There Were Some Bats Who Had A Cat…

Link To Today’s Strip

The knowing smirks exchanged by the characters today signaled to me that there was supposed to be a joke somewhere in here, even though I didn’t see it on first glance.

After hours of careful study and research, I’ve decided the joke was that the cat is actually named Bingo because St. Spires, like many churches, supports itself with organized charitable gambling.

Which lends weight to St Spires being Catholic. Church Bingo tends to be a Catholic exercise, though in big cities, it might be Jewish. Back in the heyday, Protestant ministers would lambast Bingo as a vile and immoral game of chance, really no better than the indulgences that had once funded the papacy. Even today, some churches struggle with the morality of making their money from hosting gambling, often by people outside their congregation.

But back in the Great Depression, Bingo kept many parishes from shutting their doors. Edwin Lowe, the man who first sold the game under the name BINGO, claimed he was approached by a Catholic Priest only months after he first started selling Bingo. It was because of the concerns of this priest that Lowe contacted Columbia University math professor, Carl Leffler, to create thousands of unique Bingo cards, so there would be less repeated winners. According to legend, the math professor subsequently went insane.

Of course, Lowe only improved and named an already existing game. The first attestations of a bingo-like game date all the way back to Italy in the 16th century. And the word ‘Bingo’ also predates association with the game by centuries. Lowe claimed that he chose the name after a player of ‘Beano’, the game’s precursor, shouted ‘Bingo!’ when she won. In the 1920’s, the word ‘bingo’ had become an expression of surprise and success.

The semi-nonsensical word had been circulating for a long time. Before most of us have ever played a game of Bingo, we are taught the nursery song about a farmer’s dog. And that song is older than the US Constitution. The earliest printed version of the song with a dog named Bingo was listed in The Humming Bird songbook in 1785.

“The farmer’s dog leapt over the stile,
his name was little Bingo,
the farmer’s dog leapt over the stile,
his name was little Bingo.”

But WHY was the dog named Bingo? Well, the answer may be in the forgotten second verse.

“The farmer loved a cup of good ale,
he called it rare good stingo,
the farmer loved a cup of good ale,
he called it rare good stingo.”

The farmer was a raging alcoholic.

See, the song was originally a drinking song.

And some of the earliest attestations of the word ‘bingo’ list it as a slang term for brandy.

So if the cat isn’t named after gambling, she’s definitely named after booze.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

29 responses to “There Were Some Bats Who Had A Cat…

  1. Epicus Doomus

    How is bingo “sweet and benign”? And what’s so unusual about a cat named Bingo? If the cat was named Wanaque or Scorsese or Xenon there might be an interesting story there, but Bingo? Meh, big deal.

    This one might be the strangest tangent of the year so far. Remember, this started out with Dinkle applying for the organ player job, but now out of nowhere it’s about naming cats and the sweetness and benigninity of church bingo. His inability to stay on topic continues to both astound and grow.

  2. William Thompson

    Maybe the “joke” here is that Dinkle isn’t Catholic and doesn’t know about the Church-bingo connection. Now if Dinkle isn’t Catholic, that would open the way to some funny jokes. I want to see him enliven a High Mass by having the choir sing Tom Lehrer’s “The Vatican Rag” (It couldn’t sound any worse than a guitar mass.)

    • Mela

      Sorry, that was my accidental thumbs down-I got a little overenthusiastic at the Tom Lehrer mention and tapped the wrong thumb!

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        If you upvote, it will replace the downvote.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Oh, I would love to hear a Tom Lehrer song about the Funkyverse. The obvious choice is “Masochism Tango”, but the singer in that song is clearly enjoying himself. I’m thinking “I Got It From Agnes“, where all the characters pass around the cancer, smugness, and aimless white suburban misery.

        But I got it from Batiuk
        Or maybe it was Ayers
        I think both of them got it from their mommies, but who cares?
        Now, Les got it from Lisa, and she got it from Frank
        Who got from somebody sharing Wally’s army rank.
        And even though he don’t deserve it…
        It wound up with his dog of service!

        Jess got it from Darin,
        Who of course got it from Pete.
        It ended up in Harry’s salad dressing, ain’t that neat?
        Buck got it from Linda,
        Who somehow gave it to Bull.
        And Dinkle didn’t need his planner —
        To give it to all of Bedside Manor!

  3. Lord Flatulence

    His name is Bingo because benign = B9.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Oh my God, you’re right. This takes the awfulness of the gag to an entire new level.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      *headdesk* of course.. of course… *deletes a long list of chained links*

      • Epicus Doomus

        I completely and totally missed the “B-9” gag. At first it just seemed so odd, but it never even occurred to me that it’s a wordplay-based gag until Thine Lordship pointed it out above. And it’s so bad I wish I’d gone on not knowing.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      That doesn’t explain “sweet” though. Also, Tom Batiuk didn’t include a handy pronunciation guide, to tell us that the accent goes on the first syllable. He usually does that when he writes jokes based on things that can’t be expressed in written English.

