Creative professionals are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The real answers are seldom pretty:
One night I thought how odd it was that two utterly unrelated words could rhyme so perfectly.
Those words were ‘Lanyard’ and ‘Spaniard’.
Now, I hate lanyards and will go to great lengths to avoid them – so the notion of a full-on conquistador wearing a lanyard seemed hilarious to me. But to make this image as a Small God, I felt I should find out what language professionals called such a rhyming couple of culturally disparate words.
I took my question to the internet and asked (using ‘tipsy’ and “Gypsy’ as my examples, so as not to give the rhyme I intended to use away).
Many learned and kind people replied. Angela Brett suggested a ‘heteroetymological rhyme’ and Juliette Wade, ‘faux homophones’. My old High School pal John Pomeranz, ‘traveling rhymes or trans-global rhymes or (more pedantically) poly-dialect rhymes’. Even at their best, these were… well, a mouthful!
I went back to Lanyard (no help at all) and Spaniard. This latter proved helpful, because my entire ridiculous quest for a word to encapsulate this sort of rhyme was nothing short of quixotic.
So, a Spaniard in a lanyard who is the Small God of Quixotic Rhymes? I felt that that could work!
When it came time to draw it, there seemed only one logical casting choice for the conquistador – Hernan Cortes (aka Cortez the Killer). But ‘Hernan’ doesn’t rhyme with much, and it was pretty clear this SG’s name needed to match the rhyme scheme. Having discarded a variety common names – Juan rhymes with too many things, Diego too few – I found one I really loved.
Walking Joaquín, Small God of Quixotic Rhymes it was.
But… What’s on the lanyard? Is he attending a Windmill-haters convention? Well, windmills would work in the background regardless, so that idea wasn’t a dead loss. But no. I needed some reference to Don Quixote that would be unexpectedly connected with a lanyard. I thought of the varieties of backstage passes associated with music, and it came to me – They Might Be Giants!
The band took their name from a play by the great James Goldman about a man (played by George C. Scott in the film) who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. But the title is not a riff on Conan Doyle, rather it’s a rough translation of Quixote’s reasoning for attacking windmills – ‘They might be giants!’.
So, now that I knew what the lanyard was for, I needed to design it. TMBG had been The Mesopotamians on tour (and written themselves an excellent theme song). Should I go with ‘TMBG: The Aztecs’? It didn’t really work for me. Maybe if I just approached it visually?
Their album Apollo 18 had a very simple (and possibly parodiable) cover. But when I went to look at it, I realized that there wouldn’t be room for a proper cover parody in the tiny space allotted.
Happily though I saw that if I put a single space in APOLLO it becomes A POLLO – and that was what’s for dinner!
Better still, I had drawn a chicken a couple years back for Clucky Moriarity, the Chicken Napoleon of Crime. And he would fit the spaces between the type admirably. Which, of course, wraps the design back to the origin of TMBG’s name, adding some Conan Doyle arch-villainy to balance Goldman’s Holmes stand-in.
But despite all that (well…. really because of all that), the main rhyme might be lost. So what could I use to draw the viewer’s eye? Color!
I used bright green, the color-complement to the conquistador’s red, to that end. Then I wrote QUE all over it. Literally asking the viewer WHAT they were looking at. Hopefully the word ‘lanyard’ would suggest itself.
It did cause the waggish Kimmy Hale (whose effervescent SG appeared two weeks ago) to write, “What is the quote on the lanyard?”
The “Who’s on first” of lanyard comedy….
I think that covers most of it.
I like to say that each Small God contains between 0 and 5 jokes, but what constitutes a joke is clearly in the eye of the beholder.
In any case, here’s the Small God in question. Bon appetit: