Just words

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Today's Stone Soup:


  1. Ginger Yellow said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 7:49 am

    Funny that it's the "caca" part being emphasised.

  2. Matt_M said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    @Ginger Yellow: but isn't caca a baby-talk word for shit? It's the "butt call" bit that puzzled me. Urban Dictionary defines it as "An unintended cell-phone call made by sitting on the speed dial buttons" – alright, that makes sense, but it doesn't seem to fit the theme of words/idioms that sound scatalogical or sexual, but which have etymologies that are entirely innocent of such matters.

  3. Rube said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 8:27 am

    @Matt —

    (1) Yes, but why emphasize just one part of one of the great "sounds dirty but isn't" words?

    (2) I'm glad you looked up "butt call" — it was confusing me, too. Like you, I don't understand why it's here, since it's not like the other expressions, that simply sound vaguely "dirty" — "butt" is actually being used as a slang term for buttocks.

  4. h.s. gudnason said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 8:38 am

    I've heard (and used) "butt dial/ed," but never the (extremely logical) butt call. It didn't immediately register when I read the cartoon.

    The atavistic use of dial has frequently been pointed out, but this discussion makes me realize how absurd the notion of "butt dialing" is: the mental image it invokes is, um, interesting.

  5. William Ockham said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    Because the "caca" is emphasized instead of the "titi", I think the commonality of these phrases is that they are all supposed to be related to defecation. The weird one is penal colony which most people would assume is supposed to be glossed as "penile colony", but I think we are supposed to be reading it as "penal colon-y".

  6. Ellen K. said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 9:23 am

    Ginger, if you mean "caca" rather that "titi", it's a little boy, so, yes, caca would be that part that fits in.

  7. Ellen K. said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    @William, or maybe it's more words associated with going to the bathroom of either variety. If the artist/author expects us to get "colon" out of "colony", well, I think that's a fail, since the words sound nothing alike — very different vowels in the first syllable, and different L's too. Or are those words more alike in some varieties of English?

  8. Robert Coren said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    I think Alix's sister Holly summed it up best in her retort the previous day: "You are so 9."

  9. Kathryn said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    I'm with Robert. I think it is seriously over-analyzing to expect a 9-year-old and a 3 or 4 year old (Max only started /speaking/ within the last couple of years, and hasn't yet started school) to be selecting their words for whether they are, or are not, real words unrelated to scatological or anatomical features. Mind you, I understand the temptation for this group to do so. . .

    On the other hand, come to think of it–they have some impressive vocabulary for their age!

  10. Janice Byer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    Matt and Rube, my guess is "butt call" is a riff on "booty call".

  11. Janice Byer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 11:44 am


  12. Janice Byer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    Sorry for the above link-fail. Once more into the breach:


  13. UK Lawyer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

    Maybe not directly on topic, but I used to work for a company whose address was Faggs Road, Feltham, Middlesex, which seemed to cause our American visitors much amusement.

  14. Peter Taylor said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

    Caca is a childish Spanish word – poopoo would probably be the best English translation. Maybe the characters are meant to be of Hispanic descent, or to have close friends who speak Spanish. It would be curious otherwise for the small boy to have heard of Titicaca.

  15. Rube said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    @ Peter Taylor

    Naw, I think Lake Titicaca is pretty well known among latency age boys precisely because of its name. As in an old "Animaniacs" song:

    Lake Titicaca, Lake Titicaca, why do we sing of your fame?
    Lake Titicaca, Lake Titicaca, we just like saying your name!

    Reminds me of my ten year old mentioning that some of the boys in his class were doing a science project about Uranus.

    Me: Do they think it's an interesting planet, or do they just like saying "Uranus"?

    Him: They just like saying "Uranus".

  16. Rodger C said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

    Ever since I was about nine myself, I've wondered why Lake titicaca was more popular than Lake Poopo.

  17. a George said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    @Robert Coren
    I, being unitiated, thought that the name of the blackheaded person was A59, so "so 9" made perfect sense. Nothing like Google to deflate one. Wikid.

