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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lightning Bugs


As Cul de Sac has been featuring lightning bugs this week this old Almanac seemed timely. And as you can see, lightning bugs are pretty controversial, perhaps the most controversial bioluminescent insect around these days. Like, are they called "lightning bugs" or "fireflies", and is that a matter of regional nomenclature or what? My email correspondent cartoonist Teresa Dowlatshahi first raised this question and I don't know the answer. Around the part of Maryland, DC & Virginia that I've lived in it's always been "lightning bugs", which sounds more impressively oxymoronic though less poetic than "fireflies". To settle which is correct I've started another pointless poll on the right of this page. Though considering that the last poll, about putting CdS in the daily Wash Post, was barely launched before the Post did just that makes me think that maybe these polls are more powerful than I'd assumed.

12 comments:

Mrs. Windaker said...

Well, I grew up in the northern Shenandoah Valley - so they are "lightning bugs" to me and always will be. How many I left to a frustrated doom in a jar on my windowsill!

Michael said...

Well up here they are called the northern lights ... just kidding.
Actually, I've always known them as fire flies but have also heard locals use the expression lightning bugs. Quite magical, aren't they?

Dale said...

We don't have them here, alas! But I think my parents (from Illinois and New Jersey) called them "fireflies."

nolanart said...

Down here in the middle part of North Carolina, we've always called them lightning bugs. And they went "tzt!" when you grabbed 'em.

Cartoonist Who Writes said...

I grew up in New Hampshire. And it's fireflies. Or, depending on the viewer, UFOs.

By the way, let me throw in some general praise for the oboe recital sequence. When P. had his out of body experience on the way to the stage, it was perfect. Caught me by surprise, but made absolute sense. The perfect twist.

Shanster said...

In Omaha, NE they were lightening bugs.... and if you smooshed them when they were lit, they would glow on the side walk for a while... this was pre glo-stik... ahhh, what I did for fun in the glorious 70s.

Kid Shay said...

When I was in college in Ohio, they were fireflies. And to someone who had no idea these things existed outside of picture books, they were AMAZING.

That kid in the center (with the Shop-vac) reminds me of the kid from 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

Robert said...

I grew up with fireflies in Virgnia in the 60's (although I think we sometimes also called them lightning bugs, thanks to the influence of TV).

My wife grew up in Seattle and first saw fireflies a few years ago in Illinois on a camping trip. She was totally entranced with them--she hadn't realized that lightning bugs light up. Nobody had ever mentioned that part.

So for anybody who's never actually seen a firefly: their butts light up and glow and at night all you can see is their glowing butts flying around in the air.

Rob said...

Growing up in NJ, we always called them fireflies. There was a time when their population was on the wane, but in the last few years, when I've been back visiting, the fireflies too seem to be back.

Mrs. Denneldoff said...

I grew up near Philadelphia, and I think we called them lightning bugs, but also knew they were called fireflies. I love them, and always am glad to see them in the summer. Our unkempt yard seems to draw a good swarm.

jedi said...

When I was a kid, I had a whiffle ball bat that I used as my lightsaber. Every summer night I would swat lighting bugs with my lightsaber until it glowed..thats when I knew my training was complete and I needed counseling.
yes its a true story that....sad but im good with a whiffle bat.

here today, gone tomorrow said...

Lightning bugs.

I toy now and then with the idea of moving to Oregon. I was told there are no lightning bugs there, and this has given me serious pause.