1. Seems to be a play on a rebellious teenager. A perfect and polite potential boyfriend turns up who mom approves of, but her teenage daughter picks the guy who’s completely wrong for her and is a pariah in the community. I was amused.

    Is there an element of Arlo here?

  2. Considering the incompatible shapes of forks and outlets, not to mention Stan’s “Arlo” question, now I’m wondering whether a screwdriver might have been a better choice as the “hot rodder”.

  3. Kilby: But sticking a fork in an outlet is the “traditional” dangerous thing to do, not a screwdriver in an outlet.

    And I’m pretty sure the Arlo implication is by design, not a bug.

  4. @ WW – Really? Just a couple of week ago I was discussing “idiotic dangerous things kids might do” (with my son), and when the subject of outlets came up, I know I said “screwdriver” and not “fork”. Of course, that might be because European sockets have round holes, and it would be nearly impossible to get a fork into one of them.

  5. P.S. When I looked at “Shocked” at the PBF website I noticed that the grandparents in the picture on the wall are a 240V pair, and therefore generationally incompatible with their offspring.

  6. I got the joke, but was confused by the fact that the boyfriend changed into a completely different thing.

  7. Yeah, it’s not clear, but Rory is there to pick up Susan, while Susan’s absconding with her dangerous beau.

  8. Yeah, I definitely remember the fork as the traditionally mentioned dangerous implement.
    Apart from going directly into an electric socket, which would be an odd thing to do, a fork might be tempting to use for retrieving something stuck in a pop-up toaster, a very plausible danger.

  9. @ Ignatzz – Your alternative reading is a plausible scenario (that the plug Rory is “wearing” is just a disguise, and that the mom sees his “true” nature as they speed off). However, I think two separate suitors (as Stan & Powers described it) is the more likely explanation.
    P.S. dvandom is almost certainly right about the grandparents, the combination shown is probably the massive British three-prong arrangement. I’ve seen the old “tandem” and “T” arrangements on US sockets (only in old houses), but when I looked it up, I discovered that both standards were eliminated a very long time ago. I’ve never seen an appliance that had such a plug, only the leftover sockets.
    P.P.S. I know someone who (in the mid 80’s) discovered a tandem socket in his office, and rewired it for a standard “parallel” socket, so that he could use it for a coffee machine next to his desk. He had no idea that the tandem arrangement was used for 240V (it was probably originally intended for a large appliance, such as a washer/dryer). As he put it, the coffeemaker made its “last offering to the coffee god”, and expired.

  10. Rory is the nice, “safe” date for Susan, the kind of date a mother would approve of. Rory will treat Susan well, but there won’t be many sparks between them, as he’s not too exciting.

    But Susan likes to get her thrills from her new “bad boy” boyfriend. He’s not good for her, but she doesn’t care. She just wants to live out her good-girl-with-bad-boy fantasy. She won’t tell her parents because she knows they’ll disapprove, preferring her to be with someone more “normal” like Rory.

  11. I think this putting a fork in an outlet thing is a confluence of the very common (in the 1960’s) inserting a fork in a *toaster* to get the toast out, and all the other tine-like things one might stick in a *wall outlet*. I guess people may have bent a fork to make another kind of extraction tool. (heh-heh “tool”)

  12. Assuming that Rory and Fork-thug are *not* supposed to be the same person, maybe the polite, well-groomed young lad in panel one would be better represented by a neutral name like “Tommy” or “Bobby,” since (at least to me) “Rory” sounds like a name that a biker/”greaser” bad boy might be expected to have.

    Coming soon to a drive-in near you — Rory Forkblazer starring in HELL’S CUTLERY ON WHEELS !

  13. Kilby: I always heard “fork.” If I go to the ultimate arbiter of aggregated language usage, Google, and type in “sticking a …” in the search box, the first autocomplete suggestion is “fork in an outlet,” while screwdriver doesn’t appear at all in the list. (But if I continue with “sticking a s…”, then “screwdriver in a socket” appears at #3.)

    I opened a new page in Incongnito mode, so it’s not personalized, although it does still know I’m American. Might get different results in Germany.

  14. Since the kids are in charge of my youtube account, just yesterday I was recommended to watch a fork stuck in an outlet. So it must have some cultural recognition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6QsYTCA9BU.

    The grandparent photo could be European, but most of the UK sockets I’ve seen are mounted with the ground pin above the circuit conductors. I’m going with a US NEMA-6 (240V).

    I really like how the asymmetric blade size was kept consistent on the “mom”, but the ground pin shape was altered to change the emotions.

  15. As a kid I stuck a butter knife in a socket and got a fun experience. My mother said the hollow handle of the knife saved me. My later experiences as a test engineer at MegaCorp suggests that 110 isn’t all that dangerous in short doses. I jolted myself several times.

  16. I agree with Darren. Singapore uses UK-style sockets and they always have the ground pin (or “earth” as the British like to say) on the top.

    As for childish play with electricity, I recall, as quite a young child, being under the kitchen table. There was an outlet there. I don’t know exactly what I did. No fork. But I did manage to get a shock. Other notable activity included melting a dimple into a screwdriver shaft by arcing across the live and neutral on a partially inserted plug. Plastic handle for the win! Got a few shocks removing cover plates and playing with sockets and light switches. I never stuck anything in the sockets, though. That would be dumb. 🙂

  17. She likes getting forked. (Cf. David Wilcox song, “She likes to spoon, but I just wanna fork”)

  18. For what’s it’s worth, I found this cartoon to be funny.

    Maybe not “laugh-out-loud” funny, but funny in a witty sort of way.

