Monday, April 12, 2010

Comic 725 Guest Post

I know I already wrote about how and why I hated comic 725, but a guy named Harrison sent me a post about why he hates it. I usually wouldn't post something about a comic I've already written about, but I thought this one was pretty good. ENJOY. and remember, when commenting: I didn't write this! it was a guest! blame him!


Dear Randall Munroe,

Your latest comic, "Literally," was so bad that it literally made me want to gouge out my eyes with a red-hot, rusty spork. Oh wait, no, that's wrong! I just figuratively wanted to commit grievous bodily self-injury. Ha! How ironic is that? It's like ra-ay-ain, on your wedding day, isn't it? No! Because rain on your wedding day isn't ironic at all! Oh, I'm in stitches right now! Figuratively, I mean. I didn't literally require stitches for, let's say, cutting open my face to try to remove that part of my brain in which the memory of "Literally" is now forever seared. That wouldn't work, would it? Because you didn't literally take a hot branding iron and press your shitty comic against my grey matter.

Oh, the hilarity! Oh, the comic misunderstandings! Also, what's up with airplane food, am I right?

Look, Randall, I'm not Carl Wheeler. I don't want to fault you for covering material other, funnier people have worked with before. It's hard to find utterly unmined veins of comedy, especially without any real day job and access to the largest store of information humanity's ever known. But the fact is, much like airplane food or Alanis Morrisette, the misuse of "literally" is such a trite "comedy" staple -- especially on the Internet! -- that even pointing out how trite it is has become trite. And since you literally spend half your time on the Internet (NOTE: Check this for accuracy) I'd expect you to have picked up on this. But it's obvious you haven't.

For the first three panels, you're not really even pointing out how stupid it is to get all uptight about misusing "literally." You're just making fun of its misuse. I say "fun," but since there's not really a joke, you're basically just going "And what's the deal with people misusing 'literally'?" (Imagine a Jerry Seinfeld voice there, of course, but it's not Seinfeld Seinfeld. It's The Marriage Ref Seinfeld. For shame.) Now, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of prescriptivism! I'm for Donald Duck, vaudeville, and variety, too, and the "cool" position -- inasmuch as there is one in linguistics, I guess -- is to be ultra-descriptivist, so hell, a little bit of linguistic conservatism might even be considered rebellious.

But in the last panel, you predictably make effortless fun of the prescriptivist stance. He's literally the craziest person ever! No, really, literally! Oh, I'm falling out of my seat laughing! (That was sarcasm, Randall. Isn't it funny how in a text-based medium, we don't have recourse to the usual ways of conveying sarcasm? Wait, no it's not, because it's not 1997.) This is a joke that's literally -- no, actually literally -- been made thousands of times before online, and you have nothing new to add to it.

Randall, I don't have time to check, but I think this might literally be the laziest comic you've ever done. [no, it's not --Carl ]

A few other things, in no particular order:

1. The first time I read this comic, I assumed for some reason that the bearded guy was a time-travelling version of Normal, "Literally"-Misusing Guy. Which left me pretty fucking confused. Much of this is my fault, yes, and I realize you have a certain aesthetic and want to stick to it, but: If you're drawing a comic with time travellers and alternate universes and that sort of shit, would it really kill you to GIVE PEOPLE SOME FUCKING DISTINGUISHING FEATURES?

2. While we're on the "distinguishing features" thing: Out of context, it's pretty much impossible to tell who's who in panel 3. I know, this is why we have a little thing called "context," and good on you for at least making it apparent on a second reading. (Also, at least you didn't give the girl a moustache this time. Or explicitly show her seventh-grade genitalia. Let's all give silent thanks for that.) But really, Randall, we both know you're not writing Gravity's fucking Rainbow, here. Don't make it harder on your reader than necessary.

3. I actually sort of liked the alt-text, though. Yes, it still deals with the beaten-to-death "literally/figuratively" thing, but it's a reasonably clever twist on it, and it creates an amusing image. That said, I'm less inclined to chuckle at it, coming as it does after a (figurative, thankfully) pile of total shit.

