Thursday, July 8, 2010

Comic 764: An Anthropological Study of Nerds

Because this one's exploding, we'll give it its own post, ROB-STYLE. FUCK YEAH WOOOOO

fuck you randy

[ALT TEXT: "Cue letters from anthropology majors complaining that this view of numerolinguistic development perpetuates a widespread myth. They get to write letters like that because when you're not getting a real science degree you have a lot of free time." After presumably receiving a lot of angry letters about his alt-text, he added a 'Zing!' at the end. -Ed.]

Let's all pause and take a moment to reflect on the fact that this comic's alt text has (so far!) provoked probably the most agreement this blog has ever seen regarding a comic/alt text. (Even 631, which brought out the "haha you are afraid of vaginas because you are either gay or 12 or both, whereas I, because I am straight and male and heterosexual and masculine, love all portrayals of vaginas, ever, because I am straight and male and never overcompensate for anything" trolls in force.)

Wasn't that fun?

Part of the reason it bothers me is that even if you assume that he's not bashing fine arts people (which isn't the worst assumption you could possibly make, since he doesn't ever really mention them)--people who are, with few exceptions, far busier than science people and therefore obviously vastly superior--he's still ignoring the fact that most social science people spend just as much time with reading, studying, research, lab work, etc. as hard science types. I could see an argument for non-social science types (English majors) having slightly less to do, on account of not having a lab. but they are still quite frequently very busy.

It's amusing that he is attacking people who are pedantic about their field. This is Randall "The Southern Half Of The Globe" Munroe. Randall "I Nitpick Over Electron-Labeling Conventions" Munroe. Randall "I Intentionally Bastardize The Wording Of Common Puzzles And Then Attack That Wording For Being Difficult To Understand" Munroe.

He is the KING of the fucking pedants, is what I'm saying. He, and his fans, are much more likely to email someone who gets a petty fact "wrong" than most other demographics--certainly much more so than the one he's attacking. And he doesn't limit himself to science facts, either. He's a pedant about everything, and, as pedants usually are, he's wrong about it just about every time.

An anthropology major or someone in a related field might email him about this one, it's true. But they're probably not going to email him about a completely unrelated field. Compare to, for instance, Randy himself. If he had not written this comic, but instead stumbled upon it, having read the Wiki articles he used to make it, he would probably have emailed the writer, saying that this view of neurolinguistic development perpetuates a widespread myth.

Randy is a physicist. His entire background in the humanities consists of "reading articles about it on Wikipedia and subsequently disparaging the experts in those fields who made the Wikipedia article he just read possible." And yet he disparages them on his comic even more frequently than I devour a thousand cheeseburgers in one terrible gulp with my horrible gaping maw.

Which is to say, a lot. (Because I am fat.)

Even the forums are coming down pretty hard on this one. Bets on how long until Randy either mysteriously changes the alt text or issues some sappy apology?

also fuck you carl

OK now it's carl writing.

FUCK YOU right back, Rob! I'm glad you wrote this though, I didn't want to admit I may not have the time for this one. I'll let this be the official post on 764 because then i have less work to do, but we can't let this go without mentioning something else:

First it was comics about basic math (3x9, in this case)
Then it was comics about learning the difference between similies and metaphors.
Now it's comics about Sesame Street.
Am I the only one noticing a powerful trend towards appealing to children?

That will be all.

Wait, no, carl again, back with updates. First off, to people reading this post in the future, read the comments. There's a huge amount of them but some really good discussions going on.

later update:
It just occurred to me: when was the last time we had an xkcd character with eyes? I think it helps a lot. Just imagine how weird it would be without them. I think he should do this more often.

another update: Rob, i can't believe you forgot where "cuddlefish" got started! it was here. As you can see, it was Amanda's idea. It is interesting that while she constantly refuses to become a regular blogger on this site, she has given us by far our most lasting meme.

also: This is linked to in the comments but I want to make sure everyone sees it.

Last update, added way after our original post insulting this comic:



  1. Yeah, this xkcd really pissed me off, and I'm neither an anthropology major nor someone who bothers getting upset with Randall most of the time. What a douchebag.

  2. What's the point of the alt text? Why is he purposefully trying to make a large proportion of his fans angry? Is he a fucking idiot?

  3. I'm not expecting it to be taken down because Randall probably knows that we're expecting that and will have saved the evidence.

    But I'm also not expecting a sappy apology.

    What I am expecting is a sarcastic "apology" where he accuses people who get upset of overreacting to a silly little comic. He will claim to have a bunch of anthropology friends who enjoyed the ribbing and that we just failed to recognize satire.

    That's what I'm expecting. So I'm betting on never.

  4. What about grad-level physics people?

    Are they going to out-arrogant this guy?

    It'd be fun to watch, since they must comprise a significant part of his fanbase, and they're way more intelligent than he. Get the popcorn!

  5. that is probably the correct answer. I still think it's more likely he'll do the whole "feign sincerity" thing, though. "I meant it as some gentle ribbing, I didn't mean to offend so many people. I never would have made the joke if I didn't think highly of anthropologists" etc etc. it will be insincere but his fans will interpret it as heart-felt, because that will be the intention: Randy is such a nice guy! he cares when he upsets people! etc.

    but maybe he'll just ignore it. that's probably most likely actually.

  6. I really don't think he'll ignore it because he wants people to think he's "such a nice guy." It's his persona that he can be abrasive, but he doesn't mean it... he might be a science guy, but he still loves art and romance.

    But I guess it does fall under the category of a sappy apology... I'm betting on a day at most. I doubt that he didn't foresee this shitstorm. Even Randall must notice the hypocrisy in accusing others of having too much free time.

  7. never underestimate the power of the human brain to be completely oblivious to its own absurdity.

  8. Worst xkcd I have ever seen, and just because of the mouseover text. Wow.

  9. South Park pulls the deliberately offensive card and mostly gets away with it ("Don't be a fool Gabriel, Japanese people don't have souls") while being funny.

    This, maybe, was an attempt at that. But it's not funny, it's not stupidly funny, it's just stupid (or by extension, douchey). An apology, sincere or not, won't change that.

