Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gonna Need Some Brave Help

Sorry that this strip suffered a wee bit of damage in trimming, years ago—almost lost George the Bug.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Everything Sixes and Sevens . . .

Once again, Kelly has fun with his words.

Not that you asked, but here is a long explanation for a short expression, from Michael Quinion, writing on international English from a British viewpoint:

The expression 'sixes and sevens' is commoner in the UK and Commonwealth countries than in the US. It can mean something that’s in a state of total confusion or disarray, or people who are collectively in a muddle or at loggerheads about how to deal with some situation. For example, a British newspaper article in 2002 reported that the Conservative opposition had accused the Government of being “at sixes and sevens” over what to do with the rail network.

But what could possibly be the sixes and the sevens that are involved? There are two old stories that try to explain this. One tries to find it in the King James Version of the Bible; Job 5:19 has “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven shall no evil touch thee”, a couplet that makes no sense to us today and which doesn’t seem to link to any known use of the expression. The other story, more common and very widely believed, traces it back to a dispute between two of the ancient livery companies in the City of London.

These companies, trade guilds, grew up from the latter part of the twelfth century as associations to protect their members’ interests. (They were called livery companies because members had the right to wear a distinctive costume or livery.) There was a lot of squabbling with other guilds about precedence in the early days. One especially troublesome dispute concerned the Merchant Taylors Company, whose members were tailors, and the Skinners Company, whose members controlled the trade in furs. In 1484 the then Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Billesden, settled the dispute in a judgement of Solomon by ruling that the two companies should alternate between the sixth and seventh positions in successive years, a ruling still in force. This might seem to settle the matter. What could be clearer? The two companies were permanently at sixes and sevens with each other.

The problem lies in the brute force of the evidence. The first form of the phrase wasset on six and seven. Geoffrey Chaucer uses it like this (“to set the world on six and seven”) in his Troilus and Criseyde, dated about 1375. There are several other examples in the following century, which show that Chaucer was making use of an expression already well known (to the extent that he didn’t feel the need to explain it). The appearance in Chaucer was rather more than a century before the dispute between the guilds was settled, so can’t have been created as a result of it (though I can imagine people using the saying to make a joke about the dispute after it had been settled).

We can’t be absolutely sure of where the phrase comes from, but the most probable explanation is that it arose out of an old game of dice called hazard, in which one’s chances of winning were controlled by a set of rather arbitrary and complicated rules. It is thought that the expression was originally to set on cinque and sice (from the French numerals for five and six). These were apparently the most risky numbers to shoot for (“to set on”) and anyone who tried for them was considered careless or confused. Later, the number words shifted to their modern values as a result of folk etymology among individuals who knew no French and misheard the words. The link with the game (and the original French words) must by then have been severed, or perhaps it was a joke, as seven is an impossible number to throw with one die. The change may also be linked to the sum of the new numbers being thirteen, long considered unlucky.

The phrase has been common since Chaucer’s day, to the extent that we can trace in detail the way its form has shifted down the centuries, including set at six and seven,stand on six and seven, and to be left at six and seven. Shakespeare used it in this last form in Richard II, in which the Duke of York says: “I should to Plashy too, But time will not permit. All is uneven, And everything is left at six and seven”. It took until the eighteenth century for people to commonly put the numbers in the plural; for example, Captain Francis Grose included it in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1785 as “Left at sixes and sevens, in confusion, commonly said of a room where the furniture, etc. is scattered about, or of a business left unsettled”.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Life Blood of Culture

"The magic of electronics spreads the verbum sapienti to the slavering masses" . . . Boy, Kelly got that right—back in 1965.

Jes' looky right here on this here internetty thing, and oh I'm slavering alright.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On the Other Side of Craggy Mountain

Once again, the ever-generous OtherEric of The Digital Comic Museum has bestowed upon us another installment of Walt Kelly's The Adventures of Peter Wheat. This is issue number 8, which introduces the concept of espionage to young readers.

Leave the Spode Lay, Daddy Mine

Kelly, along with much of the media, gave a voice to the new hippies that still sounded very beatnik—a lot like Maynard G. Krebbs from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis TV show.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Fourteen Carat Yessiree

This kid is really in the familial way, needing to fill a void.

At this point Kelly had travelled to many many college campuses for his speaking engagements and had direct conversation with disenfranchised youth. Is there anyone out there within reading distance of these posts that remembers seeing Kelly at one of his talks? There must be thousands from the 50s and 60s, between Pogo for President rallies and generally political encounters.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Long Lost, Like, Daddy

Even for Kelly, this seems like an unusual storyline, like.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Gentmin Pirate Cap'n

Still in time here for Talk Like a Pirate Day, here be Churchy La Femme's first appearance in the Okefenokee, doin' his share of talking like a pirate. He ended up wearing a semblance of that hat for a number of years, even as he grew more innocent.

And check out his boat, the Jelly Rajah.

