36 Comments

  1. I think it’a supposed to be the way it is, and you’re supposed to make the “speare” to “sphere” connection yourself.

    Would you prefer it if a tiny little squirrel in the background said “shake SPHERE! Get it?”

  2. Without the rimshot, I figured the dog was making some kind of sarcastic comment about the level of English used. With the rimshot, I still might not have connected “Billy” with “William” AND “sphere” with “speare”, both of which are required. “Shakesphere” would have worked for me.

  3. “William Shakesphere” is such a good idea that I think it must be what was intended. (It totally eliminated my only guess: a speaking dog is better than a snow globe)

  4. I think if the cartoonist want to write out the pun it would have been “William Shakes-sphere” with a hyphen and it’s hard to imagine anyone on an editorial staff not getting it.

    My guess is the cartoonist figured “William Shakes-sphere” wold be self-explanitory but not funny enough on its own. So s/he had to add a meta “okay, you can groan and the bad pun” enhancer and chose to do a literal rimshot. But then s/he though it looked like that is spelling out the joke too much. So s/he figured that we’d do the pun as spoken and have to rely on the rim shot tell us that a pun was actually made and make you go back to find it.

    That’s my guess but I’m not sure it actually works.

  5. The only flaw in your argument is that, based on how many mistakes make it to print, it is very difficult to believe there is such a thing as an editor, let alone one who would have blown the gag.

  6. That could make it worse: non-editors being pressed into service as editors because, as everybody knows, being an editor isn’t in any way a skilled profession.

  7. I’ve never seen this comic strrip before. Is it syndicated? There is a date, but I don’t see a copyright line. Besides the “-sphere” spelling, it might have been nice to have composed the kid’s lines in iambic pentameter.

  8. This is the problem with writing out puns based on near-homophony rather than the real thing (to the extent that homophony can extend across dialects)…do you spell the word like it’s supposed to be spelt and risk deflecting a bit from the pun, or spell it as the words being used are spelt… And also risk deflecting the pun. I have encountered this issue a lot.

  9. Went over my head completely.

    Just as an aside – PBS 21 in NYC area is running “Upstart Crow” an anachronistic comic about the original Will Shakespeare again – 9:30 Friday nights.

  10. “do you spell the word like it’s supposed to be spelt and risk deflecting a bit from the pun, or spell it as the words being used are spelt”

    spell it as the words being used are spelt (i.e. not what this cartoon did). Nearly (but not entirely) always. It can depend on context and the reciever.

  11. Shakespeare’s plays were first performed at the Globe Theatre, which might be part of the joke.

  12. The Globe/Shakespeare connection though isn’t a “bada-bump” (rimshot) kind of funny, though…

  13. I say it should have been William Shakesphere. I’d have noticed the misspelling and then probably gotten the pun. As it was, if this hadn’t been on this site, I might never have gotten the joke, despite being a fan of puns, as I glossed over the kid’s name.

  14. The end panel reminds me of the old Muppet Show, where the characters laugh at each others’ jokes.
    Not necessarily necessary, but it’s fun to see the characters having a bit of fun.

  15. Even though I highly prefer the misspelling and Andréa’s “copyeditor” theory, the fine print at the bottom of the Comics Sherpa page(*) makes it highly unlikely: “The GoComics.com staff does not preview content uploaded by Comics Sherpa creators.” They don’t even preview for objectionable content, and leave that filtering to readers. Therefore, it seems probable that the author simply missed a brilliant possibility for a stronger joke.
    P.S. (*) Thanks to Arthur for the link. Unfortunately, I see no mechanism for commenting on the comic there, such as exists for (almost) all of GoComics’ other features.

  16. The theory was Bill’s, not mine. I’m just the copy editor (otherwise known by Dave Kellett of ‘Sheldon’ as Ms Pedant).

  17. “I say it should have been William Shakesphere. I’d have noticed the misspelling and then probably gotten the pun. As it was, if this hadn’t been on this site, I might never have gotten the joke, despite being a fan of puns, as I glossed over the kid’s name.”

    If I saw “shakesphere”, I would have simply self edited. What I did was I read right past it. Saw the rimshot and thought “Wait… what? was there a pun?”, went back to “William Shakespeare” and thought “Oh, Shakes Sphere! Is the kid’s name William?” and went back to the beginning to see he was referred to as “Billy”.

    Part of me wonders if we were supposed to have done all that backwards work and it it was supposed to enhance the experience.

  18. “Part of me wonders if we were supposed to have done all that backwards work and it it was supposed to enhance the experience.”

    Yes.

    (And I think it was obvious, and I think a different setup for the joke would have been less effective. YMMV)

  19. woozy: Yes, I think that was the intent.

    I’m a little surprised that some many people not only think “Shakesphere” is better, but think it to the degree that they think the cartoonist made some bad mistake. To me, writing out “sphere” is a little too explicit, basically over-explaining the joke.

  20. Andréa is correct: in the words of Anne Elk, “That is my theory, it is mine and belongs to me, and I own it and what it is, too”

  21. So how do you spell Shakespeare? My father used to have a Ripley’s Believe It or Not book. I remember the book claimed that there are [implausibly large number] different ways to spell Shakespeare.

    OK, I looked it up. Ripley’s “implausibly large number” is “more than 4000”. In looking for that, I find that there is a Wikipedia page on the “Spelling of Shakespeare’s name”. Wikipedia doesn’t mention the 4000 figure, but the spelling varied considerably, even during the Bard’s lifetime.

  22. “the spelling varied considerably, even during the Bard’s lifetime.”

    The notorious Billy S. spelled it several different ways himself.

  23. On the issue of how to spell out puns, I find that this doesn’t work for me:

    https://www.gocomics.com/realitycheck/2018/08/12

    It bothers me that he’s thinking “hole foods,” but his speech bubble says “whole foods.” I guess the idea is that the speech bubble shows what she heard, rather than what he said, but it just seemed confused to me.

    (Although, the premise that someone is eating healthful foods just because they shop at “Whole Foods” seems worst of all.)

  24. Comics with weak jokes based on brand names sometimes make me wonder whether the author is being paid for product placement.

  25. @ jajizi – Just recently I saw a question in a German quiz show. According to the answer, there are just six examples of authenticated Shakespeare signatures, and each of the six uses a different spelling.

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