September 25th, 2017


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Today we are in for another round of Mike and Martha and their apparent inability to articulate thoughts OR “This is how Lynn Johnston thinks preteens speak.”

(Strip Number 1351, Original Publication Date, 27 September 1988)

Panel 1:  Martha bends her head slightly towards Michael in an act of deference that appears to startle him.  I guess he’s not used to getting any respect from anyone.  Martha says, “Hi, uh, Mike?  I was, um, well, wondering if you were, um, you know, still sort of, well, uh, mad at me.”

Let us count the flavours of Lynn Johnston preteen speak:

Uh – 2, Um – 2, well – 2, you know – 1, sort of – 1.

Panel 2: Michael reacts to this act of deference by crossing his arms and looking down upon Martha in that way that Pattersons do, where you just want to slap them silly.  (Okay, I just want to slap him silly.)  He says, “OK.  Well, yeah.  Sort of.  Like, you know, when you were, like, talking about me to your friends, it, um, made feel, you know, like out of it.

Let us count the flavours of Lynn Johnston preteen speak: 

Uh – 0, Um – 1, well – 1, you know – 2, sort of – 1, like – 3. 

I think we have a winner in the preteen speak contest.

Panel 3: Martha looks confused and puts her hand to her mouth thoughtfully.  Perhaps Michael’s preteen speak is so confusing that even another preteen can’t understand it.  Or perhaps Martha did hear him and knows the phrase “out of it” means “not being in a state of one's normal mind” and does not really work in this sentence.  Maybe try the word “embarrassed” instead.  Yes, folks, Lynn Johnston’s incorrect use of preteen slang has managed to confuse even one of her own characters.  And in spite of that, the punchline of the comic strip is Michael leaning back on his locker, closing his eyes and smugly thinking, “Ask a direct question, you get a direct answer.”  In other words, the joke depends on Lynn writing the preteen speak in such a way so that it is not actually a direct answer.   Those whacky preteens and their inability to form sentences is so funny!!

When my kids misused the word “like” it would be something as in, “The car was, like, going fast.” To which I would respond, “Is the car going fast, or is it just like going fast?”  Notice this is not the same way Lynn Johnston has Mike use the word, “like”.  She has him using “like” to describe another slang phrase “out of it”.   Sorry 1998 Lynn.  Your joke will only work on people who think preteens speak the way you think preteens speak and of course, condescend to preteens.

Summary: How will Martha respond?:

1. Will she knock that smug look off his face?
2.  Will she walk away while Mike is in thought balloon land to see if he notices that she left?
3.  Will she consult other people about what the heck Michael was saying, draw a conclusion that he is an idiot and never talk to him again?
4. Will she forgive his arrogant rudeness and call him to ask him over to her house and be friends again?
5. Will she give him the name of a doctor who handles premature baldness in preteens?