From Animal Comics #13 (a number Churchy grew to abhor)

The Yegg, the Filcher, the Cozening Pilcher

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Somebody with a Capital "S"

You JUST don't get dialogue like this from any other comic strip. And yet Churchy's first and last remarks completely e-lude me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Now then. You prolly thought Kelly forgot about this new character and moved on. Nope. Kelly's just not in a hurry to get anywhere . . . so now, we're, like . . . here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mired in the Muck of Precedent

George is rather garrulously loquacious for a bug. But he do make a point.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Week Wreaked & Fraught with Doom

For heaven's sake people, don't try this at home . . . or anywhere.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Zam and Ziz

These guys have been pals since they were eggs, but quarreling with each other is what they do best.

Friday, September 10, 2010

From the Garbage Depot to the Supreme Court

There were indeed protesters that travelled on a circuit of causes and places. Semi-professional rabble-rousers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oh, I Am Overcome . . .

This was truly a time of change in our country.

Some things had changed subtly, gradually, so that it snuck up on us. And somethings happened almost literally over night. Vietnam was one of the graduals, but then suddenly overnight we were aware of our country's involvement—partly because Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley brought it into our living rooms, but also those same newscasts started showing us the protests, from self immolations to the sit-ins, led by scruffy young people filling the air, not just with rants and chants, but also with folk songs—songs with plaintive lyrics calling for change.

And of course the civil rights movements ran concurrently with a social upswell that found favor with the awakening consciences of the boomer generation. Mixing all of that together, accented with new sexual freedom, unhindered access to drugs and passion-filled rhetoric of a new generation of leaders . . . well . . . it was a tidal wave of emotional change.

The older generation would change along with the young, but it would take awhile and it was difficult. The 'betelnuts' seemed to be an overnight phenomena, beginning with a Sunday night appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Young Americans had already been somewhat aware of the Beatles, but Ed Sullivan introduced them to the older generation, who were completely flummoxed by the music, the 'mophead' look, and the fans' uproarious behavior of screaming and fainting — screaming so loud that the music couldn't be heard, actually irritating John and Paul and George, because the music was important to them (I don't think Ringo could hear anything over his drums anyway).

Here is an erudite comment from Daniel from yesterday's post:

The whole “betelnut” thing in fact involves a very layered punning: “beatnik” is willfully confused with “beech-nut”, this is then confused with “betelnut”, where the “betel” is homophonic with “Beatle” (itself a pun).

(And it's perhaps worth noting that “beatnik” seems to have emerged from a misinterpretation of /ˈbitnɪk/ in a sentence “He was just beat, Nick!”, in an explanation as to why a musician had failed to come to a job.)

ANYway, the older folks started confusing and blending all of the younger antics, such as the earlier so-called beat generation stuff from the 50s, the Greenwich Village influence of the again so-called beatniks, with their strange poetry, their unwashed and unkempt look, and again the music, the folk music that started off innocently enough, but quickly took to becoming a voice of sanity and reform.

And really, the music was the common denominator of the changing of our times. From the swing and sway of the 40s to rock and roll of the 50s to the folk songs of the early 60s to the transcendental rock of the late 60s and later to acid, punk, heavy metal, etc etc etc.

A symbolic icon of all this came down to showing a scruffy young dude with a guitar and an attitude:

Post Script for those who don't read the comment section:

Even before the cyber ink was dry on this post, this helpful comment came in from Will Shetterly:

Wikipedia has the origin I've heard:

The word "beatnik" was coined by Herb Caen in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958.[10] Caen coined the term by adding the Russian suffix -nik after Sputnik I to the Beat Generation. Caen's column with the word came six months after the launch of Sputnik. Objecting to Caen's twist on the term, Allen Ginsberg wrote to the New York Times to deplore "the foul word beatnik," commenting, "If beatniks and not illuminated Beat poets overrun this country, they will have been created not by Kerouac but by industries of mass communication which continue to brainwash man."

But I love Daniel's examination of "betelnut"!

And a further comment from Daniel:

For an alternate claim about the origin of “beatnik”, search the WWWeb for

"Sam Katzman" beatnik

It should be noted that, while the Katzman story and the Caen story are often told with reference to “Sputnik”, both Katzman and Caen would have been familiar with the Yiddish “-nik”, meaning
one who is in some way characterized by the prefixing term (as in “refuse-nik”, one refused the right to emigrate).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One of Them Betelnuts

This is the beginning of an interesting little arc, with an interesting new character.

The rise of the Beatles ran parallel with the rise of social revolution of the Boomers (all them Betelnuts). Kelly was one of the earliest commentators on the scene.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time's A-Dwindlin'

Kelly had fun in his work, and shared it with us. As Joe Bethancourt points out, it's been fun seeing Beauregard's & Bun Rab's helmets change numbers and signs in every panel, from backward numbers to ampersand and etc.