Bill Zippy the Pinhead Griffith is something of a student of the history of cartooning and also a great appreciator of proper names. These two threads are woven together in this recent strip:
Though in the past, I’ve taken the trouble to track down the names that Griffith gives to his Dingburgers, I’m too pressed for time at the moment, so I’m passing the task on to you, rough readers: to the reader who provides the most satisfying account of the names Jet Pinkston, Clem Beauchamp, Martin Flavin, and Russell Metty, I offer the Bonk Prize, a (paperback) copy of Mary Roach’s recent Bonk (on “the curious coupling of science and sex”) donated by Max Vasilatos. (Contest prizes don’t have to be connected with the topics of the contests; I just give away stuff I happen to have extra copies of.) Comment away!
Then there are the historic cartoons the Dingburgers mention, especially the first three, with their characteristics of potential linguist interest: King Aroo, with its big words; Abie the Agent, with its Yiddish dialect humor; and Nibsy the Newsboy, with its “syntax so removed from modern speech, it makes almost no sense”.
I was so intrigued by Nibsy that I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find examples of its extraordinary syntax, but without success (I don’t have access to the archives that might bring such things up in a snap). I did learn that it was based on Winsor McCay’s wonderful Little Nemo in Slumberland, and that it preceded George McManus’s great, long-lasting success, Bringing Up Father.
So, another contest, one that I think is much harder than the Bonk competition: the Language Glass Prize, a (hardback) copy of Guy Deutscher’s Though the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages (as so often happens, after I bought a copy of the book, the author sent me a complimentary copy), for the best examples of big words from King Aroo, Yiddishisms from Abie, and remarkable syntax from Nibsy.
In both contests, the decision of the judge is final.