Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dagwood the Philosopher

It has actually been seven months since Japes has paid Blondie a visit, possibly because Blondie often contains a wall of text in every panel, and I am somewhat lazy. At any rate, today's strip has proven impossible for me to resist, as it fits beautifully into the medieval tradition and actually reads better in Middle English than it does in modern English. Here we see Dagwood truly coming into his own as a medieval-style philosopher. Watch his method; it's quite beautiful.

In the first two panels, Mr. Dithers asks his employee a question so hackneyed that it is probable that Geoffrey Chaucer rolled his eyes at it. How many comics have trotted out the whole glass-half-empty chestnut?* There is nothing new here or, in fact, in Dagwood's response, but it's the expression of calm innocence on Dagwood's face as he questions the contents of the metaphorical glass that really highlights the brilliance of the comic. Dagwood is actually challenging the entire framework of Mr. Dithers's approach to the world. Dithers posits a universe that can only accommodate two types of people; Dagwood points out, succinctly, that such simplistic categorisation is unfair in light of the myriad of different possible situations that can make up the contents of the "glass." He is poised to examine the purpose of existence: a key concern of medieval thinkers.****** The comics may seem to be about a fool giving an idiotic response to a moronic question, but we know better.

Another intriguing fact is that the translation has forced me to change the syntax of Dagwood's reply. As far as I can tell, there is no stand-alone Middle English verb that means "to depend"; there are several words that can be used with prepositions, but they wouldn't make sense on their own. The revised sentence deprives Dagwood of his maddening answer-a-question-with-a-question technique but adds a certain zing to his words.

Blondie may be as old as the hills and contain characters who haven't changed their clothes since 1930, but its medieval content and techniques are virtually flawless.

P.S.: There are no Middle English words for "optimist" and "pessimist." I had to go to the Online Etymological Dictionary for help in cobbling together my translations.

*A lot.**
**9 Chickweed Lane did a week-long series on it. No, really.***
***Admittedly, it was infinitely more amusing than the recent months-long series on young lust.****
****You wouldn't think it would be, but trust me: the glass-half-full strips made me much less eager to find Brooke McEldowney and throw rotten fruit at him until he went away.*****
*****I wouldn't particularly care where.
******And Douglas Adams, obviously.


Randy said...

All right! Now that's more like it!!

Angry Kem said...

Randy, are you addicted to footnotes? I hear there's medication for that.

CrackerLilo said...

Blondie should always be in Middle English. But be careful! Your interpretation's so good, you might end up hired as the next custodian of that old zombie!

Angry Kem said...

If I were hired to write Blondie, it would very soon morph into a strip about a time-travelling demi-demon on a mission to subject the entire multiverse to her evil will.

Randy said...

Sadly, it turns out that I'm allergic to that medication. So, here we are.

Drogon Saurischian said...

Ahhh, Douglas Adams, we hardly knew ye.

Derdrom said...

I assume the glass is full of baby blood, which complicates things.