  19. When you say the “T” arrangement, do you mean a 20-amp socket? It’s not obsolete, as far as I know, but I haven’t seen an appliance that uses such a plug. But when I bought my house, it came with a radial-arm saw that would blow a 15-amp fuse when starting up, even though it had a 15 amp plug, so the previous owner used a 20-amp fuse in that 15-amp circuit.

  20. @ MiB – Standard US plugs have the two connectors parallel to each other (both vertical), as shown by Rory in the comic. There were older models that had both connectors in a horizontal “tandem” arrangement (similar to the top two connectors of the grandparents), and there were also models that had one vertical connector and one horizontal, sort of like a disjointed sideways “T” (like “| —”). There were also “universal” sockets that had both recepticles shaped as a “T” so that the socket could accept any one of the three different kinds of plugs (||, – –, and —|), in either orientation. However, this ran the risk of mismatching voltages, since the prevailing standard for the “– –” connector was 240V. I have no idea what the “—|” connectors were supposed to carry.

  21. There are a couple of other US standards besides the common household sockets, mostly for industrial usage. Things like 3-phase power, and some high-voltage connectors. Many US power strips sold today have 5V USB sockets, and some wall plugs have 5V USB, too. (Saw some at the airport).

  22. FYI. There is no code standard to install receptacles with the ground hole on the bottom. The American Electrician’s Handbook was suggesting to place them with the ground up as early as the 70s to provide a grounded safety block from above if something metal were to fall onto the prongs of a partially out plug. I have seen them installed “ground up” at hospitals and urgent care facilities. Most receptacle manufacturers actually have the factory markings and wording on the yoke ends readable with the ground up, upside down with the ground down. GFCIs now have the writing on the test/reset buttons both ways. I built my house and installed all of the receptacles with the ground up, drives the rest of the family nuts…..

  23. They could have standardized it so the outlet plate is symmetrical, with ground at top and bottom, so it didn’t matter which way up the outlets themselves were installed. But nobody thought of that, apparently.

  24. Google “20 amp outlet” and “20 amp plug” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  25. As long as we are talking about plugs, I have a question. In most of the places I have lived, bedrooms in particular, but other rooms too, have one outlet that has the upper plug controlled by a wall switch. I just noticed where I live now, the regular outlets are all ground-below-the-slots, and the controlled outlets are “upside down” I.e. ground-above-the-slots. Is this a standard, or the choice of the electrician who installed them? I never noticed this before, but some of the houses I have lived in were too old to even have grounded (3 prong) outlets, much less the polarizing slots.

  26. @ guero – Standards are one thing, customs are another. The prevailing orientation in the vast majority of American houses is to place the ground connector below the active pair, despite any safety-conscious recommendations to the contrary. I think the reversal of the one “switched” socket that you observed is merely a clever electrician’s convention: if the bedroom has three or four sockets, the reversal makes it easy to identify which one is controlled by the wall switch.

  27. P.S. @ JP – “They could have standardized it so the outlet plate is symmetrical, with ground at top and bottom…
    In Germany, they did exactly that. The “Schuko” socket arrangement has a round plug with two ground wires. The socket is also recessed, so that the connectors are never “partially exposed”.

  28. P.P.S. @ MiB – Thanks for the tip about the “20 Amp” plugs, that solved the little mystery about the “|—” prong arrangement.

  29. @ Bob Peters – In France they use a variation of the “Schuko” design that could be called hermaphroditic:

  30. @Kilby; I’d never thought about it this way… Note that the earth/ground (“la terre”) is always on top.

  31. “As for the arlo element, ‘male’ and ‘female’ are part of proper nomenclature in plug-together electrical connections.”

    well, in some electrical connections, possibly even in almost all. The original IBM Token-Ring specification has plugs that are gender-neutral. Any two cables can be plugged together, and the connection to the “wall” socket can join with any cable, either end

    Later, they switched to the RJ-45 plug-and-socket, because it’s so, so much cheaper.


  32. @ Olivier – I looked up “Titanides” in both English and German, but could not find anything that seemed relevant. Perhaps there is a meaning that survives only in the French translations?

  33. Titanides are an alien race from John Varley’s Titan trilogy.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, this site is full of fen and filkers.

  34. “As for the arlo element, ‘male’ and ‘female’ are part of proper nomenclature in plug-together electrical connections.”

    When I mentioned the Arlo element at the start, all I really meant was there are pretty blatant references to things being stuck into other things. It’s more subtle when it’s humans in situations like this, but we all know that’s the end goal (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). However, it’s pretty out in the open here.

    Maybe I just have a dirty mind.

  35. >Titanides are an alien race from John Varley’s Titan trilogy.

    The anatomy of which would closely resemble the french plugs…. Sort of.

  36. I have spent a lot of time lately looking at outlets in our kitchen and in Home Depot/Lowes as Robert finally believed me that the outlets over the kitchen table (which predate our 31 years in the house) was too tight when he could not unplug my laptop from it either.

    The T shape openings are definitely 20 amps. It never occurred to me that the plugs would match same, I figured they were different just so one would notice that they were different in case one needed a 20 amp outlet for something.

    the 30 amps are much more obvious as they are large and round. At the RV parks they are different than the 50 amp outlets which have 3 prongs instead of 2 along with the ground on each.

    I have found that some rooms which do not have an overhead light have an outlet that is switched. In our case this is in the living room. There was a switched outlet in one corner of the long wall when we moved in. The sofa is centered on that wall with the lamps (A&S, on sale) on either side. We had to have a cord running across to the lamps and early on we had another outlet on the switched line put in behind the sofa. We did put an extension cord in the corner outlet as it is now behind a corner furniture unit and we did not want to lose the use of the outlet – so our Christmas tree can only be on if the room lights are also on.

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