Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Semantics Illustrated

Originally posted on August 21, 2013

Saul Steinberg is a cartoon-artist whose drawings I find to be thought-provoking (and I dearly love my thoughts to be provoked). Here in a New Yorker magazine cover of September 17, 1960 he portrays words and names that evoke different associations in different people. Sail on, oh ship of American hegemony (at the time, a pre-eminent country in a post-WW2 world)!


Some find the words attached to the various characters inspiring! Freedom! Order! These can quicken the pulse ever so slightly; other words generate subtle associations to political issues that they find vaguely or acutely offensive. I’d like to have the subject matter of semantics taught in high school—it’s time our youngsters developed a core of realistic issues about which to rebel against the previous generation, and it might well be that they think just a bit more critically.


Above in enlarged form subtle themes, such as the quasi-gobbling fish of “how” eating the tiny “why”; or the other gobbling fish of “myth” eating the tiny “truth.”

I imagine a class devoted to interpretation of the various word-signs. The artist’s perception that at mid-century Marx, Freud, Joyce, & Verne had attained quasi-mythic status is interesting in retrospect. In our own early 21st century, I wonder what small (tiny?) percentage of the populace knows any of those once-iconic names.

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