    There's only one way to go. Forward. And hope that eventually (soon) the line will be crossed twice.

    Which will make for fun times viewing xkcd as it tries to rebrand itself as a shock humour website. The day will come when you couldn't tell it apart from goatkcd.

    (Or, given the alt-text, is that day today?)

  10. ARGH.
    Goddamn 764. Or the alt text at least.

    This is like SMBC comics poking fun at stuff, without the fun. Sure, Weiner has insulted plenty of different people, but when he did it it was funny and usually meant to be taken lightly. This is just a cold hard insult.

    Good job Randall. You forgot to tell a joke. You forgot to be funny. You forgot that you were supposed to try coming across as the flawless white knight, balancing chivalry and respect with comedic taste.


  11. I appreciate the irony of him insulting the professionals that gathered not just the knowledge necessary for the punchline of the comic, but the knowledge used in his completely uncalled for insult.

  12. What on earth was the point of the second part of the alt-text? It would have just been unfunny, then, not unfunny and insulting.

    This is the first time I have totally agreed with every sentiment in an XKCDsucks post.

  13. He's not going to issue a sappy apology. He's going to go "Hey dudes, I totally meant that as a joke, some of my best friends are anthropologists" like he did when he slammed wikipedia editors.

    And then all the fans are going to go "See? I told you he wasn't a douchebag."

  14. It's called dramatic irony, something they don't teach to physics students.

  15. He can just say he was trolling for the lulz. And you can't accuse him of using that as a post-hoc excuse in response to people pointing out his douchery, because Rob said so two posts ago.

  16. Also throwing in bets for a lame attempt at a non-apology. I'm picturing something like the "OMG guys what are you doing" malamanteau stuff.

  17. While the alt-text deservedly gets all the attention, I'd also like to point out that the comic itself is one of the most inane, amateurish jokes I've ever come across.

  18. Comic itslf was weak; alt text was insulting. Nice to know that I'm not alone in this thinking though.

  19. He might have failed, but it's clearly a joke. Have you never done the "oh, you don't ? I guess that's not because you're not a REAL ".

    Honestly, I find his other comics that are casually superior as an assumed background fact far and away more offensive than this one. This one is ridiculous on the face of it. The others are insidious and prone to people nodding their head sagely and thinking "how true!".

    It's like the difference between me saying "Randall Munroe is worse than Hitler" and "Randall Munroe is a talentless t-shirt salesman whose webcomics began to suck the moment he decided that his doodles should be comics, and have only gotten worse since".

    The former is a terrible accusation but it's also blatant hyperbole, and I doubt he'd take it personally. The latter? Man, I can hear him crying already.

  20. @Bland: I think the problem is that when South Park says Japanese people don't have souls, it is SO obnoxious that we know the writers don't actually think that. I'm not offended because I don't think the writers actually feel that way.

    The reason why what Munroe said was insulting, was partly because I think we all know he's not joking at all. That is EXACTLY how he feels about non-hard sciences. He thinks they are below him, we've suspected (read: known) this for a long time, but this is the first time he's been so blatant about it. Another big difference, is that I don't even think he was trying to be funny. It seriously looked like he was TRYING to take a shot at them.

    Now, Randall never struck me as a dumb person in the past. So I really have to wonder what he was smoking or drinking when he thought this would be a good idea. That statement openly displays his disregard for anybody who works in a field he doesn't consider a hard science. It shows that he is an elitist prick beyond almost any shadow of a doubt. Either he is far FAR less intelligent than I was giving him credit for, or he was completely wasted when he posted that comic.

    I'll stake my bet on the mysterious change of Alt Text.

  21. xkcdexplained does the exact same thing every second update nowadays, though. They aren't taking it out just on Randall, they're taking it out on geeks, nerds, people with high-functioning autism, Computer Science majors and lots of other people who are perfectly nice and would rather not be tarred with the same brush as Randall.

    They're funny, though. xkcd is not.

  22. Also not an anthropologistJuly 9, 2010 at 2:35 AM

    You know something else? The comic doesn't make a lot of sense. I mean I'm used to them not being very funny but, "Primitive Cultures Develop Sesame Street"? What the heck is that? Is he the point he's trying to make that primitive cultures don't have good number systems? Primitive cultures with televisions don't have good number systems? I don't think it's that, I get a feeling that he just thought that The Count from Sesame Street stopping at two would be funny. I can think of several jokes on the theme of ancient cultures and numbers or the count from sesame street that make more sense than this.

    "One hahaha, Two hahaha, Many hahaha"

    "Sesame street has really gone downhill since they cut its funding"
    "The decline in national mathmatic scores was becoming a more serious problem"
    "You ever show up to work and your heart just isn't in it?"

    Yeah these aren't funny but I literally just came up with them as I was writing them there. I could do the same for ancient cultures and numbers too but I wont. I'm not showing off, it's just that easy to top Mr. Munroe.

    I've come to the conclusion that this half assed scribble is nothing more than the host for the bloated tick clinging onto it, the alt-text. I think he just wanted to do a comic which would theoretically irritate anthropologists JUST so that he could stick that alt-text to it. I think that must be the case because as I read the alt text I did not feel the usual apathy or mild irritation I normally feel when reading the comic, I instead became very angry. So far that's the biggest emotional response I've ever had to an XKCD comic, makes me feel like he put a lot of effort into that alt-text and just wanted to jam it in somewhere.

  23. Oh c'mon, am I the only one who takes offence at the actual comic itself?

    In case you didn't spot it, Randall pretty much said that practically entire nations are dumber than a first-world two-year-old!
    I mean, I could get it if he made it a joke about societies that don't have a numerical system at all, but this is saying that they DO, they're just too stupid to understand it!

    How are you people okay with that?!
    Even Shakespeare and his "The general populace is incredibly violent and murderous and stupid enough to mistake people based entirely on their name" wasn't that bad!

    Also, someone needs to edit out The Count's face and hair.