  18. Janice Byer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    Rube, full credit to your son and his schoolmates for possessing the vocabulary to get the pun.

  19. Rube said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    @Janice — now that you mention it, that is kind of impressive, isn't it?

  20. Ben Bolker said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

    I usually think of the Geographical Fugue when I hear "Titicaca" (I didn't know what it was called, or that it was by a serious composer, until I looked it up): not naughty, but definitely based on sound values rather than meaning.

  21. Ken Brown said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

    The younger kid doesn't need to know what Titicaca is to laugh, he just needs to know that his brother can find naughty words in a book.

    I'm pretty sure I did know of Lake Titicaca when I was 9. And I might have known what a poop deck wad as well. Lots of boys have obsessive fascinations with maps and ships.

  22. Jimbino said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

    The tsunami really put Phucket on (off?) the map.

  23. maidhc said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 1:01 am

    "Caca" may be a childish word in some modern languages, but it is an old Indo-European word. "Cac" is the standard word in modern Irish. From Greek it gives us words like "cacophony". It is found in Latin and also in Germanic languages. For example, we get "poppycock" from Dutch.

  24. bookeater said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 2:31 am

    I teach English to elementary school kids in Korea. Every so often, an innocuous English word strikes the kids as naughty and hilarious. Once, when I was teaching sixth grade students the word "bucket," a whole bunch of boys in the class started laughing raucously. Apparently (since Korean speakers cannot easily hear the difference between /f/ and /p/, and sometimes /b/), "bucket" sounds like "fuckit". They kept repeating, "bucket! BUCK YOU!" I had to struggle to maintain a serious teacher face at that moment.

  25. Brian said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 7:45 am

    Kids do know about Lake Titicaca. I remember being no more than 8 years old (before July 1969, because we moved to a different house after that) and watching a National Geographic special that mentioned Lake Titicaca — my brothers and I seized on that word, and I bet it's the only part of the show that made it into my memory. Unlike the comic strip kid, we emphasized the Titi, since "caca" wasn't in our argot yet (although I don't think it's an exclusively Hispanic term — I know plenty of Anglos who grew up saying "caca"). We imagined the naughty circumstances that would allow license to say an otherwise forbidden word, in this mostly whispered stentence: "Let's go to Lake TITIcaca." I distinctly remember my mom calling "I don't like that" from two rooms away after probably hearing an isolated screaming of the word "tittie."

  26. Chad said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    "Pupu platter" should have been the obvious choice for the comic, instead of butt call.

  27. Kyle said,

    November 5, 2011 @ 5:25 am

    Here, you'll probably get more snickering from the "Titi" than from the "caca" – "titi" being one of the Tagalog words for "penis". So "Lake TITIcaca" works better for us, perhaps.

  28. Robert Furber said,

    November 6, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

    Are shiitake mushrooms too risqué for a newspaper comic?

  29. SharonZ said,

    November 7, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    I can't tell which pronunciation of Uranus you're referring to.
    Back in the 70's when my sister started teaching science (in New Jersey), teachers had just changed from saying URINE-ess because of all the giggles, to ur-Aness because it was a more innocent time and "anus" wasn't on the kids' radar. Bet all the teachers wish they had stuck with the earlier giggles.

  30. Rube said,

    November 8, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    @SharonZ –it's the one that emphasizes "anus".

    You just can't win with 11-year-olds.

  31. Rod Johnson said,

    November 9, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    Huh–the "anus" pronunciation was the only one I ever heard as a kid. I didn't hear the "urine" version until much later (was it Carl Sagan in Cosmos perhaps?). So my memory of the chronology is the exact opposite of SharonZ's.

  32. John said,

    November 21, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    I'm with Rod. The anus way ought to be the traditional way (cf. angina), and I suspect the urine way was invented to avoid that. The anus joke appears in the movie E.T. in 1982, btw, so it's at least that old.

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