Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comic 725: Literary

this is literally the alt text, but practically the title text.

Ah, the language police. Everyone who/that thinks he/she is a nerd loves to be an honorary member of that Language Police. For example, nerd-comic-for-the-sake-of-nerd comic "xkcd" once wrote this comic, a clear pander to the Language Police crowd. Similarly, Toothpaste for Dinner once did this and even made a shirt out of it. There is a certain class of people who just love to learn rules about proper usage of the English language and then proceed to correct other people about it. These people are not wrong, in fact, they are often correct. But their assholes (SEE WHAT I DID THEY'RE????). Also, they love to talk about how they do this.

Anyway, this comic is like that. Except, confusing. Where grammar is meant to clarify ideas in words and phrases, this comic just makes you go "huh?" Here's why - you can't tell anything about the people! Besides Hobo Man, all the people (both in the present and in the cut scene from the past) look the same. We're supposed to know that panel 3 people are younger, but since we can't see it, because all of Randall's characters look the same, he has to tell us. That's bad comedy! When people like me say things like "Show, don't tell" to people like Randall, this is what we mean - if you could just draw people and you drew younger looking people in panel 3 instead of just smaller looking people then you would not have such terrible, unfunny phrasing. Oh well, too late now.

Anyway, I think enough people make jokes about the misuse of "literally" that this contributes nothing. The examples of things supposedly literally done are nothing special - glued to a seat, exploded - so there's not much enjoyment to be gotten from them. The problem was Randall couldn't decide what the joke should be - is it that this guy went for years following one dude around waiting for him to mess up, and that's funny because, ha ha, he is obsessive? Or is it that the normal guy gets to mock the crazy guy by calling him "literally crazy" ? Alas, either one of these, fleshed out, could have been ok, but as is, they both are just lazy.

The problem with any joke about the misuse of "Literally" is that it will always, always, pale in comparison to the reality of misuse of "literally" by the current Vice President of the United States. Joe Biden is the master of misusing "literally" in hilarious ways ("Barack Obama will literally change the direction of this planet" cracks me up to no end, over and over and over again). Google it for more literally enjoyable examples.


  1. This sort of thing annoys me too. So, for ONCE, Randall actually made a comic I agree with.

    This means, of course, that I need to change my ways immediately.

  2. I have always found the misuse of "literally" to be something that can be funny in real life context, but not in a comic.

    For example, while on vacation, my family was channel surfing late at night, and we happened on a program about a woman who had a huge collection of those waving cat statues (the name escapes me right now).

    When she visited Tokyo, the narrator said, her collection literally exploded. Now, the idea of every one of her statues exploding because she went to Tokyo was hilarious because it was a mistake (or a prank) made by the show's writer.

    If you transposed this situation into a comic, it wouldn't work.

  3. My major problem with jokes about use of the word 'literally' is that they disregard that the use of it in a non-literal fashion is not incorrect- its just using 'literally' in a figurative fashion.

    Going to be honest, you don't really have a decent point in here. First paragraph doesn't really apply to this comic, because it doesn't support grammar Nazism, it simply uses the phenomenon as a humorous device. The incident in panel three isn't an endorsement, the one guy was just an asshole in the seventh grade.

    The second paragraph complains that the art style doesn't effectively demonstrate younger looking stick figures... come on. Yeah, Randal's art isn't great. You've said it a billion times. But from what I can tell, its pretty much always going to be stick figures, and their aren't a hell of a lot of things that you can do to make stick figures younger looking. If anything, he did give two of the characters hairstyles that are at least supposed to appear like they would belong to younger individuals as opposed to adults. Of course, whether everyone got that impression is debatable. But ultimately, just because he didn't redefine his entire art style for one comic just to demonstrate that his stick figures are younger in one panel should not be a big deal.

    I'm not sure what the point of the first two sentences in your third paragraph are. They seem to say that 'literally' jokes just aren't funny in general, which doesn't mean much. When judging something, you can't just say that because things of a similar topic have been bad, then the thing will be bad. You could surely infer it, but ultimately it shouldn't play a role in your judgment. The rest of the paragraph is based on two arguments-that Randal couldn't chose a joke and that the final joke wasn't fleshed out enough. First off, there isn't a reason that a comic cannot have multiple funny elements. Whether or not this detracted from the comic is admittedly debatable, but it certainly seems fleshed out to me. The initial humor is derived by how crazy the guy is, which is only mildly amusing. The punchline is, of course, the use of literally in describing how crazy the guy is. If anything, the last two lines are unnecessary, but it might have seemed a little too abrupt of an ending if he had just cut it off at the third to last line. Also, some people probably wouldn't have gotten it. If that took away anything, it wasn't a lot. Of course, that point, while a legitimate argument, was not included in your critique.