  24. because his heart wasn't in it. the joke was only a vehicle for his alt-text bashing of anthro majors. it would be offensive if he actually thought it was true, but he basically said in the alt text 'I'm only saying this to piss you off.'

    mission fucking accomplished.

  25. Also, the very VERY worst thing about the alt-text?

    He never actually used his Physics degree when he got it!

    You remember, right? The only work he did after he got the degree was one summer working in NASA (and that could be argued to really be a part of getting the degree). A job that he had before he got the degree. As soon as that was over, he went straight into webcomics!

  26. Also also, how old is that TV?

  27. @Plasma: I think Rob's right. Huge difference between the Comic and Alt-Text. It's like the difference between a racist joke coming from a friend you know to be not racist, and the exact same joke coming from someone who means it. The former can be funny, the latter is insulting. The Alt-Text SCREAMS out to the reader "This is how I actually feel about your pathetic excuse for a degree". And to that, I say: Fuck you Randall. Fuck you.

    PS: I don't think that's the WORST part about the alt-text, more like it adds a nice healthy (read: thick) layer of hypocrisy onto the whole thing.

  28. It's a Discworld joke, you idiots.

  29. If you take the comic and the alt-text together you come to realise that Randall considers primitive cultures objectively inferior to his own because they don't have a real number system so they don't know real science. Such an attitude is contemporaneously defined as racism, a relativist view arguably stemming in part from Durkheim and the like's influence on modern anthropology.

    We can therefore conclude that Randall is angry with anthropology because it doesn't let him be the racist that he yearns to be.

  30. @2:35
    "Is he the point he's trying to make that primitive cultures don't have good number systems?"

    That pretty much seems to be it. I had all sorts of problems with the comic even before I made it to the alt text. Apparently even simple ideas from an easy major that lets me get away with mountains of contemptible free time are too difficult for him to bother to understand.

    There's all sorts of things that English has difficulty expressing that are quite simple in other languages. Language adapts to suit the culture that uses it. Cultures that for whatever reason don't need to specify numbers other than 'one', 'two', and 'more than two' won't develop words for them. I don't see how Randall can see that as an indictment of the language - oh wait I can. He's a twit.

  31. The joke is based on this, or something like it.

  32. We can therefore conclude that Randall is angry with anthropology because it doesn't let him be the racist that he yearns to be.

    Anon 3:03: You win the "My Favourite Line of the Night" award!

    @Mr.G - There's all sorts of things that English has difficulty expressing that are quite simple in other languages.

    Two fun examples of that. German has a word for taking pleasure in someone else's pain: Schadenfreude. Japanese has a word for a Woman who appears attractive from behind, but is not attractive from the front: bakku-shan. (Technically, the second one is slang, but who's counting?)

    (the post by Singulaire, in case this gets fucked up again)

    Most pretentious douchebag on the XKCD forums?

  34. and tons of physics majors are now posting in the xkcd forums about how awesome that comic was. They get to do that because they have a lot of time due to their lack of girlfriends.


  35. Also not an anthropologist said... : "I've come to the conclusion that this half assed scribble is nothing more than the host for the bloated tick clinging onto it, the alt-text."

    I agree, but it also looks like he was in such a hurry to prove how awesome the hard sciences are that he didn't mind insulting so-called 'primitive' groups in the process. The punchline of the comic sans alt-text seems to be 'I think it's funny that there are people who don't use the same number system I do, so therefore, the phenomenon is not worth studying, and so anthropology is worthless.'

  36. To anyone who thinks it's a Discworld reference, consider this:

    The whole point of the Discworld joke was that the culture was _not_ primitive in mathematics, just slightly different. The way for Randall to pull that joke would have been to add "Many one ahahahah" or something along those lines. But he _didn't_. Xkcd's "Joke" is "Person who counts can't count," while Discworld's was "Person who is thought to not count ends up counting remarkably well", which then morphed into a joke about computers, overclocking, and temperature.

    Also, if it's a Discworld joke, then why doesn't the Count look like a troll?

  37. I hate XKCD at least as much as any of you. I didn't even like the early stuff. Believe me, I hate XKCD.

    But he's not insulting primitive cultures. Primitive is not inherently insulting either. There are cultures that have no word for three but do have words for one; he's not just pulling this out of his ass to insult them. I don't remember if they had a word for two, but that's besides the point. The point is that Randall isn't implying that non-Europeans are stupid, he never identified the "primitive cultures" as anything other than primitive. He doesn't say that there's anything inherently bad about not having a number three (I can't see any implications to that effect either).

    Stop playing the race card and learn to hate XKCD for just being an all around shitty webcomic, but it's definitely not racist.

  38. I think it's a reference to the Orks from War Hammer 40k.

  39. Some idiot reposted an old Far Side cartoon in the forum. It's amusing that no one realizes how XKCD looks even more terrible than usual when accidentally juxtaposed with a good comic.

  40. @jogiff
    "There are cultures that have no word for three but do have words for one; he's not just pulling this out of his ass to insult them."
    No, he's pulling this from wikipedia to insult them. If this isn't rascist as you say, what's the 'joke'?

  41. Seems to me that Randy read his discworld collection from his kindle but didn't quite get the point of what Pratchett was saying, which anon. 4.11 has got pretty right there.

    Also, I reckon Pratchett is a hell of a lot funnier, and cleverer than Ran-dull. Even after the Alzheimers

  42. How can the punchline of the comic sans alt-text be about anthropology and whether cultures with different number systems are worth studying? None of that is actually in the comic itself; it's just a bad joke that the count character doesn't make much sense if there are no specific numbers to learn beyond two.

  43. The joke is that The Count is a stupid bastard reliant on inadequate cultural groundwork. If he truly loved counting the way he claims to love counting, he would work harder to work out his own more complete system for numeracy.

  44. Plasma: Oh c'mon, am I the only one who takes offence at the actual comic itself?

    No, I did too. I have a BA in Anthropology, and one thing that was drummed into me over and over was that you don't make value judgments about other cultures, and that "primitive" is a big no-no. The reason for this, jogiff, is that the idea of cultural evolution (in which one can call cultures "advanced" or "primitive") is basically saying that all cultures move along the same track, that all hunter-gatherers are essentially the same (and therefore modern hunter-gatherers are "stuck in the Stone Age" and can be used to determine how Stone Age European cultures worked), and that all cultures become closer to some kind of ideal.

