Math, Comics, and Popeye


I wanted to give people around here a warning that over on my mathematics blog there’s a fresh collection of comics that mention mathematics subjects, and what those math subjects imply.

Bud Sagendorf’s _Popeye_, 18 March 2014. Olive Oyl demands Popeye’s first, middle, and last names.

And to keep things interesting around here this April 2, when all the stores mark their pranks down to half-price, let me point out the current storyline that’s in the daily Popeye comics by Bud Sagendorf. It’s a rerun, originally running from the 7th of January through the 9th of April, 1980, and in it Olive Oyl is working as a census taker, and having trouble with Popeye because, as the sampled strips note, he just hasn’t got a last name. Nor has he got a middle name, which I’m aware causes all sorts of problems with forms that were designed on the assumption that people have middle names even though that’s so very wrong.

Bud Sagendorf's _Popeye_, 19 March 2014.  Olive Oyl thinks Popeye's name sounds like a condition.

Anyway, the story has been staggering on a couple weeks in the quest to get Popeye’s full name, and not making much progress there, and I’m reading partly because I do like Popeye that much, and partly because I really want to know if, for all this talk about Popeye the Sailor needing a middle name, they’re ever going to figure out a middle name for Olive Oyl.

Unfortunately the Sagendorf Popeye was not notable for its satisfying resolutions to its storylines, and there isn’t much evidence a couple weeks in that the quest for Popeye’s name is looping back around to the obvious question.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

6 thoughts on “Math, Comics, and Popeye”

    1. I’m not surprised they do. Working out a naming convention that’s really universal is also extremely hard, made worse by the people who write forms or design databases for it not thinking about how hard it actually is.

      I still want to know Olive Oyl’s middle name, though, if she’s so sure everyone has one.

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        1. You’re right. It’s a dangling question and as best I remember the story (it’s hard, since all Sagendorf stories end up with Popeye wandering around the desert and nothing being finished) they never did drop Olive Oyl’s middle name.

          ‘Virgin’ would be cute, but to parse we’d have to suppose that was her first name and she’s been going by her middle all this time. Which people do, sure. That does raise questions about the other Oyl family members, though.

          (I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if there is a kind-of answer. In its earliest years Thimble Theatre ran a title card and cast list for the day’s actions. It wouldn’t be absurd to me if there were some strip where she were credited like, “Matron — J Olive Oyl” or something like that.)

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