    Last paragraph is another attempt to say that any joke about 'literally' inherently fails, which is a rather baseless generalization.

    Was this comic laugh-out-loud funny? No, but most humor isn't. I read plenty of humorous webcomics which I find funny with each update, but I'm not hunched over the keyboard, hoarse from laughter after reading through a day's supply of updates.

    Listen, you sometimes point out a decent point as to how a comic could be better. But it is generally buried in a sea of nitpicks, baseless arguments, and and simply complaining that you dislike the topic (while their may be certain general standards anything humorous can be held to and evaluated against, opinions on choice of topic is an area that is going to vary wildly between readers). In this instance, you seemed to fortunately refrain from another of your common errors (where you fail to understand the joke, or as I suspect you sometimes do, invent a n unlikely interpretation, the whole point of which is to set up a convenient straw man).

    But since you seem to enjoy doing this, have fun!

  4. It seems that you're never going to find anything NEW to fault. You come back to "All his stick figures look the same" over half the time. He's obviously not going to change this, so there's no point in pointing it out every other comic. Same goes for following the punchline with another line. He's not going to stop, so you should.

  5. This joke was used exactly the same on How I Met Your Mother(only worded slightly better), except that it wasn't used as a joke, it was shown as a character trait, which was then mocked. I get the feeling Randall stole it...

  6. Yea, not to be harsh, but the stick figure complaint is getting old.

    On the other hand, I see what you're saying. Don't set up a comic where you have to use AWKWARD dialogue to explain that something happened in 7th grade. If Randall's genre doesn't support using visual aids to do this effectively, he should chose another joke. Instead he adds in more dialogue to force this joke into his detail-less artistic genre.

    It's not that he needs to change the art to SHOW not tell. He needs to pick a joke with details he doesn't have to spell out (since he obviously can't/won't draw them out).

    Also I hate grammar nazi's, but at least Randall isn't wholeheartedly endorsing them (which is something it seems like he might do).

  7. When there's a usage note in the dictionary you're not a grammar nazi, you're an ass. Saying 'figuratively' doesn't make any sense; it's not an intensifier.

    "—Usage note
    Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration”: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing. Although this use of literally irritates some, it probably neither distorts nor enhances the intended meaning of the sentences in which it occurs. The same might often be said of the use of literally in its earlier sense “actually”: The garrison was literally wiped out: no one survived."

  8. Some mongoloid: "When there's a usage note in the dictionary you're not a grammar nazi, you're an ass."

    The dictionary is not a deity*, Anonymous... Or Should I Call You MORONymous!

    -William Monty Hughes
    Intelligence Quotient 224
    "Cogito Ergo Sum"

    *Nothing is. Yes, I said it!

    Post Scriptum: I still loathe each and every one of you (with the exception of noble pro-"Xkcd" "cuddlefish" anonymi(or "guerillas" as I like to mentally refer them as (as I do frequently.))) I want you to remember this . I know you possess primitive minds, so I must remind you occasionally. Like, goldfish.

    And yes, I do still read your blasphemous blag... with FURIOUS furiosity!

  9. The new one actually made me laugh, but then I realized it is basically the same idea as and

    But those also made me laugh, so whatever.

  10. I tend to be a grammar nazi myself sometimes, but I have never been bothered by misuse of the word "literally", nor have I ever seen a joke about it before thix xkcd strip.

    It's still a terrible strip, though.

  11. I read today's comic.

    All I did was sigh.

  12. I've never been fond of the abuse of the word literally mostly because the word means 'read this literally.' as in, without any rhetorical flourish, exaggeration, or metaphor. when it is used as nothing more than an intensifier it weakens that meaning of the word.

  13. Dilbert's take on 726's main joke: June 19th, 2001.

    Dilbert's take on 726's title-text: March 19th, 1990.

    Debate: Which ones are superior to which other ones?

