Today’s Rhymes With Orange:
Two things: the phrasal portmateau L. Ron Mother Hubbard; and the Scientology references.
Phrasal portmanteaus. These have been featured on Language Log and this blog (as well as others) many times, as in this posting on sweet tooth fairies — a phrasal overlap portmanteau, of the form A B C, where A B and B C are the contributing phrases.
More recently, I’ve looked at cases where the overlap, or sharing, is not medial, but initial or final. In particular, in this posting I looked at a case of initial sharing of word parts (pencilguin = pencil (A B) + penguin (A C)) and invented an example of final sharing of whole words (Black car pool = Blackpool (A C) + car pool (B + C)), and in another posting I cited an attested, though playful, example of initial sharing: banana slug split (= banana slug (A B) + banana split (A C)).
Now in Price’s strip we have (playful) final sharing: L. Ron Mother Hubbard (L. Ron Hubbard (B C) + Mother Hubbard (A C)).
In all these cases, the sharing is both formal and semantic; the figure in Price’s strip, for example, is a Scientological Mother Hubbard. The absurdity of this combination is (most of) what makes the cartoon funny.
The past lives connection. From Wikipedia, the bare bones of the Hubbard story:
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (March 13, 1911 – January 24, 1986), better known as L. Ron Hubbard and often referred to by his initials, LRH, was an American pulp fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology.
and its connection to past lives (the 12th-century Bavarian princess!):
Past reincarnation, usually termed “past lives”, is a key part of the principles and practices of the Church of Scientology. Scientologists believe that the human individual is actually an immortal thetan, or spiritual entity, that has fallen into a degraded state as a result of past-life experiences. Scientology auditing is intended to free the person of these past-life traumas and recover past-life memory, leading to a higher state of spiritual awareness. This idea is echoed in their highest fraternal religious order, the Sea Organization, whose motto is “Revenimus” or “We Come Back”, and whose members sign a “billion-year contract” as a sign of commitment to that ideal.
… The first writings in Scientology regarding past lives date from around 1951 and slightly earlier. In 1960, Hubbard published a book on past lives entitled Have You Lived Before This Life. In 1968 he wrote Mission into Time, a report on a five-week sailing expedition to Sardinia, Sicily and Carthage to see if specific evidence could be found to substantiate L. Ron Hubbard’s recall of incidents in his own past, centuries ago.
(The Wikipedia material on Hubbard goes to some lengths to sketch the man’s story as the Church of Scientology does and also to tell it from independent sources.)
Hilary Price’s strip is timely, in a way, since the film The Master was recently released:
The Master is a drama film written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. It tells the story of Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a World War II veteran struggling to adjust to a post-war society who meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a leader of a philosophical movement known as The Cause who sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. Freddie takes a liking to The Cause and begins traveling with Dodd along the East Coast to spread the teachings.
… The film was partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard but also used early drafts of There Will Be Blood, stories Jason Robards had told Anderson about his drinking days in the Navy during the war, and the life stories of John Steinbeck. (link)