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Today's Pearls Before Swine:

(Click on the image for a larger version.)

I believe that there have been several variants on the same joke, but these two 9 Chickweed Lane strips (from 5/12/2003 and 12/22/2006) are all that I can locate at the moment:

But the spell checker at the New Yorker's Cartoon Bank site gets the joke:


  1. Richard said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

    I first heard a variation on this one in the form 'Classicists conjugate in all moods', which I expect is available on T shirts, car bumper stickers, and so on.

  2. Nassira Nicola said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    This reminds me of "Grammar," by Tony Hoagland, which begins:

    Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend, smiles like a big cat and says that she’s a conjugated verb. She’s been doing the direct objectwith a second person pronoun named Phil

    [Of course, I'm amused by the implication that the reader is Phil, but it's otherwise a very pleasantly nerdy image.]

  3. John Cowan said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

    I'm wondering about what irregular verbs are specially conjugated in the second person singular: art, wert, dost? Usually the second person singular is quite regular.

  4. mollymooly said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

    It's not natural for Art to take a direct object. For copulation, a complement is required afterwards. Compliments are optional.

  5. Ben Farnsworth said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 12:50 am

    @John Cowan: Aren't those forms all used exclusively with "thou?" I always assumed it was a holdover from when English had more inflection.

  6. Peter E said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 2:00 am

    The second Chickweed Lane strip reminds me of a joke my high school Latin instructor used to tell:

    Q: "Where did Oedipus go wrong?"
    A: "He conjugated when he should've declined!"

  7. Peter Taylor said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 8:45 am

    @John Cowan, as far as "to be" you don't need to use thou for the second person singular indicative present to be irregular. You are.

    (And is "dost" really irregular?)

  8. Dan T. said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Hot Latin conjugation is more fun than the staid English variety.

  9. Bob C said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    Conjugation can be fun, especially with copulative verbs.

  10. Bill Poser said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    Actually, conjugation is a form of sex, though only for such uni-cellular organisms as bacteria and protozoans. It refers to the exchange of genetic material through direct, cell-to-cell contact.

  11. Matt said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 7:47 pm


    "Yakko, can you conjugate?"
    "Who, me? I've never even kissed a girl!"
    "No, no, no! It's easy. I'll conjugate with you!"
    "(Goodnight, everybody!)"
    "You don't understand. Let me go to the board and show you."
    "(Don't look.)"

  12. malkie said,

    January 7, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

    What about the grammatically confused virgin who declined to conjugate?

  13. John Cowan said,

    November 18, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    Peter Taylor: My point was that the second person singular, as such, is gone from contemporary English: we only have a second person plural form which is used for both singular and plural.

    "Dost" is irregular, because the regular form would be "doest" (two syllables), just as "does" is irregular.

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