  14. "...when it is used as nothing more than an intensifier it weakens that meaning of the word."

    Well, yes, but you're literally going for averaged sentence strenght if you're using it like that as opposed to a single word. Literally!

    I'm more of a fan of using italics for emphasis in a sentence once a verb is down. Extra verbs are like 7 or more digit numbers to the exact number in a news report; you have forgotten what you're on about by the time you are done rattling off.

  15. Just a cheap laugh that came from the absurdity of the situation. I'd bet loads of people would have thought of this before.

    captcha: gireell

    A water gorilla.

  16. Femalethoth,
    A comic from 10 and 20ish years ago? While I agree both are better by far, isn't that going a good chunk out of your way?

    You can't solve elitism by becoming elitest yourself. Hate for you to become like the xkcd forumers yourself.

  17. It's not out of my way, really. I've read those comics, and I remember stuff like that pretty easily. And I own a bunch of anthologies of Foxtrot, Dilbert, Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes, which means I have easy access to them if I want to check a memory and share it.

    I'm also not sure what remembering decade-old Dilbert comics has to do with elitism.

  18. Ahh, looked more like you'd gone and seached the net for examples of the recent xkcd comics and the jokes within it and the best found were many years old. (Good memory though, btw!)

    That sort of thing rings of "must do anything I can to be anti-xkcd and thus be cool and fit in." which reminds me of the "must do anything I can to pander to Randall and thus be cool and fit in." that the other forum has examples of. Blerg.

  19. Nope. These comics were just the two first things that popped into my head when I read 726. I think you'll agree that it's not much of a stretch to read 726 and think about those Dilbert strips.

  20. I'm elitist on the word literally. I just don't like it when it's used in a sense literally opposite to its primary meaning. It's confusing. And when you inform a person of this, and they keep doing it, now they're confusing on purpose* rather than out of innocence.

    It's the same reason I don't like questions phrased as negatives, which makes "yes" or "no" becomes ambiguous. Even though there's no strict grammatical error in asking a uestion in the negative.

    I liked this one, mildly (but literally).

    *Or by accident. It happens. That's kind of the premise of this comic, really.

  21. "I'm elitist on the word literally. I just don't like it when it's used in a sense literally opposite to its primary meaning. It's confusing. And when you inform a person of this, and they keep doing it, now they're confusing on purpose* rather than out of innocence."

    It's not literally the opposite, actually. It's used as an intensifier. It doesn't indicate "you should read this figuratively," it indicates that you should read it more intensely. When people say "you mean figuratively" they're not being accurate, either.

  22. Danetrix, you must be new, Mal's done Foxtrot many times (and I've loved him for it each time, since I love Foxtrot and am far too ;azy to scan and post them myself for comparison).

    On note of today's comic, is it ok if I was actually mad by that? It's obvious that the only seat choices that the program will recognize are the ACTUAL PASSENGER SEATS. Am I being too hard when I think that it is ridiculously stupid for the programmers to NOT have thought ahead that some quirky dipshit would've thought of selecting the captain's seat?

    I'm emailing Carl for this one because I am that pissed off

  23. 726: Remove the third panel.

  24. i think that is the exact specific disbelief you are supposed to suspend for the sake of this joke, cam.

    honestly i am just so disappointed that one of the most widely-acclaimed and most popular webcomics, a medium supposedly free from the stultifying system of publishers and syndicates, is running jokes that are lame re-treads of newspaper comics.

  25. Carl, I sent you a long-ass rant about 725, like, Friday morning. That's how annoyed I was with its unfunniness. I thought it was post-worthy, but I never even heard back from you about it -- might it have gone into your spam folder, or something?

  26. but Mal don't you see? That requires just a bit too much suspension for me (and that is saying a lot) because I am not willing to believe that the programmers did not forsee a scenario like this occurring, no, it's too much, it's like the silent tools, it's too much and ruins the joke

  27. I kinda like 726. The alt text is nothing, but the comic itself is chuckle worthy. And chuckleworthiness is all I usually expect out of a comic. I would agree with getting rid of the third panel though.

  28. The literacy comic was terrible. Terrible, awful smug patronising crap.
    The one with the plane seats was actually ok! Quite a nicely constructed joke, proper set up, punchline in the right place, and an alt-text that makes a slightly different joke instead of just repeating the one in the comic.





