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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/ 1/2009

The Morning Line: No If's, And's or Buttocks

By Michael Cavna

Some weeks back, 'Riffs wrote about the dance that goes on among cartoonists, syndicate editors and newspaper editors over "iffy" language. By that, we mean language that is far tamer than George Carlin's "Seven Words," but saltier than what you might hear on, oh, "Dora the Explorer."

These are the words that some dictionaries might claim are "mildly vulgar," but hardly profane. And these are the words that seem to cause the most hand-wringing among "family newspaper" editors and urge-to-be-"edgy" cartoonists.

Of those, two words in particular seem to get into the most trouble on the funnypages:
1. Sucks.
2. Butts.

To some ears, "sucks" is the absolute mildest of terms--almost laughable, even. But to others, the word merits pulling a day's comic strip. Similarly, "butt" seems tame to some, crass to others. (I've witnessed a newspaper editor spending thousands of dollars to recall papers with a headline containing the word "butt.")


In today's very funny "Pearls Before Swine," Stephan Pastis seems to have hit on the perfect, cheeky way around the "butt" hubbub: Use the quasi-clinical term "buttocks" -- and in the most amusing of ways. I laughed aloud before I'd even hit the second panel.

This is definitely one solution to language sensitivities that does not suck.


BALDO (UPS)Enlarge Comic

Perhaps it's just me, but I can't read today's "Baldo" without thinking of the well-known Christopher Walken soliloquy in "Pulp Fiction." Not that I'm proud of this fact. But it did prompt me to re-watch a clip* of "The Watch."

(*Note to young readers and their parental-type unites: There is some salty language in this clip that makes "sucks" and "butt" pale in comparison.)

By Michael Cavna  | January 1, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: The Riff: Younger Spidey--and the Amazing Mark Trail?


since when did Joey change from a lovable slacker to such a jerk? Lately he has been really weird to Baldo et al. Maybe you could look into this? I love your coverage of the other strips, but I feel you should branch out from Sally Forth and Mark Trail a bit. :-)

Posted by: HallieRoseC | January 1, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

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