  45. I find the forumites who think the comic is inoffensive worse than the rest of it. Especially the linguist who doesn't know that linguistics is a subset of anthropology and the person who thinks soft sciences study "the human spirit".

  46. I love how in the alt-text he, to sound smart, uses the terminology ("this view of numerolinguistic development...") of the same people he goes on to insult in the very next sentence! If written by anybody else you'd think it was self-parody, whereas with Randall Munroe there's the strong possibility it is completely sincere.

  47. I actually got a small chuckle out of this comic, although that's mostly because the joke he uses here is a joke I've already read and liked in Terry Pratchett's books (ie the trolls in Discworld count thusly: one, two, many, lots).
    Also, the alt text would have been okay if he hadn't gone on to write that second sentence. On the other hand, the fact that any of us have the time or inclination to respond to such drivel is something of a shame.

  48. If I could quote someone from the xkcd forum:

    "This coming from someone who draws three comics a week for a living?

    Edit: (I realized I used the word 'draws' rather loosely, I apologize to people who can actually draw.)"


    I'd like to add "three shitty comics a week".

  49. I made a parody since words were not enough for this one.

    Honestly there are a lot of ways one could go with this, but I took the low road because he went there first.

    One could also harp on the fact that anthropologists actually go and live among indigenous--beg pardon, primitive--cultures for a few years before making generalizations about them, but that's premised on the assumption that he is willing to listen.


  50. I'd rather not discuss the alt-text, because it is stupid.

    The caption for this one doesn't really flow too well; have all the primitive cultures banded together to develop Sesame Street? I think it would have been funnier if there'd been some sort of name attached rather than "IT'S A PRIMITIVE CULTURE OK".

    (Randall: "How about, er, the Bongo Bongo Tribe?"

  51. "I noticed that my liberal-arts-major friends always seemed to have more free time than the science/math ones."

    Maybe it just looked like they had more free time because they got out more? O SNAP I WENT THERE

    (relax, i do compsci)

  52. Here, I think I know what's going on here.

    It's 11:55 PM. Thursday night. Randall's just finished browsing through TVTropes or whatever he does on weekday nights. He looks at the clock. "Oh shit!" he says. "I need to make a comic! Let's see, what's funny? I know! The Count! What if...what if he only counted to two? Comedy gold! But wait, why would he only be counting to two, that makes no sense. Um...I got it! I'll say it's a primitive culture! Because everyone knows they suck at math!" He opens MSPaint and scribbles something down. "Randall Munroe, you are a genius" he says to himself. "I think I'll show this off to Steve! Steve's an anthropology major, he's sure to love this one!" He does so. The reply comes back. "Uh, Randy", it says "That's not what 'primitive' cultures are like at all. This is unfunny and vaguely racist" "Fuck you man, it's my comic, I do what I want!" says Randall. He closes Pidgin. "Wait" the thinks. "Saying people from primitive cultures are dumb, that is kinda racist. But I can't do another comic! It's almost midnight! And I put so much effort into this one, it's a shame to waste it. Wait, I haven't done an alt-text. I'll just put an apology in there! Man, fuck Steve. He made me waste an alt-text! Who does he think he is, he didn't even study real science. Wait, that's it! Oh ho ho, Randy you are a genius!"

  53. This has probably been said before, but a man who left a gig at NASA to make webcomics for a living has absolutely no place to say what is and isn't a real science. Has he even DONE anything scientific in the past 5 years? Drawing gravity wells posters doesn't count.

  54. I have to admit, going "if you're offended by my comic, you're a worthless pedant with no life" is pretty clever! Almost as clever as trolls who add "if you respond to me in any way you'll just prove me right" to the end of posts.

  55. Oh man is it ever a good day to be alive (where "alive" means "someone who loathes xkcd")!

    The comic:
    What a bunch of stupidity. I'm all for suspension of disbelief, but there are limits. What, we're supposed to assume that some 'primitive culture' is undeveloped enough to not develop a number system, yet simultaneously intelligent enough to have created television and language? What the fuck?
    For what it's worth, the tv screen itself is drawn in the stroke-victim style we've all come to know and love, so there's that.

    The alt-text:
    Let me make sure I have this right: A man who 'works' for a sum total of about 1 and a half hours per week, tops, takes a shot at people with real jobs? Randy randy randy (a la George Carlin, I'm not going to even capitalize his name when I type it any more)- YOU are the pretentious, pedantic toolbag with too much time on his hands. The only way you could be more of a drain on society is if you filed for unemployment (since, after all, you don't technically have a "job").
    But no no, I'm sure it takes you many hours every week to come up with such shitty comics.
    And even putting that aside, where do you get the grounds to pass this kind of judgment? What, does a physics degree earn you the right to be an insufferable douchebag for life? Shit, if that's the case I'll go get one now! I can't wait to do nothing good with my life while still pretending to have a moral or intellectual superiority over millions of educated people.
    randy, you get to write pieces of shit like this because when you're a twentysomething loser with no drawing or humor skills who churns out three fucking doodles per week, you have a lot of free time.
    In conclusion, go fuck yourself, you uptight elitist prick.

    But why? Of course randy has no regard for social sciences, but what precipitated this sudden intensity? I think I know:

    Megan is dating someone with a sociology (or anthropology, or political science, or what-have-you) degree. And poor widdle wandy is butthurt, and this is the only way he can express his anger.

    If 631 wasn't the final straw for xkcd, this will be.

  56. It's like the difference between a racist joke coming from a friend you know to be not racist, and the exact same joke coming from someone who means it. The former can be funny, the latter is insulting.

    The joke is still racist whether coming from the former or the latter. Hipster racism is still racism, and not okay.

