O, Sweet Mystery of BUF, At Last I’ve Found You!

Several months ago, I jumped on the opportunity to buy a sizable batch of early-1930s Bringing Up Father daily strips clipped from the pages of the Kansas City Star. I’ve been tackling them at the pace of one a day—just the way newspaper readers used to experience them! A fine way to start even the coldest, snowiest of New England mornings, I decided, was to enjoy a grin by watching George McManus put Maggie and Jiggs through their paces. Earlier this week I got a double dose of enjoyment, as one of my 1934 BUFs conclusively settled one of the long-unresolved questions about the series’s combustible-but-inseparable stars.

Ever since the 1980s, when I first feasted my eyes on McManus’s lush linework in the pages ofNemo magazine, I’ve read any number of articles about BUF and its artist, several of them professing confusion about whether the name “Jiggs” is a first or last name. Until the first such essay I encountered, it had never occurred to me that “Jiggs” was anything other than a last name. It seemed obvious to me that the comedy is subtly heightened if the outrageously aggressive wife is referred to by her first name while her husband is referred to only by his last name. Since typically a standard use of the last name imparts a certain sense of manliness and authority to the person in question, “Jiggs” as a last name is funny, because “manly” and “authoritative” are two traits not often associated with BUF‘s perennially put-upon-from-all-sides hero! So “Jiggs” as a last name automatically seemed funnier to me than “Jiggs” as a first name—it was a surprise to me that someone might not make that connection and thereby question whether “Jiggs” was a given name or a surname. My reaction the first time I saw the question posed was, “Ahh-h-h, c’mon!”, but down through the years I’ve seen the matter raised a handful of times, so clearly this is not as cut-and-dried as I initially thought.

That’s why I’m now glad to have found this October 11, 1934 daily. The set-up is terrific: Maggie and Jiggs have moved to a new apartment. No sooner have they settled in than Maggie starts taking phone calls from an attractive young woman calling herself “Tootles,” who keeps asking for Jiggs and talking about the places they’re supposed to be going together! (Adding insult to injury for Maggie, “Tootles” thinks she’s leaving a message with the maid.)

Suddenly brimming with suspicion that Jiggs is making love to another woman, Maggie sets off to do some investigating of her own. After several days of growing hilarity, this strip provides the punchline to the story:

 

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As you can see, not only were Maggie’s fears groundless, but this strip makes it clear “Jiggs” is, indeed, the last name of our favorite corned beef and cabbage lover, his wife, and two children.

Another comics mystery solved!

If you have a hankering for more Bringing Up Father, don’t forget about our two collections of Jiggs-family hijinx, From Sea to Shining Sea and Of Cabbages and Kings.

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Even as we drive toward our one hundredth release, they remain two of my very favorite projects in the history of LOAC.

 

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