Nanook of the South

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From the current New Yorker: has "more than 50" grits recipes (I count 64 on display), and there are lots more on other sites, so (costume aside) this is entirely region-appropriate. It's still linguistically naive, since the recipes have mostly-transparent phrasal names like "Raspberry Kielbasa over Cheese Grits"; but hey, it's a cartoon, and I guess the point is to mock those southerners with all their different approaches to grits, using the "Eskimo words for snow" trope as a vehicle.


  1. Yerushalmi said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    …he said before he died of heatstroke.

  2. Mr Fnortner said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 9:59 am

    OTOH, it is to mock the trope itself by applying it to the absurd.

  3. EricF said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 10:09 am

    Linguists have over two hundred words for "mock."

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 10:32 am

    We have to put Diffee's "Nanook of the South" in context.

    On p. 62 of last week's (Sept. 29) issue of the New Yorker, there is a cartoon showing an Eskimo wearing a hooded fur coat who is standing in the window of an ice cream truck explaining to two customers:

    "You'll have to be more specific — my people have more than four hundred different words for snow cones."

    On the side of the truck there is a chart with 16 different kinds of ice cream products.

    [(myl) Yes, John Lawler pointed this Joe Dator cartoon out in a comment a few weeks ago.]

    It would appear that Diffee, who is one of my favorite New Yorker cartoonists and eerily smart, is riffing on the previous week's snow cone cartoon and, as Mr Fnortner says, is mocking the trope itself. The whole idea of "words for snow" is one for which Language Log is famous:

    With his bizarre humor, Diffee stands the trope on its head, a neat, antipodal twist on a hackneyed theme.

  5. Jeff Carney said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    Quoting the old Carol Burnett Show from memory:

    "I'll have the grits, please."
    "Oh, thirty or forty."

  6. Riikka said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

    Apropos snow clones: today's local evening paper, Ilta-Sanomat ( ) has a column that begins:

    "Even though the Finnish language has a rich vocabulary, there's only one word for sauna.

    The lakeside wood-heated sauna; the smoke sauna that tenderly caresses your senses with fragrances of alder; the unventilated electric sauna in your high-rise apartment building; and the public steel-smelling bath house sauna; all of these are saunas. "

    järvenrantasauna – lakeside sauna
    savusauna – smoke sauna
    sähkösauna – electric sauna
    joukkosauna – group sauna

  7. Theophylact said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    And I linked to the Diffee cartoon here, on October 1.

  8. Theophylact said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    (Is that perhaps Col. Harland D. Sanders in that parka?)

  9. zafrom said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

    Or Bobby Ed Peary. When you all can include in the same link both the cartoon and its caption, then we too can better appreciate the corny jokes.

  10. ohwilleke said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

    Off topic: pleaded v. pled v. plead

  11. Haamu said,

    October 8, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

    Somewhere on the internet, there's a blog frequented by cartoonists and interested laypeople that is currently discussing the "humoristically naive" attempts by linguists to analyze their jokes.

    I think I'll start reading that one, too.

  12. Joe Dator said,

    October 11, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

    In response to Victor Mair: I can say with some assurance that my pal Matt Diffee was definitely not riffing on my cartoon from the previous week. The New Yorker selects cartoons weeks and often months in advance, so Matt would have drawn his long before he ever saw mine. Why the New Yorker chose to run two similarly themed cartoons in consecutive issues is a question for the ages.

    I might also add that while Matt's and my cartoons are both using the very silly "words for snow" trope, Matt's is more about playing off the qualifier "Of The North". If there's a "Nanook Of The North" shouldn't there be three other Nanook's as well? Matt being a Texan, it's obvious why he chose the one that would let him make a grits joke.

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