Are you a baseball fan, Randall? Opening Day was a couple days ago, and I think there's an analogy here (not a literal equating, though! That'd be wackily comic! Wait, no it wouldn't.) XKCD fans -- and yes, even after this long, terrible run, I still consider myself a fan -- are kind of like Chicago Cubs fans. They have to be willing to take a lot of disappointment, and at the end of it all, say: Well, there's always the next comic.

So: There's still next comic.


  1. In my defense, I only forgot about 432 as a defense mechanism. By mentioning it Carl has opened the floodgates of my memory, causing serious emotional damage that will likely require years of therapy to undo.

    Also, I wrote the post itself, but Carl was the one who decided to post it. So I think we should blame him anyway. I'll start:

    I have irrefutable photographic evidence that one "C. Wheeler" was on the grassy knoll when JFK was assassinated.

  2. "I still consider myself a fan "

    Fans are, by definition, irrational; incapable of critical thought toward the subject of their enthusiasm. This is not an auspicious thing to define oneself as. After you have insulted yourself with this term, there is little more I can say.

  3. This is hilarious! Better than the comic itself.

  4. @Anonymous 3:40

    an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.

    representing the exact words of the original text

    If we're being literal, then no, fans are not "by definition, irrational."
    Yeah, that was a prickish way to respond.
    But so is claiming that anyone who refers to him/herself as a "fan" of a sport/pastime/celebrity is "incapable of critical thought."
    You're being a prick. Quit it.

  5. I literally always write literally when I mean to write literally.

  6. Anon 4:54: Thanks! How's your momma doing these days? I hear she's skinnier than a manatee!

    Anon 3:40, if by "critical" you mean "careful and dispassionate," then you're probably right. I'm a fan who's offended by the sheer badness of comics like this one, so yeah, I'll throw in a bit of fuckin' passion. Plus, if I were being "critical" that way, I probably couldn't swear, and what fun would that be?

    On the other hand, if by "critical" you mean "criticizing," you're a fucking moron who's never encountered any kind of fandom before. (Or a troll. Or both.) Fans are often the loudest to complain about their Work O' Choice; go to the Simpsons Archive and read the contemporary reviews of episodes now considered classics, and laugh and laugh.

  7. If you want to stun and amaze your friends with linguistic conservatism, is now a good time to point out that "really" and "very" both actually mean "in truth" and aren't supposed to be intensifiers? (No srsly.)

  8. I actually like this write-up better than the 'real' one. *Waits to be smited for heresy...*

  9. Carl this is the worst comic post you've ever done.

  10. Anon 8:24, since fuckin' when is "very" not primarily an intensifier when used as an adverb? I just picked a random scene from Shakespeare (Mackers, Act I, Scene IV, as it happens) and sho'nuff, there it is:

    "They are not yet come back. But I have spoke
    With one that saw him die: who did report
    That very frankly he confess'd his treasons,"

    If Shakespeare did it, and also everyone after him did it, you have to be either crazy hardline or insane to out and out say it's wrong.

    Also, since I use "fuckin'" and "crazy" as intensifiers, and write the former with an apostrophe at the end, I think it should be very clear that I don't consider myself some paragon of linguistic conservatism. I was just pointing out a more interesting direction the comic could have gone (another possibility: replace the fourth panel with an animated .gif of paint drying) in an attempt to write something of substance instead of just vitriol.

  11. Every repost is a repost of a repost.

  12. "I realize you have a certain aesthetic and want to stick to it"

    Pun intended?

  13. I just want to point out that Randall (and one of my friends, who is a huge xkcd fan that calls me on the 'literally' thing all the time) is wrong. It is not incorrect to use 'literally' in a sentence when you are not being literal. It's called HYPERBOLE. The word "literally" is being used to AID in your figurative language by making it a hyperbole.

  14. the reason people think "literally" is wrong in that context is that the word "literally" generally means "this is not a rhetorical device--you should read what I am saying in its literal sense." to use a word which meaning "in a non-rhetorical sense" in a rhetorical sense is to essentially create a self-contradiction.

    this doesn't make it wrong, of course--it just creates more opportunity to use it to comic effect, which most people fail at.