  30. Better comic layout:

    Panel 2 --> Panel 1 --> Panel 4

    Don't show us that she selects the pilot seat. We'll figure that out from the last panel anyway. As it stands, the third panel is the punchline and the fourth panel is useless.

  31. Third panel removed: much better comic. That way, you get a setup in the first panel, a beat in the second panel, and then the punchline. Also that way there's no repetition, and by not showing which seat she's selecting, you DON'T SPOIL THE FUCKING JOKE.

    It's preposterous that we have to point these basic comedy facts out. Get a damned editor, Randall.

  32. One thing I will point out that Randall didn't fuck up: he gave the main character a defining feature: the scarf. That way we can actually tell that it's her in the pilot's seat and not just a crazy female pilot.

    That is, of course, if he hadn't hammered the point home by showing that she clicks the pilot seat.

  33. I agree with the many voices above. Without the third panel it would actually have been a bit funny.

  34. I read the new comic last night and thought it was actually pretty good. I couldn't find any complaints.

    Now that I read comments suggesting removing the third panel, I totally agree.

    I still think it's much better than the last 30 or so strips he's done.

  35. On first impression, the newest comic is actually good, no PPD, even the art is slightly better than the average xkcd!

    On second thought... Randall didn't need to explain the joke with that third panel. He's writing for people who are assumed to be clever, so be clever, damn it! Take off that third panel and let them figure out what she did!

    And finally... dear anons, I HATE to repeat myself, but let's do it: Randall has chosen to limit his expressivity, so he should not try to do things that his style can't convey!

    "But from what I can tell, its pretty much always going to be stick figures, and their aren't a hell of a lot of things that you can do to make stick figures younger looking."

    Heck, this made me laugh and groan at the same time! You know what could you do, Cuddlefish? You could not use stick figures in the first place!

    In short: Randall keeps doing the same mistakes, we keep calling him on it!

    Mole out!

  36. Um dur guys XKCD is meant to be a comic for people to read AT WORK so it's not meant to be laugh-out-loud funny or their bosses would know they weren't working


  38. a fried's improvement:

  39. Wow, Anon@7:55. That's a new one. I didn't realize xkcd #631 was supposed to be work safe. At least it's not funny, so you won't have to worry about laughter alerting your boss to the naked woman on your computer screen.

    xkcd's target audience isn't working age adults. It was college students initially, and more recently seems to be targeted mostly towards high schoolers.

  40. Um dur guys XKCD is meant to be a comic for people to read AT WORK

    Well, that explains why Randall's taking gags from Dilbert.

    Eventually, Randall will make jokes about a robot that does nothing but sit around, eat lasagna, and watch re-runs of Short Circuit.

    Heck, this made me laugh and groan at the same time! You know what could you do, Cuddlefish? You could not use stick figures in the first place!

    NO. Look. There are three things here:

    1.) Randall MUST use stick figures, because every time he has tried to do something other than stick figures his fans have abandoned him and sent death threats. Everyone nearly asphyxiated with rage when he posted that drawing of a sleeping girl, and I can't even tell you how pissed off people were when he did that goddamn kid in a barrel. His fans demand stick figures. Heck, even his haters demand stick figures! Or have you forgotten how angry we got a few months back when, for comic 631, he dared to try drawing more than stick figures?

    2.) Randall MUST do jokes that rely on visual cues. These days, Randall's jokes are epic, elaborate, and utterly full of anti-fail. Perhaps three years ago, he was writing jokes where the art needed to do absolutely nothing more than specify which of two people were talking (see supplemental point 4*). Now, however, he is doing visual puns (seismographs) and crafting intricate narrative recursions (literally), and so he absolutely must draw comics which feature involved representative artwork. Unless you want him to "dumb down" XKCD even further, which would be appropriate since you seem barely able to understand it in the first place!

    3.) Randall's fans don't even need to care about art. We process the world on such a highly-tuned level that petty things like heads detached from necks do not bother us in the slightest. Oh, it's unrealistic is it? Well duh! This is a comic of intellectual whimsy, of mature scientific fantasy. This is not a diary or a documentary, where adherence to the strict rules and regulations of reality is king! Haven't you ever heard of style?

    Therefore, it is neither necessary nor even slightly beneficial for Randall to change his art or his jokes.

