Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who are Mutt and Jeff?

Callie and I were walking through the park this morning and saw a couple walking their dogs. One dog was enormous, the other an itty-bitty little thing that came up to the other dogs ankles. I immediately thought of Mutt and Jeff, and then realized I have been using that phrase forever and don't really know who Mutt and Jeff are. Now I do, and discover that as with many facts about life, I have been using it as a misnomer. I probably will continue to do so.

A comic strip created in 1907 by Bud Fisher.

Augustus Mutt is a tall, dimwitted racetrack character, a fanatic horse-race gambler, who is motivated by greed. Mutt has a wife and a son, Cicero, whose cat starred in the Mutt and Jeff spin-off strip Cicero's Cat. Mutt encounters the half-pint Jeff, an inmate of an insane asylum, who shares the passion for horseracing. They appeared in more and more strips together until the strip abandoned the horse-race theme and concentrated on Mutt's other get-rich-quick schemes, with Jeff as a sometimes unwilling partner.

The original inspiration for the character of "Jeff" was Jacques "Jakie" Fehr, a tiny (4'8") irascible Swiss-born shopkeeper in the village of Occidental, California. One summer day in 1908, Fisher, a member of San Francisco's Bohemian Club, was riding the North Pacific Coast narrow-gauge railway passenger train northbound to the Bohemian Grove, the club's summer campsite. During a stop in Occidental, Fisher got off the train to stretch his legs and observed the diminutive walrus-moustached Fehr in heated altercation with the tall and lanky "candy butcher," who sold refreshments on the train and also distributed newspapers to shops in towns along the train route. The comic potential in this scene prompted Fisher to add the character of Jeff to his A. Mutt comic strip, with great success.

I think about a lot of things as Callie and I are walking our route in the morning. The other thing that came to mind was the word dogfight. Is it dog fight or dogfight? I have noticed several articles have used it both ways, as have I. According to my research, both uses are correct. Regardless, my research also showed that while illegal across the globe, and a felony in the United States in particular, it seems to be a widespread "sport". What I hope through Michael Vick as a public example, this horrendous criminal activity will eventually come to an end. Whether you use the term as one or two words, it is cruel, unnecessary and serves no purpose for the betterment of humanity.

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