  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

  58. I think Randall put this comic up not because he thought it was a particularly funny or good idea, but because he knew he could get away with it. No matter how dumb and offensive he is, he'll still have his hardcore fans supporting him. Like the Party in Nineteen Eight-Four changing their enemies mid-sentence, he revels in his absolute power and fucks with his readers for no other reason than that he knows he can get away with it.

  59. How... ORWELLIAN.

    ... nah, too easy

  60. This is one of those jokes you pull out of shitty jokebooks.

    Hell, I have a book that made a joke almost identical to this one. "How does (fictional race) count how many fish they've caught? One fish, two fish, another fish, another fish"

    Christ, what's next? A dude from primitive culture that finds a bunch of milk bottles and thinks he's found a cow's nest? Asking about airplane food?

  61. Weak comic, childish and annoying alt-text. XKCD grows ever more disappointing, although there have been a few good ones in the last three weeks or so.

  62. Wait guys it's all perfect now.
    Randall doesn't just make three comics a week.
    He makes many.

    Man I feel bad for talking smack about a paragon of industry now.

  63. I think I remember something on Digg last year about the discovery of some South American culture that really did only have the concepts of one, two, and many. I'm guessing that's what he's referencing here, rather than vaguely insulting primitive cultures in general.

    That said, it's still an awful comic made even worse by the alt-text. You guys are right: Randy can SAY he has a "real" degree, but at the end of the day he just peddles out some garbage comic a couple of times a week. He's the carnie of the internet.

  64. @Gamer_2k4 - talking about the Pirahã language?
    I mean, the claim is now that they don't really have numerals at all, but just words to indicate that the amount is either small or large, but.

  65. Rinnon: I think it's more about the difference between a racist joke that is about someone's (alleged) racially-induced deficiency, and a "racist" joke which makes demonstrates the ridiculousness of racism. Compare Carlos Mencia ("Mexicans are lazy, de de DEE") to Dave Chappelle. Though as Dave discovered- it's a thin line to tread.

    FWIW, I think the article Robin posted could have made a good point, but the argument it made was pretty weak- "you see, they say it's not racist, but it actually is. Also, they're white. There you go! Racism!"

    Anywho. The alt-text succeeded in pissing me off, which itself pisses me off because that means he WON.

    Congrats, xkcdsucks- in the space of just a few weeks, you have brought me into the fold. I think these days I read xkcd mostly to prepare myself for visiting here after.

  66. Speaking of bringing people into the xkcdsucks fold, one of the dudes I met at the xkcd book party has since been converted to the dark side. Mostly because I'm just so charming and witty.

  67. I don't think he comments on the blog, but he is MisterDiscord on #xkcd-sucks.

  68. All of Aloria's posts get 200% better if you imagine a cat typing them.

  69. Ves: "For what it's worth, the tv screen itself is drawn in the stroke-victim style we've all come to know and love, so there's that."

    If you like things drawn in stroke-victim style, allow me introduce you to the wonderful world of Compu-toon, which is basically xkcd for old people.

  70. I can't speak for graduate school. But I'll have to say that in undergrad as a physics major I had a lot more free time than my counter parts in English, or biology, or anthropology.

  71. guys guys guys

    Randall changed the alt text.

    By which I mean, he added a "zing!" to the end of it, which clearly makes it a joke!

    Which means it's not offensive or stupid anymore!


  72. Oh, that totally makes it better.

    Randall, you are an immature, reverse-sexist, unoriginal, untalented, socially inept, bad smelling, terrible dressing, ignorant douchebag. Zing!

  73. Man, if Carl just adds a "Zing!" to the end of all xkcdsucks posts from now on, no xkcd fanboys will be able to complain about them ever!

  74. Carl needs to give me edit access to his posts. Then I will write a small script to append all the "Zing!"s. It is Randall-approved, and done with a script, so therefore extra nerdy. THIS PLAN IS BULLETPROOF.

  75. So, 3 out of the last 4 comics were ORWELLIANLY edited after being published? Randall really is losing it.

  76. This trend in late edits - that go unacknowledged by Randall, I might add - means one of two (or both) things:

    1) He is becoming increasingly rushed in his comic posts, not considering little details until later;

    2) He is becoming increasingly more conscious of reader feedback, correcting things that many people complain about.

    Either way, he's slipping.



  78. I like the idea of Zing! being added to the end of every blog post now. It'd be so hilarious to dismiss any and all cuddlefish criticism with "It's a joke, there's a zing at the end."

  79. fucking jews.... the jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.



  81. Darcy: I think you make a good point. But I'd also like to say (which I should have made more clear in my previous post) that I think intention to wound is a huge part of whether or not something is offensive or not. Real world example here, I was laid off a short time ago, so I'm on EI till I find a new job. A friend of mines Dad comes into the room, and we chat briefly, I tell him I'm on EI and he says "Hey! Look at that, now YOU'RE the drain on society!" Then we all have a good laugh. A few days later at a gathering at a different friend's house, I meet someone new, end up telling him I was laid off and on EI, and he gives me a look immediately like I'm beneath him, and says almost the same thing "Oh, must feel good being a drain on society then." Pretty much the same line, and one of them is insulting and one of them is not. I think the reason why people are so up about what Munroe said, is because aside from not even being phrases in a joking way, we pretty much know that he wasn't joking, that's how he feels. If he WAS an Anthropology major for example, that same line would have been funny! So I suppose my point was less about racism and more about the context.

    @Ves: Yep, this one is final straw for me. I've gone from thinking that XKCD the comic isn't terribly good, but not terribly bad, and thinking that Randall isn't such a bad guy. To thinking XKCD is written by an elitist prick, so I don't feel the need to cut him any slack anymore.

    In any case, Munroe must not think very much of his reader base if he thinks adding "Zing!" is going to make it all okay. I am insulted on their behalf!

  82. all the butthurt anthropology people who whine about that stab, yet completely ignored the primitive, proved him right, sadly.

    Shows a lot about you when you get more angry about a mild joke about your profession than you get about dehumanizing non-europeans.

  83. You know what, I haven't really agreed with this blog completely until now. I'm actually not going to read the comic any more, that was so awful. I really enjoyed his early ones, it's a shame.

