  14. My brother, who was a chef at various restaurants (before he moved on to other things), once told me that crayons were a significant expense at his restaurant. Any child that came in was given a packet of crayons. When the family left, any crayons — including unopened packets — were, according to health department regulations, sent to trash.

  15. My impression on initial reading was that it was pandemic-related, as in, “We can’t go to a restaurant, so we’ll create the restaurant experience at home.” The problem with that is the recency of the comic.

  16. To answer some of Carl’s questions:
    I think we are seeing the back of a daughter’s head, with her hair in a ponytail like Mom. Her arms are down in her lap, hidden by the back of the chair. Her feet are not hanging down broken, those are the heels of her shoes that you are seeing, though I can’t explain why one leg is longer than the other. The crayons are large, so you can see the detail that makes them crayons, even it weren’t colored.

    As for the rest, I chalk it up to the artist’s style (which I’m not fond of, but I also know I couldn’t do any better, at least not in a reasonable time frame).

    jajizi, that’s why we usually turn down the crayons, as our kids have tablets and will likely do that over crayons any day. Though one place we went to had these cool CrayAngles – 4 triangular crayons in a triangle-prism box, and I kept those in my purse for a long time, as they couldn’t just roll of the table. They were great!!

  17. Surely they still make those extra large crayons for pre-schoolers. Cheese ‘n crackers, cut the guy some slack. Stahler also does a couple of editorial cartoons a week in addition to his daily comic, so he keeps busy. But I think it is more a conscious drawing style, rather than sloppiness on his part.

  18. I too presumed this was a reference to eating out in “the Before Time” (prior to the lockdown) when, presumably, taking the family to a restaurant resulted in a messy floor.

  19. Like Grawlix I figured they missed the experience of eating in restaurants during the pandemic (Robert certainly does and not due to my cooking). They have put a tablecloth on the table – looks big enough to be the dining room table -and are trying to make it seem like they eating in a restaurant for themselves – the father felt that the crayons given to children to keep them busy in the restaurant were missing and so threw some on the floor for atmosphere.

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