The Lockhorns: America's Most Disagreeable Couple

Today on What’s So Funny, we look at one of my favorite cartoons, the Lockhorns.  Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn have appeared in American newspapers since 1968. 


What you first need to understand is their last name.  It is taken from an expression, to lock horns.  When two male animals are fighting with each other, they will push each other with their heads, often tangling up their horns together, which just prolongs the battle.  Marriage is often depicted this same way: two people living together for years, finding something to argue about: money, sex, the children, or whose family to visit (or skip) over the holidays!


Readers find the Lockhorns funny—or don’t find them funny—because they play on certain gender stereotypes.  Often, they depict the man as lazy, drinking too much, or staring at other women.  The woman is seen as a bad driver, a bad cook, or spending too much money.  While I don’t endorse stereotypes, I do appreciate the cleverness of the writers of this cartoon.

The other thing that is nice about the Lockhorns is that, despite their differences, they seem to stick together and try to accept each other.  Maybe this is the wisdom of old age and long relationships. 

My wife and I like to read and share Lockhorns cartoons with each other.  This one is cut out of the newspaper and stuck on our fridge. 


What’s So Funny?

Did get get the joke?  This Lockhorns cartoon plays on the stereotype that American women are bossy.  Here, Loretta and Leroy answer the door to talk to a worker who is recording opinions on a survey.  Loretta assumes that her opinion is important to share right away and, furthermore, that Leroy agrees with her.  This reinforces the gender stereotype that--even though they may not have all the powerful jobs in the workplace, women are the boss inside the home.

While we may not believe in all of the gender stereotypes, we can laugh at them if they are presented in a balanced way, making equal fun of both men and women.  We can recognize the truthful part of stereotypes without applying them when we meet individual men and women in public.

For more cartoons with the Lockhorns, visit here.  

Are these stereotypes similar in your home country?  Let us know which ones you find particularly clever.


Permission from Hearst Magazines, North American Licensing (212-969-7584).



Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.