  84. I didn't read the comments yet. Heck, I haven't even finished reading the last comic's comment thread! But THIS! This deserves an early comment.

    Because this alt-text completely overshadows a passable comic about "language", and instead makes this the moment Randall evolved from "smug 'real' science major" to "complete asshole".



    CAPTCHA: colytos. Warm smell of colytos raising up through the air.

  85. Does anyone else think this is a great opportunity for Ryan North--someone who writes, you know, a funny (and scientifically broad) webcomic--to call out RM publicly as an offensive, no-talent hack, causing the great webcomic rivalry of our time?

    Too bad Ryan North is way too nice to do anything like that.

  86. @Anon 12:17: all the butthurt anthropology people who whine about that stab, yet completely ignored the primitive, proved him right, sadly.

    Shows a lot about you when you get more angry about a mild joke about your profession than you get about dehumanizing non-europeans.

    I'll bite.

    I don't think we've had one person here claim to be an Anthropology Major here. What we have a problem with has nothing to do with Anthropology specifically, or with his use of "Primative". What we have a problem with is not what the statement says specifically, but what it means. It MEANS that Randall thinks any degree that is not a "Hard Science" is easier, ergo, less valuable. If this was just a jab at Anthropologists we wouldn't be so pissed off. Randall is saying that he believes his Degree is Physics is of more value than anyone else's degree in ANYTHING he doesn't consider a "Hard Science". This goes beyond a jab, you can tell that's how he actually feels. I think it's fair for that to overshadow his comic about non-euro culture. On top of which, The Alt-Text practically SAYS that he just made that comic to piss off Anthropologists. It was less about Dehumanizing Non-Euros and MORE about creating a lead in to his alt-text! It seems natural to be more pissed off at the Point of the whole comic/alt-text culmination, and less at the means he happened to use to get there.

    All this put together reveals Randall as an elitist prick who doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. And yet SOMEHOW he has a huge following of people who think his word is the word of God. And you think that ISN'T something to be pissed off about?

  87. Wait. Wait. Wait wait wait waaaaaaaait!

    I just finished reading this comments thread and found out... He actually ADDED the "zing" afterwards. It wasn't there before. He actually backpedaled on that.

    FUCK! I mean... shit! What! The heck! I have no words for that! AAAAAAAARGH! I'll comment on the art. Because I can never get tired of that.

    Have you noticed -- I ask -- have you noticed how people have no features at all, but mockery of people(ike, say, muppets) have them?

    That's backwards, people! Puppets are supposed to be a simplification of a person, not more detailed than them!

    So, to close my statement...



  88. I preferred it without the "Zing". It was more honest that way.

    Like Anthropology majors haven't heard this one before. Why are you all so angry? This is pretty tame sarcasm. Since when did you give a fuck what Randall Munroe thought of your degree and profession (or thought, period)? Are you really that easy?

    Here's my guess. I think that most of the anger I'm seeing here actually stems from the fact that isn't coming from just anybody, but from Randall. You're angry at his arrogance, and that due to his own lucky circumstances idiots have decided to support and parrot his subtly fucked-up views, putting him in a place of unwarranted public attention.

    As a result, he challenges your identity as someone who is interested in science, math, computers, and various esoteric topics. He's close enough to you that you can relate, but far enough from you that you can feel him pushing outside perceptions of you into a place you don't want it to go. And that really gets to you, and so when Randall is being an impotent and unfunny half-asshole as he is here, you respond with disproportionate rancor -- which, as you know, just makes him the winner. He revels in the negative attention, the knack he has at stirring the pot as a cultural influence and a notable thinker -- you're only giving him more of what you despise him for.

    So why do it? I understand that you may be able to apply this argument to the entirety of xkcdsucks -- and you may -- but I wouldn't like to do that, as I feel that the dissection of Randall's ugliness is an entertaining and educational exercise. But to be actively outraged, to be /stirred/ -- don't let Randall push your buttons. He doesn't deserve what you're giving him: both because he's an insignificant prick, but also because he didn't even say anything all that inflammatory. He wishes he knew how, but he doesn't. Because he's an idiot.

  89. Speaking as a real, honest-to-God linguist, I can assert that yes, some indigenous cultures never developed words for numbers higher than about two or three, the most famous being the Pirahã people. I honestly drew a nearly identical comic on the back of my notes in my Linguistic Typology class, about the world's first Pirahã mathematician, and my professor told me I could start the "xkcd of linguistics," which wasn't intended to be insulting, I think. Stating that these cultures only have a few numerals isn't racist, because it's the truth. Calling them primitive, however, is racist.

    @Anon 4:55AM: Linguistics isn't a subset of anthropology. Linguistics and anthropology are related—but it shares as much relation with cognitive science, literature, history, and mathematics as it does with anthropology. Depends on which subfield you study. A phonologist needs to know a lot more anatomy and physics than anything else, while a historical linguist might need more historical and anthropological knowledge.

  90. "It's a Discworld joke, you idiots."

    It's not. And the discworld joke was different.
    Even if it was, it still wouldn't be funny. Unless you think we only find it unfunny because we don't get the reference, which is a Family Guy fan type defense.

  91. @Pro Mole: Yeah, we know. =( Rob even called it in the post itself, very last line, he asks which is more likely. I placed my bets on Mysterious change of Alt Text myself back at 2:08. Guess I win.

    @Anon 1:11: Much of what you're saying makes a lot of sense, but I don't entirely agree with you. I can only express my own feelings on the matter, but here they are.

    I previously thought that Randall was a pretty cool guy, even if his comic has gone down hill. His Blag was often quite entertaining, occasionally his comic hit a sweet spot, etc. I found that often, this blog was right about his work, but unnaturally hostile towards the person himself. I didn't really understand that. Just because we agree his comic has become sub-par, why do you hate him so much? Is he really such an bad guy to deserve all that hate?

