Jeep makes baby strollers? Well, Jeep licenses its name to baby strollers. And yes, there are Wrangler and Cherokee subbrands. I did a double-take when I saw my first li'l Jeepster this week, but my third take was: huh, makes sense. "Jeep" has always sounded like baby talk. Now, Jeep pet strollers are something else again.
Remember Alex, the African gray parrot who apparently was capable of learning referential speech? (He died last September at about age 30.) I did, but I hadn't known that Alex's name was an acronym for Avian Learning Experiment. I learned that and much more of interest in "Birdbrain," by Margaret Talbot, in the May 12 issue of The New Yorker. For example, Alex "sometimes played with the sounds he had learned, venturing new words. ... When Alex developed nonsense words--like 'cheenut'--[cognitive scientist Irene] Pepperberg and his other trainers did not respond, and he quickly stopped saying them." Elsewhere in the article, Talbot mentions Nim Chimpsky (1973-2000), a chimpanzee who was taught sign language. His name was a sly reference to the linguist Noam Chomsky, who has famously argued that only humans are capable of language.
The trademarked treat known as the Popsicle was invented in 1905 by an 11-year-boy right here in the San Francisco Bay Area, an irony as close to "selling ice to the Eskimos" as you can get. (Mark Twain may or may not have said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," but the truth of the assertion cannot be denied.) Indeed, the "Epsicle," as young Frank Epperson dubbed his invention--a blend of Epperson and icicle--was created when Frank left a mixture of powdered soda and water on his porch (with a stirrer in it) on a night of record low temperatures in either San Francisco or Oakland (accounts vary). It took him 17 years to introduce it to the public--at the Neptune Beach amusement park in Alameda--and another two years to apply for a patent for his "frozen confectionery." By then he'd renamed it the Popsicle, allegedly because his children called it "Pop's 'icle." Today the Popsicle trademark and brand are owned by Ice Cream USA, a division of Unilever. I learned some of this from a soon-to-be-published book by Krystina Castella, Pops!: Icy Treats for Everyone, which contains recipes for confections Frank Epperson probably never dreamed of, such as Sweet Martini Pops.
I just found out that Dan Piraro, creator of one of my favorite comics, Bizarro, has a blog. Sometimes he explains his jokes, miraculously without making them any less funny. Many of the jokes involve wordplay and semantic twists. Here's a Bizarro from last month:
Piraro says he rarely publishes captionless cartoons: