After the first incongruity of Herbert Kornfeld's column in The Onion is experienced, a deeper question comes up with each reread of the dozen or so episodes we have of his life. And that question is: is this for real? In the normal world, threatening to kill a rival department of your company with a letter opener is sure grounds for dismissal, or worse. The ontological problem of Herbert Kornfeld's worldspace has three possible solutions:
- Herbert Kornfeld lives in some kind of parallel universe, where accountants do indeed form crews of freestylers who practice their accounting on the street, and later grow up to be trashtalking territorial office employees. This seems to be a fairly reasonable explanation, since we see several other accountants with similiar attitudes, and although people are sometimes offended by the H-Dog, no one seems truly surprised to be subjected to a torrent of obscenity from an accountant. On the other hand, we do see a number of accountants that do not seem to share Kornfeld's lifestyle and attitudes.
- Herbert Kornfeld lives in our world, and just happens to have a very odd personality, and have a very odd group of friends. While it would seem very odd that someone with such a seemingly unprofessional attitude could survive in American corporate culture, it is not impossible. While I was working in a technical support warehouse, there was an entire infrastructure of Discordians snaking their way up into middle management, and a constant buzz of their attendant buzz words. And they managed to fit in well enough.
- Herbert Kornfeld is a modest, shy accountant without much personality. He interacts with people in a normal way, but with occasional arguments. However, in his overblown fantasy life, he imagines that instead of politely asking people to leave his desk alone, he imagines that he says :
"Whus this smiley-face shit y'all be puttin' on my desk?" This is another quite possible explanation. I think most people (myself included) often fantasize about telling people off in such a manner.
In the end, however, I don't know if there is any true answer to the question of what the H-Dog is. The purpose of humor, after all, is not to reach a conclusion, but to present incongruity. And the Herbert Kornfeld columns certainly do that well.
2007 Update: Although Kornfeld's early, tragic death might make the question one of the past, I do not believe it makes it a moot one.