    Supplemental Point 4.) Randall will always need to use art to clearly distinguish between speakers, because he is incapable of writing distinct characters with distinct voices. Whereas it would be difficult to confuse lines of dialogue from Roast Beef, Ray Smuckles, or Phillipe, even without the benefit of the associated artwork; whereas it would be difficult to confuse lines from T-Rex, Utahraptor, and God; it would be well-nigh impossible to distinguish between two characters Randall has crafted without giant labels to identify speakers. Partly this is because Randall will never, ever bother to write characters, but partly because Randall's dialogue is so intelligent that any variation in voice would actually be more dumber than what he currently writes.

  41. I /don't/ think it should've been shortened. I mean, there's shortening a comic to make the joke more clear, or because the extra stuff is just getting in the way of the joke, and there's shortening a comic just for the sake of shortening it. So depending on what panel you want removed:
    Panel #1: while it can be removed, that panel is necessary for setting the comic. Without it, the only setting is a girl looking at a screen with "gates" above it. And actually trying to merge those two panels in together, so that it's showing the girl AND the screen, is rather tricky even for a good artist, let alone Randall.
    Panel #3: Then it becomes "Girl is looking at a screen of seats on a plane to pick. Girl is now riding in the cockpit". In other words, it completely destroys the entire joke, and you can only understand it because you've already been told what the joke is beforehand. Also, you're an idiot!
    In other words, your "shorten the joke" comments just seem less like you want to point out actual complaints for other readers, and more like you just want to find problems in the comic for the sake of it.

    Also, Person #1: that improvement took out a somewhat necessary panel... and replaced it with a COMPLETELY unnecessary panel. How this is considered either "shortening" or "improving" is really beyond me!

  42. no, it made her actual action implicit and ended up not giving away the humor before the punchline. We see her doing something and snickering, implying she did something clever. Implying, not showing it and thus giving away the punchline one panel too early.

  43. In full agreement with Plasma here.
    The repetition of the first panel is also vital for the pace of the comic:

    She looks.
    She thinks.
    She clicks.

    You might get what I'm trying to say (but I don't think so). There are people here who always want a comic to go Setup-Setup-JOKE! Many jokes don't and shouldn't work this way.

    Anyway, I think this was very well executed. I liked it.

    About 725: In full agreement with the first Anon who posted. (Ah, it's nice when everything relevant has already been said.)
    Also, I liked this comic as well. Because it had several funny aspects in it. The funniest one being that the guy in the first panel actually did NOT slip, as can be seen in the Alt Text (which itself is not very funny, but adds that piece of information to the comic).

    By the way, in the xkcd forums, a guy named... Patty Hat or something posted a link to an excellent article that describes why using "literally" in the figurative sense is not wrong. Basically: You may think of it as a bad habit, but it's not a misuse.
    The article also explains that even using "literally" in the sense of "the next part of the sentence is not to be taken as a hyperbole at all; this is what really happened" is a deviation from its original meaning already.

  44. "The article also explains that even using "literally" in the sense of "the next part of the sentence is not to be taken as a hyperbole at all; this is what really happened" is a deviation from its original meaning already."

    I think "original" doesn't mean what you think it does.

  45. Click on my name - I didn't know how to post links here.

    Basically, this clip has the same pacing as 726 - only that the beginning is prolonged even more.
    The important part is that the last picture has to come suddenly. It does not have to be surprising, but it has to be suddenly.

    What would work is basically showing the second panel again - NO close-up, NO snickering. Simply the second panel and somewhere a small *click*.
    That would work. But you need at least some sort of repetition, or else the viewer will know that the comic is building up to a climax.

    It's quite hard to explain, but I think Randall did it just right in that comic. You're visually surprised by seeing the girl in a cockpit all of a sudden, even if you already guessed that would happen in panel 3. The way the comic suddenly changes the scene (and the noise level!) is what makes it funny.
    Without the right pacing, you only get a mediocre joke.

  46. Professor Mole - I think I do. I'm talking about the first meaning it had, the meaning it had when it was "made up", the meaning from the time of its origin - its original meaning.

  47. She looks.
    She thinks.
    She clicks.

    Your pacing is off, I think. The fact of the matter, between three and four ISN'T sudden, since panel 3 is the joke (pick the pilot's seat) and panel 4 is the exact same thing (she's in the pilot's seat.

