1. … and the typo turns it into “cistern”, a correctly-spelled real word. I think of it as more like a container for rain or flowing water, but this well might count as a cistern.

  2. I’m with you Mitch, so I looked it up. Here’s a definition I came upon: “A cistern is a large hole dug in the ground (usually in bedrock) that is designed to store rainwater. It differs from a well significantly in that it only holds captured rainwater, as opposed to tapping into an underground water source, as do wells.”

    Who knew?

  3. Think “American Gothic”, and that the couple weren’t husband and wife, but either (?) father daughter, or brother sister. Assume it was brother sister, or at least Kliban thought so, and now you are practically there: “American Gothic”, “Brother and Sister”, “Brethren and Sister”; “Brethren and Cistern”.

  4. Thanks, Stan, it’s good to know the thing shown is an exemplary cistern!

    I guess I was thinking of a more modern usage, where a building might have a large tank up on the roof referred to as the cistern.

  5. I wonder if the picture content might have been a mismatch for Kliban’s style. The drawing seems a little more awkward than usual for him. I mean, the middle guy seems on first look to be floating calmly a few feet above the opening of the cistern.

  6. Aha thanks. I didn’t read the bit at the top as a caption, I thought it was some general title for the cartoon series and it was hard to read too, so I ignored it, err, paid it no mind. I did recognise the American Gothic painting similarity, though.

    Here in UK-land when people talk of cisterns they mainly mean the tank of water used to flush a toilet bowl.

    I gather in the USA they are generally known, or can be known, as toilet tanks.

    I don’t know what we call the things in the cartoon for holding rainwater, but maybe they are cisterns too.

  7. https://www.wolseley.co.uk/bathrooms-kitchens/toilet/toilet-cisterns/#:~:text is a better link with explanatory text.

    You can see that even here, in toilet world, there are black banners with exhortations to the Queen to rest in peace.

    I went to see a film at a local college yesterday, a place that puts on art films, foreign films, old films and new blockbusters seemingly at random. Yesterday – watching Paris, Texas for the first time – we were asked to stand for a minute’s silence – also a first for me (though when I was a kid they played the National Anthem at the end of movies).

  8. When I was kid we lived for a time in a 19th Century house that had lots of old-timey features, like a servant’s staircase to complement the grand polished staircase in the front. I fell down those stairs because I was climbing it in sock-feet. The garage was a converted carriage house, so it still had a hayloft. Anyway, there was a cistern in the back by the garden.

  9. “Never mind pumpin’ any water ’til your parents are caught with the cistern empty on a Saturday night and that’s trouble!” — Professor Harold Hill

    I got the impression from this that 19th century houses serviced by a well had a cistern in the attic so that they could have running water in the bathroom and kitchen. Of course you have to get the water up into the cistern somehow, and that means pumping water. One of those hated chores like shoveling coal and chopping wood. Cistern empty on a Saturday night means nobody can take a bath to get ready for Sunday church.

  10. @ Carl Fink – I don’t think they are necessarily Amish: with those hats, Kliban may have been thinking of “Quakers”.

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