Down the Selador

Sent in (via the Suggest-a-CIDU Form) by Boise Ed, who says “We have ants carrying food, more ants carrying a bottle of wine, and a storm cellar. Why?”

The top comment at GoComics at the time I viewed it (by stevesilver48) asked “Do the Bilco doors go to the same place as the anthill?” and I made little sense of that, thinking it was about Sgt. Bilko of TV fame. But it turns out that is a brand name widely adopted as the general term — see this Home Depot page:

But wait! There’s more! What-all can “cellar door” mean?


  1. The ants further from the viewer’s eye have a more luxurious lifestyle than the ant colony in the foreground. They’re living in a cellar, with doors, not an anthill that’s literally just a hole in the ground, and they’re having fine wines instead of a leaf and some crumbs.

    (How are those ants carrying stuff on their backs? Do they have tiny straps we can’t see? Ants carry things in their mandibles. No, it doesn’t make any difference, but you made me look closely at the image. Why do the ants have vertebrate-style camera eyes, not compound eyes? What are these odd creatures, anyway? AAAH!)

  2. I agree it’s a wine cellar, but it’s unusual for wine cellars to have old-fashioned exterior cellar doors like that.

  3. I immediately thought “wine cellar,” but remain a bit puzzled as to exactly why this is supposed to be funny. Perhaps Carl Fink has captured the creator’s intentions. If so, a number of factors work against the intended humor, at least for me:
    1) That style of cellar door does not connote luxury. It may be necessary to get us to think “cellar,” but it makes me think of dark, dank, dirty basements filled with cobwebs and worse.
    2) Cellar doors are not the primary entrance of an abode, so the artwork suggest to me a front and back entrances to the same home, which also works against the intended goal.
    3) Even if I accept the concept of two different colonies, the joke still falls flat– the ant trope is that ants are hardworking. Ants with large tunnels and cellar doors must be VERY industrious.
    4) What’s funny about two ant colonies in the same neighbor hood having vastly different standards of living?

    I suspect the comic is more about absurdity, but again, it does not strike me as particularly humorous,

  4. My parents’ first house had a set of those doors . . . and yes, dank and musty would have been a good description, ’til my dad rehabbed the back of the house, the basement itself, the attic, the roof, the siding . . . the only part of the house he didn’t rehab was the living room.

  5. I think we are over thinking things. Since a bottle of wine won’t fit in the usual ant hill entrance, a separate, larger entrance is needed.

    BTW, what kind of wine goes with leaves and seeds?

  6. Having never before considered the sonic qualities of the phrase “cellar door” but going down that rabbit hole thanks to this post, I cannot remove from my mental imagery the Bilco doors, such that I cannot consider the phrase merely on its aural merits — I see those hideous Bilco doors, and images of cobwebs and dank, and just cannot see any beauty in the phrase. Higher order, top down processing interfering with simple, bottom up processing… (Or maybe “selador” is not inherently beautifully euphonious? I will grant that it is a nice sort of woody sounding word like “caribou”, and not at all tinny.)

  7. What’s that word for the smell of new-cut wet grass or straw, that some people say they like for its sound — but to me has an error association with a bloody battle where ancient demigods were disemboweled and left bloody entrails all over the battlefield.

  8. Tolkien was someone who famously considered the aural joyousness of cellar door., though apparently he wasn’t the first by many years.

    “Most English-speaking people … will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful.”

    The cellar doors in the cartoon look to me more like the kind of doors you have on a beer cellar or a coal bunker. If you google wine cellar doors you get hardly any that look like those in the drawing.

  9. Mitch, I think your word would be petrichor . And it does mean that smell and not a bloody battle — yet there are etymological connections, since ichor was the blood-equivalent for the immortals. And in poetic English was used for blood.

  10. Prior to this thread, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard them referred to as “Bilco doors.” I thought maybe it was one of those regional things. So I looked up info on the company and found out the Bilco door factory is less than an hour’s drive from where I was born.

  11. The first house I lived in had a cellar or basement — as far as I knew at the time, those words were interchangeable — but no outside door like this. To get to the cellar you just opened an ordinary-looking door near the kitchen and walked down the stairs.

    The line in the song Playmates, “Slide down my cellar door,” sounded strange and potentially painful to me.

  12. I don’t know what references you all have looked concerning cellar door, but the one I remember said that the old English pronunciation would have sounded like sell a daw, which is indeed more mellifluous than selador. I hear it in a kind of New England accent.

  13. Sell a daw is an approximation of the modern Received Pronunciation of “cellar door”, not old English. Non-rhoticity in English postdates the divergence of American and British English.

  14. DemetriosX, no, Danny correctly identified petrichor as the scent-associated word I had in mind. I may have been so wrapped up in explaining my false bloody-battlefield association that I got the actual definition wrong!

  15. As a former DC native, I was somewhat surprised to learn (in the last line of the third graphic) that the (locally) very well-known Georgetown music club “The Cellar Door” had been shut down four decades ago. I was not surprised to learn that the property has since been turned into a Starbucks.

  16. DemetriosX and Mitch, after some dictionary-checking it is etymologically correct that the “petri-” part is from stone or rock. (And the “-ichor” part does have something to do with the demigods or eternals of mythology, and their circulation.) But since the word itself seems to be a contemporary coinage (around 1964) these must be fanciful associations of the person who made it up, not genuine evolution of meanings by speakers. And neither part of those roots is really there in contemporary usage.

    Here is
    a distinctive scent, usually described as earthy, pleasant, or sweet, produced by rainfall on very dry ground.

    And here is a big blob from M-W:

    a distinctive, earthy, usually pleasant odor that is associated with rainfall especially when following a warm, dry period and that arises from a combination of volatile plant oils and geosmin released from the soil into the air and by ozone carried by downdrafts

  17. One place I lived in Oklahoma was at the top of a hill. Several of the houses in the neighborhood, including ours, had a separate tornado shelter dug into a sloping area and had those kind of doors.

  18. There were no tornado situations during the 1.5 years we lived there. They did serve as play venues (I was grade 4-5).

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