    I think of it as

    Randall sets up the joke
    Randall sets up the joke
    Randall reveals the punchline
    Randall reveals the punchline

    It's not a drawn-out buildup and then a sudden, tension-discharging reveal. The reveal itself is drawn-out, since the third panel is half of the reveal.

    Plus it's pretty hard to rely on that kind of split-second timing when you're in a fucking webcomic, where you have little control over exactly how long someone looks at any given panel. Randall is not particularly good or subtle about using beat panels and creating timing and flow. Your theory might work if this were a video, and he could control the editing so that the transition from clicking the in the cockpit actually was sudden.

    Honestly it just looks like you're deliberately contorting the comic to find reasons to like it.

    It's probably quite hard to explain why Randall did such a great job because he didn't do a great job and you're just making up justifications for a mediocre comic.

  48. It might be that you're right about the pacing and everything, and that you need to look at the comic "the right way" for that to happen what I try to describe.

    But that is no reason to claim that I am desperately making up justifications or deliberately contorting the comic. That's just... mean.
    Maybe you would have accepted what I wrote as my personal opinion if I had said that I hated most of the comics before 725. Which is true, but I don't always feel like adding a list of the xkcds I hated before I leave a comment.

  49. David, so how is that using it with its original meaning is a deviation from the original meaning? That literally makes no sense.


    PS.: It's "professional". I don't give classes on talpism.

  50. But that is no reason to claim that I am desperately making up justifications or deliberately contorting the comic. That's just... mean.

    It's not intended to be personal. It's just an inversion of the common criticism "You're deliberately reading the comic weirdly so you can hate it."

    What I would say is that your read of the comic is consistent with the text, but not implied by the text. Which is to say that there isn't anything in 726 to contradict the hypothesis that it should be read like that--although I really think that revealing her seat choice in the third panel kills a lot of any possible suddenness in panel four--but there similarly isn't anything that suggests you should read it.

    Of course, Randall is always shoddy with timing, the constraints of his format, and the constraints of his "style". If he manages to stumble upon a comic that's even consistent with a charitable read, well, I really don't want to say that's good by comparison because he's a professional who has been doing xkcd for years, he shouldn't be blundering about like a twit.

  51. "Which is true, but I don't always feel like adding a list of the xkcds I hated before I leave a comment."

    I like that idea.

  52. This one only gets bonus points because the whole literally/figuratively thing bugs me. I'm not a grammar Nazi though. I just get annoyed when people use phrases that make no sense.

    But really, the worst thing about this comic is the absurdity of it all. It could have worked like the effect one, but instead there's some kind of stupid plot built around a rather mundane thing.

    By the way, call me Ishmael. I'm not a cuddlefish, but I don't hate xkcd either. Some of the comics are fabulous. Most of them need some work done to them. Some of them should be erased from the internet and human history.

    I disagree with how the flashback ruins the comic. I didn't have a problem with the way the kids were drawn. The worst thing was definitely how the lack of a good punchline just made the rest of the comic look nonsensical, as indeed it was. Otherwise, very nice review.

  53. Professional Mole - I realized shortly after I posted the comment that your name is different. I do like "Professor Mole" better though.

    About "literally"... click on my name. The text is not that long, and explains everything rather well.
    Abstract: The literal meaning of "literally" is "according to the letter", and using it in the way of "exactly as described" is already a figure of speech.

  54. this is a stupid rant, carl
    but i feel i should point out
    dinosaur comics did this joke already

  55. You see, it's not just that using "literally" as an intensifier is a non-literal use of the word "literal". It's that using "literal" as an intensifier is, in most cases, antithetical to even the conventional figurative definition of literal.

  56. Okay, David. Article read. Point taken. You win.

    I must say, though, that "exactly as described" still is closer to the original meaning than a simple intensifier. But that's just me grasping at straws...

  57. Randall and Chris-chan have some striking similarities. Both of them have a series with bad art, and stalk some girl named Megan.

    For those who do not know who Chris is:

  58. You're trying too hard, Carl

  59. Comparing XCKD and Sonichu, FMMC? Really?

  60. I am far from a grammar nazi, but the misuse of the word literally pisses me off to no end. Not that I liked this comic, I felt that the set-up was pretty forced. I've never liked these throwaway jokes that rely solely on being wacky. If it's a running joke it's fine or if it's a throwaway joke that ties into the rest of the plotline it's ok, but wacky randomness doesn't belong in gag-a-day strips.

