Cracking the Bullwinkle code

Pop quiz!


Explain the following jokes:


  1. Newspaper headline in a Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon: ROCKET HITS MOON. WALLY OUT FOR SEASON.

  2. Bullwinkle, having been rescued from a pit full of poisonous snakes, leans back over the pit before he leaves and says, “Goodbye, Olivia!”

  3. Indians in a Peabody & Sherman cartoon attack the settlers by throwing Charlie Barnet records at them.

  4. Peabody says: “I have a theory, Sherman.” Sherman says: “Chateau theory, Mister Peabody?”

  5. Bullwinkle finds a ruby-encrusted model boat with the words OMAR KHAYYAM written on it. It is, of course, the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam.

  6. Rocky and Bullwinkle plan an escape through Pennsylvania: “We’ll travel by night and rest in Scranton. There’s a farmer who lives near Gettsyburg who’ll put us up for a few days.”


These are, of course, all from Jay Ward cartoons. I watched these cartoons when I was very young. I laughed like hell at all these jokes. And I had no idea what they meant.


Kids learn culture by watching and imitating; they’re eager to figure out this mysterious complicated thing called Adult Life, and there’s no instruction manual, so they have to figure out how to act, what to say, and what things mean. So they pay attention, and they struggle very hard to figure things out. Nothing is too insignificant for analysis.


Here’s what I learned: adults speak in code. Sometimes you could crack the code, and sometimes you couldn’t. Sometimes you had to act as if you understood, even if you didn’t. And there was always something more to learn.


I don’t know about you, but I’m still figuring out the code.




  1. Wally Moon was a baseball player in the 1950s and 1960s.

  2. Olivia de Havilland was the lead actress in a movie called “The Snake Pit.”

  3. Charlie Barnet was a bandleader one of whose biggest hits was “Cherokee.”

  4. Chateau-Thierry is a town north of Paris where a famous World War I battle was fought.

  5. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is a famous Persian poem translated into English by Edward FitzGerald.

  6. The “farmer outside Gettysburg” was President Dwight Eisenhower, who moved there after his presidency ended in 1961.


Don’t you feel better now?


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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