Saturday, November 15, 2008

Watch Out, Nermal!

"To: Anyone, Abu Dhabi"
The National, November 15, 2008
By John Mather

Garfield, the obese cat who believes “lethargy takes real discipline”, stands in front of a mirror admiring his physique while Nermal, the self-proclaimed cutest kitten in the world, sits beside him. “How do you think I look?” Garfield asks.

“Like a million, give or take a year,” Nermal responds.

“I think I carry my weight rather well,” Garfield continues.

Nermal shoots back: “You should. You’ve had the practice.”

Finally, Garfield says: “Do you think I have a strong chin?”

“Which one?”

With that, Garfield pats Nermal on the head, stuffs the kitten in a box and places him on the doorstep with the address: “Anyone, Abu Dhabi”.

It is not the first time the lasagne-loving feline has tried to ship his nemesis to the capital. The joke began in 1984, when Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, picked the UAE as the last stop on the Annoying Kitten Express. Since then, the gag has been syndicated in more than 2,000 newspapers worldwide, and has put Abu Dhabi on the map for many people contemplating a move to the Arab world. But few know why Davis chose Abu Dhabi as the place where all the cute kittens go.

“I wanted to pick something that sounded like nothing in the United States,” he says from his office in Albany, Indiana, where he runs the all-things-Garfield company Paws Inc. “I didn’t want to send him to Middleton or Springfield.”

The cartoonist remembers liking the ring of Abu Dhabi – “it sounds like a song” – but his assistant was pushing him to send Nermal to Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago on the southernmost tip of South America.

So Davis began researching his choices. He discovered the UAE, then an adolescent nation, is a friend of the United States and predicted the two countries would remain peaceful. “I was careful to pick a location that we were not going to be at war with in 10 years,” he says. “And I just love that name. It was a perfect fit.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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