  61. I think the main problem with my original suggestion of removing the third panel is that it still doesn't get the timing exactly right. It doesn't reveal the joke before showing the punchline so it's still an improvement, but it could be better. So, I tried again. Since xkcd is pretty free with its format, the last panel can be placed below the other two. This breaks the flow from the previous panels and requires the panel to be made larger, both of which add energy to the punchline. I also added back the "click", but removed it from any specific panel to clear the visual before the last panel.

  62. With regards to 726...

    I liked this comic a fair amount. My biggest complaint is that the third panel is, in my mind, unnecessary, but others might have found the comic hard to follow had it been removed.

    I think that this is Munroe's biggest problem; he has to make the comic good enough to be funny, but simple enough that most of his readers can puzzle out the joke.

    You know what? Actually, the third panel gives away the punchline and ruins the pacing, and if you can't get the joke without it there, what are you doing reading an "intelligent" webcomic, anyway?

  63. My problem with your edit is that the final panel is so much bigger than everything else that it's really easy for the eye to be drawn to it instantly and ignore the first row. When I saw it, I read the giant panel, and then went back up to the first row.

    That may not be an issue if Randall actually put it on his site, though, since there's a fair amount of stuff at the top of his site.

    Good idea, though.

  64. Y'know...the people here claiming to be grammar nazis and hating the misuse of the word "literally."

    I wonder how many of them complain and get upset at the horrible misuse of the word "irony" these days? Let us remember that the word "irony" merely means "The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention" as Bender so eloquently puts it.

    Thus, a Jew eating pork is not ironic, a man biting a dog is not ironic, and EA signing the two guys who worked for Infinity Ward is not ironic. And I don't hear anyone bitching about that.

    And before anyone starts on the Alanis Morissette song, I must point out that the song DOES contain one correct use of irony. The man crashing down in the plane uses irony when he says "Well isn't this nice" since he is using the words to express something other than the literal intention of those words.

    Also, I agree that 726 tells the joke twice and most of the humor was ruined by that.

  65. "... panel 3 is the joke (pick the pilot's seat) and panel 4 is the exact same thing (she's in the pilot's seat.)"

    Not necessarily - that's one way of reading it, I suppose, but I would argue that panel 3 isn't the joke (she clicked on the cockpit? Not that funny, I'm sure plenty of people do that to amuse themselves) Panel 4 is the joke (it actually worked!)
    Arguably, you could do without panel 3, but I think it would make the joke less effective by introducing too much of a disconnect. Instead of the joke being, as it were:
    'She's got to choose a seat, she's in an airport, oh she clicks on the cockpit. Haha, it worked, she's flying the plane'
    it would be
    'she's got to choose a seat, she's in an airport, oh, she's flying the plane. Oh I see, because she had to choose a seat and she chose the pilots seat, haha.'

    It's pretty hard to explain humour, really. If you find the second one a funnier way round then fair enough. Personally, I think the first one is more effective, but you can't really expect a joke to please everyone. I still think this is a relatively funny idea that he's actually turned into a decently executed joke for once.

  66. "Let us remember that the word "irony" merely means "The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention" as Bender so eloquently puts it."

    It means more than that, actually. There are many types.

  67. Kierkegaardian irony is the greatest of all ironies.

  68. Um, just so ya'll know, the Jay who posted above is not me. I haven't been commenting because xkcd has been really, really boring to me lately.

    - Jay (the oh-so-much better one)

  69. "Let us remember that the word "irony" merely means "The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention" as Bender so eloquently puts it."

    I think we should all take a deep breath and remember that Futurama, while funny, is not fucking gospel truth.

    What you are thinking of is "rhetorical irony." Rhetorical irony is a catch-all term, but still more complex than the simple soundbite you present - for example, it relies on a knowing audience, or otherwise simple lies could be called rhetorical irony. However, rhetorical irony is not usually what people mean when they say irony for the simple reason that a lot of what rhetorical irony covers is already better-described by words such as "sarcasm" or "metaphor." Thus, to apply irony to such things as pointless, and the sarcastic example you give from the Alanis Morisette song may be technically rhetorically ironic, but to call it that rather than calling it "sarcastic" is a bit like calling a boat a "wooden object" - you have the problem that it is too all-encompassing a term to be meaningful.

