Prescriptivism and terrorism

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What ran instead was the strip from 7/27/2002:

For some discussion of the topic, see Josh Zuckerman, "Comic Strip Pulled Over ISIS Reference", NCAC blog 7/28/2016, and Christine Rousselle, "'Pearls Before Swine' Cartoon Mocking NSA Wiretapping Censored", Townhall 7/28/2016.
The cartoonist's Facebook post on the topic is here.


  1. bzfgt said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 7:16 am

    I'm not one of those people who chastises Black Lives Matter people for being too "sensitive" or gets mad at rape survivors for playing the "victim card," so I hope I have a free one coming with this–are people really THAT sensitive now?!

  2. Thomas said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 9:29 am

    Might have been pulled because it's easily, far and away, unquestionably the absolute weakest, most laboured so-called joke ever presented.

    I speak as a keen purveyor of dad-"jokes" and the parent of a 5 year old.

    No offence meant to the cartoonist: it's clearly an exception. His other one's good, and -never having heard of him – I sought out some of his others and they're all pretty funny.

  3. bzfgt said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 10:14 am

    Thomas, it's not that good but cartoons so often are lame, especially these days (or it seems like that, maybe I mostly remember the good ones from the past). There is one funny panel–the picture in the 4th panel is amusing. But in any case I don't think editors generally do that, although I realize your suggestion probably isn't serious.

  4. Rube said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 11:11 am

    I gather that the syndicate was concerned that if there was an ISIS outrage on the day the strip ran ( a sadly realistic possibility) they would be assailed by angry readers thinking they were making light of it. I'll admit I have a certain sympathy for them.

  5. Christopher Henrich said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 11:18 am

    I think the replacement strip is funnier.

  6. GH said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 11:22 am

    Cartoon syndicate censorship has always been over-sensitive and fairly arbitrary. For the replacement strip, I prefer this version of the joke, from the show Suburgatory:

    TESSA: If you could have dinner with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?
    RYAN: Scarlett Johansson… Dead.

  7. Thomas said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 12:08 pm

    Bzfgt: yes, that pic is funny and yes, I was being silly.

    Just thinking, though, you could also have Sean Connery getting arrested for teaching someone Russian: "Da: Yesh..Da: Yesh".

    (Though he'd have to be teaching them over the phone. Which is unlikely.)

  8. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    A couple of years ago, at a book tour event in Seattle, I saw an earnest fan ask Randall Munroe the living-or-dead dinner-party question (apparently thinking it original and/or profound).

    Munroe rolled his eyes and responded as the pig did.

  9. Jonathan Gress-Wright said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

    I agree that the replacement strip is actually funnier. However, it does raise suspicions that they pulled a strip mocking our hyper-vigilant surveyors, and that this seems to fit into a pattern of similar acts of censorship. This may be less about offending readers and more about offending those in power.

  10. wtsparrow said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

    I have a fear of picking up my nephew Jack at the airport. Will I be arrested if I say "Hi, Jack"? Or if I say "balm of Gilead" with my midwestern accent?

  11. David Morris said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 7:32 pm

    I don't correct my sisters' grammar because I don't want them to think I'm a know-it-all prig.

  12. Roscoe said,

    July 30, 2016 @ 10:58 pm

    The sitcom "Titus" had a similar joke involving a flight attendant who kept calling the in-flight meal "chicken king."

  13. Pflaumbaum said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 5:06 am

    My four-year-old developed what I would consider natural English pronoun case some time ago – "I" for the whole subject of a fine verb, "me" more or less everywhere else. But a few weeks ago I noticed the occasional "X and I" creeping in. And then suddenly the other day she started using "me" as whole subject of a finite verb, Tarzan style. She only did it for a few minutes but then had a spell of doing it again a couple of days later.

    I can't tell whether she's copying a TV show (for instance the BBC children's show "Rastamouse", which uses Carribean dialect), or if trying to integrate "X and I" into the system has confused her, or something else.

  14. Ed Vanderpump said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 7:25 am

    I think it is true that a phone call to the police about "some dodgy blokes in a terraced house" caused armed police (a special squad in UK) to break in and open fire. (BrE term for, I think, AmE "row house" misheard as "terrorist".)

  15. Michael Vnuk said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 7:37 am

    Are the connectors to the speech bubbles incorrect in the second panel? If I read it right, the sister makes the statement about going to the movies, so, since we are seeing the brother with the phone, her comment should have the jagged connector and his comment should have the straight connector.

  16. Ed Vanderpump said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 8:00 am

    A few years back I tweeted and blogged about "double is" and even mentioned a fictional or spoof journal dedicated to this phenomenon. (An Oxford university magazine, of course, had a similar title.) I wish I could delete all that now!

  17. Narmitaj said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 10:13 am

    @ Ed Vanderpump – I think you might be thinking of Terraced/Terrorist confusion situation.

  18. Ed Vanderpump said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 10:15 am

    Yes, that was it, Narmitaj. Really happened, I think.

  19. GH said,

    July 31, 2016 @ 10:40 am

    @Michael Vnuk:

    The second panel shows Pig's sister (note the bow – universal comics signifier for "girl") and her friend, so the speech bubbles are correct.

  20. Michael Vnuk said,

    August 1, 2016 @ 4:38 am


    Thanks for setting me right! I will claim that I don't notice fashion very well and completely missed the bow (although there are other differences in the panel that should have clued me in, such as the background, and I should also have been cautious because no one else had mentioned a potential problem).

  21. GH said,

    August 1, 2016 @ 8:17 am

    I was also confused at first, even though Pastis put in several other cues (e.g. having the characters face in opposite directions). One pig character looks pretty much like any other, I guess, bow or not. For some reason I think that if Pig had been shown sitting, that would have made it a lot clearer.

  22. Sam Houston said,

    August 1, 2016 @ 10:58 am

    Homeland Insecurity aren't the only one's censoring. Someone at Language Log removed by original comments. Censorship hurts the illusion of freedom and so-called Democracy. Just stop it.

  23. Bob Ladd said,

    August 1, 2016 @ 5:45 pm

    I was certainly startled a couple of months ago to receive a link from a colleague at another university to a paper he had just published in a journal called "Isis", which he helpfully noted is a major journal in the history of science. I presume the journal is named after the ancient Egyptian god and is not an acronym for anything. Still, they must be getting a lot of double-takes these days, and possibly unwanted (and unneeded) attention from various security services.

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