    What pisses me off, is that for a long time, I held on to the notion that Randall was a nice enough guy, who got lucky enough to gather a huge following, and had ended up selling himself out to appeal to a larger audience in order to make money. I can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing in his shoes given the chance. But now, all at once, he's basically proven what a lot of people on this blog have been saying all along. That Randall Munroe is an elitist. He thinks he's better than thousands of people without having any idea whatsoever about their field of expertise. He simply dismisses them and their degree as being less important than him and his degree.

    Suddenly, I can't had wave past some of the offenses of earlier comics. Suddenly, I look at the older comics that are a little bit elitist, and I don't think he's entirely joking anymore, like I used to. In one comic, I've gone from thinking Randall is a good guy who got lucky with his comic, should work a little harder on it, but I'm happy for his success... To thinking he is an undeserving jackass who doesn't deserve the fame he has.

    Sorry if that was kind of long winded.

  92. I'm deeply amused that today's cuddlefish assume we're all anthropology majors.

    Anon 1:11- I think it's more that we've finally lost respect for Randall as a person. It's possible to loathe someone's work while respecting them as a decent person, (and vice versa) after all. Until now his jabs have been at least thinly couched in the "joke" category, but this is basically a snide, blatant backhand to a whole group of people who did nothing to warrant such abuse. Basically he's a bully now. And nobody, NOBODY, likes a bully.

    Captcha: Kablesse. ::sneezes:: Kablesse you!

  93. Xkcd sucks and Randy is an unfunny, talentless hack.


  94. @Ves: I hate it when someone says what I was trying to say better than me, in a small fraction of the words it took for me to say it. =D

  95. I've a BS in Computer Science and I still think Randall's snipe at Anthro majors was lame.

    I had OODLES of free time when I was in school, because CS and Math have always been retarded easy for me. If I had minored in something else, say Anthropology or English Lit, I would spend more time on my studies because I'm not inherently good at those things. Randall can snipe all he want at Anthropology being "easier" than whatever he deems a true science, but unless he has actually analyzed some of the coursework requirements, he has no clue.

  96. I got an engineering degree and had plenty of spare time. In fact I'm at work right now, and have found time to read all this. Funny.

  97. Randall IS the Family Guy of geekdom (or pseudogeekdom), though. Pop culture nods (memes), shock value used to excess (631, may it live forever in shame), using celebrities as springboards for convoluted jokes (basically any scientist or actor Randall currently has a hard-on for and uses in a comic)--all of the same elements are there.

    CAPTCHA: ackshn. One of the many things XKCD lacks.

  98. From the forums:

    "What do you all think, is it more important to be kind or to be funny?"

    Shit, I didn't know you could only pick one. I was under the impression you could do BOTH! At any rate, as has been said before in these comments, there's a difference between a good-natured ribbing, and outright assholery.

    Plus the fact that Randall went back and CHANGED the alt-text, which results in the problems described before, especially from those who aren't online after midnight EST and don't realize that the "Zing" was added later, after the comic had been up for a while.

    captcha: mated - something Randall has never done, and if there is a god, something he will never do.

  99. Rinnon: Proud to have infuriated you then.
    *takes a small bow*

    I think the community outrage on the xkcd forums is the worst it's ever been- far worse than 631's even was. Could this be a turning point? I've got my fingers crossed!

  100. @Ves:

    Come on, man! This is Randall motherfucking Munroe we're talking about here! Do you think he has time to listen to objective criticism, or popular opinion, or both? Hell no. That kind of silliness is for anthropologists. He has only just begun to get his artistic modern Prometheus lurching down the road to go throw little girls into streams.

  101. Gryffilion- I like the Frankenstein reference, but... well, Dr. Frankie's abomination was actually pretty impressive a feat. Childlike doodles backed by middle-school humor three times a week is much less impressive. :/ You shame the good doctor with such a comparison!

    Captcha: Motiones. Goin' through the motiones.

  102. The "good" doctor did a bang-up job of shamin' himself, I'm a-thinkin'

  103. so yeah, guys


    what the fuck

  104. i miss achewood 2004-6
    when the arcs didn't have to be creepy and bizarre

  105. and they had a significantly smaller quantity of ten inch cat dick.

  106. Surely you're not referring to this, R.?

  107. Oh yeah achewood is going twisted lately.

    I hope this arc wraps up soon and we go back to Ray and Beef. I'm not a fan of Nice Pete, and this has been an extremely odd story arc.

    Captcha: comes. Okay, now that is fucking disturbing, considering achewood's current arc.

  108. "Surely you're not referring to this, R.?"

    didn't have to be

  109. I'm just nitpicking, don't mind me.

    My sentiments are with one commenter on the most recent Achewood strip: "Dang, dude. These last few strips have been just...pure disquiet. I have to wonder what someone just going to for the first time would think about the series based on what the front page looks like today. Better get some shit about Philippe's new earmuffs up or something to yin this yang. Been a fan since week one, no lie, but this stuff is harsh. "

  110. Who wrote "Fields of Gold" again?

    Oh wait, I remember! Sting!

    What's the name of that Windows search engine?

    Oh I know! Bing!

    What was the name of the ruling Chinese dynasty from 1368 to 1644?

    Was it...Ming?

    I got a million of 'em. Hail Satan! Zing!

  111. I was an anthropology major (also, biology, which is the field I work in now). "Primitive" is a word that both disciplines frown on.

    Turtles and mosses aren't primitive. The fact that they've been around far longer than humans is a testament to their success. Turtles basically don't senesce (die of old age). Moss spores are so light that they disperse way more easily than "higher" plants. Are humans primitive because they die of old age and can't circle the globe on the wind?

    Randall's knowledge of math and computer programming isn't going to do much to help him surivive in the Amazon. Does that make him primitive?

    On another note, I'd say I probably spent more time doing work for my anthro classes than for bio, but they're pretty close. Far and away the most time consuming class I had was Stage Design in the Theater department. Yeah, fine arts majors are the ones that really have to work.

    I don't think truly smart people take pride in dismissing a field they are unfamiliar with out of hand. Randall doesn't look very smart.

  112. Guys, the Discworld joke is from the same source, but in Discworld it's a slightly different joke.

    (It's one about the nature of people to assume stupidity in 'primitive' cultures. Randall is proving that point quite nicely.)