    The more specific instance of irony, which is actually what most people would (or should) refer to as irony, is situational irony, is when "God or fate is manipulating events so as to inspire false hopes, which are inevitably dashed." Note this doesn't just mean that the opposite happens to what you expect and this is therefore ironic. If I went into a war expecting to be shot, and constantly wearing a bulletproof vest, but I wasn't shot, then that'd not be ironic. What would be ironic was if I went through a war expecting to be shot and wasn't, despite my bulletproof vest, but after my return home I took off said vest and was subsequently shot dead in a bank robbery. That would be ironic. It's also an instance of tragic irony, wherein the consequence of the irony is fatal.

    We have a culture where having an "ironic" appreciation for something is possible, and I suspect the word is going through a tricky cultural osmosis at the moment, wherein the notion of irony's requirement of a knowing audience becomes the only thing which matters to make something ironic. This change in meaning is just another example of the usage of words evolving, and it seems rather blase to complain about the word being "misused horribly." If you are, though, I'm not going to let you get away with it when you yourself are hypocritically (NOT ironically) misusing the word horribly ;)

  70. Yeah, I didn't like how much larger the bottom panel was, I just didn't want to bother doing anything about it.

    I had another go at it. I increased the height of the top row and made the last panel shorter. I also scaled up the images in the top row since part of the problem was that when I scaled up the last panel it made the lines heavier. Moving the text in the first panel also seems to help draw the eye upward. It's still not perfect since the "WOOOOOOO" is very prominent, but I think it works a bit better.

    I did like how scaling the rest of the row up made made the click "quieter".

  71. "I think we should all take a deep breath and remember that Futurama, while funny, is not fucking gospel truth."

    Fuck you! Bender is Lord!

    Also, he li(ves large and ki)cks butt!

  72. Hey, new xkcd is very nice. Short and sweet

  73. "I wonder how many of them complain and get upset at the horrible misuse of the word "irony" these days? Let us remember that the word "irony" merely means "The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention" as Bender so eloquently puts it."

    lots. though you're limiting yourself to only one use of the word, which is sad, because that's not the most interesting use of the word. there's also, of course, Socratic and dramatic irony, which you may be dismissing because of their limited use, but there's also the irony of events which are contrary to that which was expected.

    this is the use most people are trying to use the word to mean, and where they fail is that they fail to understand that irony is about contrast. it is about the contrast between a word's meaning and its actual use; it is about the contrast between Socrates' feigned ignorance and the reality that he is actually very much cognizant of what is going on; it is about the contrast between what the characters in a work know and what we know; it is about the contrast between what we expect to happen and what actually happens.

    it is therefore ironic when someone sets out to achieve their fortune and instead ends up ruining himself, or when someone sets out on a quest for love and ends up causing his lover to hate him. it is not ironic when unfortunate coincidences happen (rain; wedding day).

    it also doesn't suffice for something to merely be different from expected--if you set out to win someone's love and simply do not do so, you haven't achieved irony because you haven't set up a contrast between outcome and expectations; you have merely failed to achieve your expectations.

    "And before anyone starts on the Alanis Morissette song, I must point out that the song DOES contain one correct use of irony. The man crashing down in the plane uses irony when he says "Well isn't this nice" since he is using the words to express something other than the literal intention of those words."

    the song itself is ironic, actually, though not intentionally so: one would expect a song which purports to be about irony to be filled with examples of irony; it is not.

  74. fucking hell Rob could you BE any more of a hipster

  75. yeah, I could start denying that I am a hipster

  76. fucking hell Rob could you BE any more of a pedophile

  77. At least Randall hasn't done a comic commenting on that blessed Alanis Morrissette song. It's almost fiftenn years old now - please can people stop going on about it?

  78. Rob, admitting you have a problem is a big deal, but the first step on your road to recovery with us at HA. Just Keep Coming Back.

    Anon 6:16, there are just too many delicious layers of meta and irony in that cake for people to stop eating it. Alanis will always be with us.

  79. xkcdsucksssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  80. how IRONIC

    also, orwellian, etc