Discussion in the comments section the other day. revealed quite a bit of confusion around the term “pun” and the term “furry dog story”. I promised to try to fix it today and by sheer luck, Pearls Before Pigs (AMS) he offered up not just a fest of puns on Sunday, but skipped his usual last-panel apology in favor of celebrating his achievement.
They might as well: This is a triumph of puns, and I’ll admit I only got 18 of the 19 state capitals in this strip.
As I said the other day, some people resent being made to feel silly by a subtle pun they didn’t understand, but I was glad to look up the ones I found and will likely go back for the others. one. (Ooo, I just saw it!)
It’s a bit like close-up magic: I enjoy figuring out how the trick works, but only if the magician is skilled enough to make it challenging. And if I can’t understand it, I don’t want to be told. I want to keep thinking about it, even if I never understand how it happened.
Being told or (gasp!) looking for answers is a spoiler.
None of which have anything to do with shaggy dog stories, even though a pun might take a long time to set up.
My elementary school principal loved long stories that ended in puns, and I remember one time in high school when we ended up in a crowded barbershop at the same time and traded complex puns as we waited, each determined to not cracking a smile while the stories ended, until the auction made the whole place laugh.
In fact, that’s where I first heard this one.
Likewise, Pearls fans know the comic stands out for Sunday strips that stretch into a complicated story that turns out to be a trap for some ridiculous pun.
Listening to elaborate puns is, in fact, not much different from watching close up magicbecause while the magician is talking and shuffling cards or whatever, you’re not just watching, you’re trying to anticipate where he’s going, why he’s making a particular move or saying a particular phrase, and how it’s all going to turn out in the end. climax.
Most close-up magic happens fast, but back in the days of VHS recorders, Penn and Teller created a DIY card trick that could take hours or even days, if you wanted.
The setup was that you would try to perform an “Is this your card?” cheat and fail miserably.
What the brand didn’t know was that you had recorded a short segment of Penn and Teller and edited it into other programming. Having “failed” the trick, you’d turn on the TV and sometime later while watching something else, Penn Jillette would suddenly appear on the screen and say “Is this your card?” and hold the right one.
It was long and certainly involved a lot of preparation, including learning. how to force a card —but it wasn’t a shaggy dog story: it was a magic trick.
A shaggy dog story, by contrast, doesn’t end with some amazing joke or magic trick, and in fact, hardly seems to have an ending.
In “Roughing It,” Mark Twain recalls a guy whose endless stories never went anywhere.and is often quoted as a shaggy dog story, though I think it lacks the form and substance of the truth.
Listening to someone who can’t focus on their narrative is just annoying and exhausting. You don’t wonder where it’s going because it’s obviously not going anywhere.
A true shaggy dog story keeps you hooked, because it’s so finely crafted and well told that you’re sure that, like a magic trick, it will suddenly end in a wondrous crescendo that will make it all worthwhile.
But it doesn’t, which is the point.
Granted, it does surprise you in the end, but only with the incredible bathos of the whole thing. The trick to a good fluffy dog story is that the quality of the storytelling makes everything fascinating until… well, nothing.
Here, according to an ancient book quoted by Stephen Greensted, is the original story from which the term “shaggy dog story” is taken.
However, it has been significantly shortened. I’ve heard a good storyteller stretch it out to at least 10 minutes, with a lot more detail and a lot more stops along the way.
A homeless man was walking down a London street when he picked up a copy of the Evening Standard. And there he read a little ad that said: “Lost furry dog. Distraught millionaire is offering a £1 million reward for the return of said mutt. Easily identified. You will never have seen a hairier dog. 100 Cheyne Walk, London, SW10.
At that precise moment a dog passed by. He was the hairiest dog the tramp had ever seen, and he was alone. Without hesitation, the tramp stopped the dog and headed straight for Cheyne Walk.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” said the lady who answered the door, “but that’s an old ad. Mr. Linebacker has left for Montevideo.
So the bum and the dog stowed away on a boat, got off in Montevideo and headed straight for Linebacker’s address. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” said the maid who opened the door. She is on vacation in Sydney. Without a word, the man and the extraordinarily shaggy dog hurried to the harbor and stowed away on a second ship, bound for Australia.
Unfortunately, the millionaire was also missed there. The butler who answered the door said, “It is my duty to inform you that Mr. Linebacker has returned to London to count his millions.”
So the tramp and the fantastically shaggy dog returned to 100 Cheyne Walk.
They were immediately ushered into the presence of the great man, Mr. Ebenezer Linebacker The Third.
“Do you have my hairy dog, the hairiest in the world?” he yelled at her. “I swore I would pay a million pounds for his safe return, and that, indeed, I will.”
Triumphant, the tramp revealed the dog. “Here, sir,” he yelled, “is his dog! The hairiest in the world!!”
Mr. Linebacker looked at the dog and said, “Oh no! That is not my dog. He’s not hairy like that!”