Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday, June 21, 1953: Linus thinks


Being thoughts, this doesn't count as Linus' first words. I'm not even sure this counts as Linus' first thought balloons, but I can't find the strip in the archives in which he complains about "big kids," which is the prior use I remember so maybe that comes later. But I think it is the first example of Linus' voice really coming through clearly to the reader, even if it isn't audible to other characters.

Linus is interesting because we first get a few strips with him thinking before he actually starts talking. Sally also does this when she shows up. I think Rerun gets it too.


  1. The interesting thing about this is that we learn Schulz was some sort of natural Chomskyite. He was a little ahead of his time, I guess, since Chomsky didn't develop the theory of natural grammar until several years after this.

    On the other hand, the editors of Cracked recently revealed themselves as unabashed Saphir-Whorfians:

    Sorry to go off on a linguistics tangent when discussing comic strips.

  2. The visual storytelling in this strip is really strong. Linus's facial expressions are so well-drawn that they pretty much tell the story even without the thought balloons.

  3. Have no fear Dr.S! We do that kind of thing aaaall the time.

    Agreed jheaton.

    Also, I'm surprised I didn't remark on Linus thinking "I wonder if this has ever been done before?" Such ego!

  4. It's the best line in the strip, but it doesn't seem that egotistical -- a truly egotistic toddler would be thinking "No one could ever have done this before! I'm the greatest!" But Linus instinctively wonders if he has peers.

    This seems to me another strip where Schulz shows a bit of insecurity and a tendency to compensate by overwriting, like a singer who hasn't learned that simpler phrasing is better. Think how sharper this would be if panel four read "If I knew how to stand up, I'd kick these blocks across the room!" Also, Lucy's "Mother wants us to pick up all our toys, Linus…" adds nothing and could just be removed. Schulz turns into the most economical comic scripter later on, so it's interesting to see him at a stage when he was still learning how.

  5. Oops, also I meant to agree with everything Doctor Sparkle and jheaton say above!

  6. Rerun gets a LOT of it: he spends most of the '70s with just thought balloons, usually on the back of his mother's bike.

    It rather startled me when I returned to the strip in its last years to find him as eloquent as his brother.

  7. Richard: I have to disagree with you -- somewhat -- about your "sharper" phrasing of panel 4. The real punchline of the joke is, "if I knew how to stand up" and Schulz is absolutely right to put it at the end of the thought.

    You're right, though, that it would be much sharper as, "I'd kick these blocks across the room if I knew how to stand up!"