    • billytheskink

      He’s lucky he didn’t get named “Battleship”.

      Almost makes you wonder how Jack Stropp and Mason Jarre got their names. Actually, no it doesn’t.

      • Epicus Doomus

        He’ll never, ever top “Art Teacher”, the absolute perfect FW name. Plus Art wasn’t around long enough to become really annoying, like Cliff Anger or Mason Jarre thus I remember him far more fondly, which is a recurring phenomenon with this strip.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Thanks Harriet for the great introduction to this topic.

      And even more thanks for explaining the joke to me. Was walking around sipping coffee trying to figure out what I just read.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      If “Bingo the cat is benign” is really the joke here, Batiuk needs to tell it a lot better. It fails for a lot of reasons:

      1. The default pronunciation of the word is wrong for the joke. It’s “buh-NINE”, not “BEE-nine.” If you’re going to tell this joke out loud, you’ll say “benign” in a way that hints at the bingo number. In print, a hyphen or some bold text would have gone a long way.

      2. The presence of “sweet” confuses the reader. When we hear a joke told, we instinctively look for a meaning that explains the whole joke. Today we’re all asking ourselves “what’s both sweet and benign?” As if the cat was named Splenda. Jokes should not include unnecessary details!

      3. The phrasing is very forced and unnatural. People don’t call their kitty cat “benign.” They call it friendly, shy, aloof, playful, or other adjectives we associate with cats. The word “benign” is almost always used with tumors, or metaphorically to describe something that is typically harmful. It’s clearly here just to fit the attempted joke.

      4. The joke takes itself too seriously. Funky Winkerbean lives on the bad wordplay/smirking/eyeroll combo. But here, when it’s actually called for, it’s not used. Teal-haired woman seems to think she’s dropping a Colin Mochrie-level zinger, just before she falls over from narcolepsy. This is a bad joke that should know it’s a bad joke, and be delivered accordingly. Like this:

      Bad jokes can still be fun, but how you tell them matters a great deal.

      • Hitorque

        Or see Stephen Pastis from Pearls Before Swine… EVEN WHEN he has a long setup with an eye-rolling punchline that you can see a mile away, HE STILL MAKES IT FUNNY EVERY GODDAMN TIME!

    • Hitorque

      I really wish you hadn’t told me this, because now I have this uncontrollable urge to stab somebody… I’m almost impressed with the mammoth effort it takes to be this unfunny…

  4. billytheskink

    Sweet and benign Bingo, meet sour and malignant Harry L. Dinkle.

  5. Sourbelly

    Sincere thanks to CBH and upthread snarkers for their diligent efforts to explain/excuse this joke attempt. Bottom line: It’s just another Tombat line that isn’t funny and makes no goddamed sense.

    I’m starting to wonder: Is Tom OK?

  6. J.J. O'Malley

    In the 1955 Universal sci-fi film “This Island Earth,” an atomic research lab cat is named Neutron, and one of the scientists says they call the feline that “because he’s so positive” (Science Fact: Protons are the particles with a positive charge. Neutrons are neutral). Until today’s FW, I thought THAT was the dumbest pop culture explanation for a cat’s name.

    Also, are the blonde in panel one and the brunette in two and three supposed to be Darrin and Mopey Pete in drag?

  7. Hitorque

    Since we’re talking about the “inventor” of Bingo, I just want to add that the inventor of “Monopoly” was a woman who also had her idea stolen:'s%20little-known%20inventor,has%20turned%20out%20to%20be.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      That is not true, there were several variations of the game, no doubt based on her original “Landlords” game. Parker Brothers bought one of these versions from a salesman named Charles Darrow and he patented his version of the game which most resembles the game as we know it.

      Parker Brothers bought his patent and of course others who invented similar games complained of infringement. A patent search revealed many similar patents and PB contacted them and bought the patents.

      Liz Magie who did have the first patent received $500 as she thought profits were evil. She instead made them distribute her game in the original as she wanted the game to have a wide audience so her moral message would be promulgated. PB did this but it sold poorly and was soon discontinued.

      So it seems the US government run patent office is to blame for allowing multiple patents to be issued. Magie, to her credit, practiced what she preached, unlike the many today who preach about the evils of capitalism, yet send an army of high priced lawyers to descend on anyone who dares infringe on their property.

  8. Gerard Plourde

    It’s only Wednesday. We have at least three more days of this pointless arc to go. Also, (not that I’m interested) what were the results of the choir candy sale? I don’t see new choir robes.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yeah, what became of the bake sale for the choir robes? What became of Funky’s irreplaceable dropped Discman and apparent injury from it? What became of the AA meeting? What became of Holly’s “reno” that Funky doesn’t want? What will happen to Lisa’s Story? This comic strip loves to introduce plots nobody could possibly care about, and then abandon them. So… two wrongs make a right, I guess?

  9. I would have figured the cat was named after the well-known phrase, “Bingo, Sherlock.”

  10. bayoustu

    There are more eye bags in that choir loft than at a Pete Radagst (or whatever his “starts with R” name is) family reunion.