    The joke is pretty rubbish, too, because it just serves as a reason to use the alt-text.

    Randall's science elitism is the funniest thing once you realise how little he actually knows.

  113. I'm pretty sure Randall's testing his power. If he isn't challenged, it'll get progressively worse until he calls for his minions to go sabotage some literary website. That or he is actually losing his grasp on reality and is slowly descending into a constant state of paranoia? I'd be entertained with either one.

    I had lots of free time for most of University [[Major Economics/Minor Math. Read: Social "Not Real" Science]]. Most of my friends were even Hard Sciences, but they still had time for talking/card games/etc throughout the year. Was Randall just not a really bright student or something?

    Hahaha, look what I found on the internet for a profile pic. Zing!

    Captcha: thway. Show me ThWay, Show me ThWay/ Bring me tonight to the mountain/ And take my confusion away.

    Edit Captha: Porli. XKCD is written Porli.

  114. I'm double majoring in two (two!) REAL sciences and had more free time than most of the humanity majors I know. If Randall didn't have any that just proves he's Really Damn Bad at natural science. Not that we didn't know that from the level of his jokes.

  115. Seems like this comic would have been pretty alright, if a bit overly-simple, just as it stood. I mean I chuckled at it, at least. why in the world was this alt-text shit-storm-seeding dickery required. Really.

  116. "I have a BA in Anthropology, and one thing that was drummed into me over and over was that you don't make value judgments about other cultures ..."

    Well, that's probably because that's obviously a sensible operational procedure when what you're trying to do is dispassionately investigate and compare the similarities and differences of various cultures. That is, engaging in scientific investigation of cultures.

    What isn't at all clear is that the above being true automatically implies that it is a general ethical principle that no one ought to make value judgments about or criticize any culture that isn't their own (or even their own; if the culture I belong to isn't better or worse than any other, then it can't be worse than some hypothetical culture that is about the same, but has some alleged problems fixed). That leads to silly situations like, "we can't say segregation was bad; it was just another culture."

    It's the difference between, "it's sensible for anthropologists to do X, Y and Z for the purpose of their discipline," and, "everyone should act like an on-the-clock anthropologist at all times."

    That doesn't mean that hunter-gatherer societies are worse than typical modern societies (although they probably would be if you care about certain things, like expected life span). But, "nobody can make any value judgments about any cultures," is a bad defense of that.

  117. @Anon 12:17 PM- One thing at a time. Any detailed complaint about the description of a culture as "primitive" would likely derail discussion into an argument with people claiming their stubborn ethnocentrism is actually freethinking rebellion against the much-denounced concept of political correctness that has become entrenched in a class of bleeding heart intellectuals who can't think for themselves. So when Randall pre-empts complaints about his treatment of other cultures in the maligned alt-text, giving anybody jumping to his defence the capacity to say "ha ha, you're so predictable" and then shut their ears up against anything you say, it's easier to focus on discrediting that idiotic defence.

  118. >>Xkcd sucks and Randy is an unfunny, talentless hack.


    Yes, but you actually mean those things you idiot.

  119. erm anon 5.54 clearly he does not mean them

    there was a 'Zing!' at the end

    i mean

    maybe- maybe you're just a little slow

  120. @Ann Apolis

    Who doesn't mean what? I'm pretty sure that the original anonymous commenter does believe that Randall is a unfunny talentless hack, that is basically why we're all here (cuddlefish exempted). Whether Randall actually believes that Anthro majors have too much free time on their hands because they aren't actually studing REAL science is considerably less likely. If you can give strong evidence that he does, however, my bad.

  121. I'd say Randy probably had ONE! TOO! MANY! before doing this comic.

  122. I have a request: could you include each comic's alt-text here when you post on it?
    Between here and xkcdexplained it's almost possible to follow the fun without actually adding to's traffic and swelling its bloated and towering arrogance even a tiny amount. However, in cases like these when the alt-text is important it's still necessary to descend into the belly of the shit. This very indirectly Randall-benefitting loophole should be closed.

  123. Maybe Carl could start having two alt-texts like Dinosaur Comics.

  124. he already does. the alt-text for his img is different to the title text.

    img src="" title="Cue emails from your mom complaining that i haven't had sex with her enough. She gets to write letters like that because you have a lot of free time when you aren't having sex with me." alt="fuck you randy"

  125. @Anon 17:21,

    Nice post. Rob's rant about objectivity seems to be just as applicable to anthropological studies of other cultures. According to my dictionary, the anthropological definition of primitive is: "Of or relating to a nonindustrial, often tribal culture, especially one that is characterized by a low level of economic complexity." I suppose, though, it was a mistake to give a connotation-laden word like "primitive" an objective definition.

    Splitting hairs over the uses of the word aside--if we don't have any sort of framework for talking about other cultures, how are we supposed to talk about them in any sort of scientific or academic sense?

  126. Damn. This alt-text fiasco has not only made me finally admit Randall's a total asshole, but it has made me hate the forumites, who I already hated, MORE.

  127. This comment has been removed by the author.

  128. @Anon 18:03 - Would you be so kind as to provide evidence that he does not feel that way? It seems to me far MORE likely that he does in fact feel that way about non "Real" sciences.

    First off, his choice of phrasing indicates that the entire Alt Text and possibly the entire comic, were building up to the final statement. The final statement itself, is not phrased in a humorous way either. It is not indicative that he was even TRYING to be humorous in his wording.

    Second, the word "Zing!" was added after a LARGE amount of backlash was registered not just here, but on the XKCD forums themselves. This indicates that as an afterthought, he figured he better try harder to make it sound like he was "just kidding". If he truly was "just kidding", I think he would have tried harder in the first place to convey that.

    Third: His prior comics are all very indicative of his considering certain fields (Physics and Math: "Hard Sciences") to be superior. See comic 435: Purity, or 755: Interdisciplinary, as a few examples. Both of which are very indicative of his feelings that Physics is Superior to most other fields.

    Finally: His elitism is further alluded to in previous comics all over the place. Most recently 763: Walkthrough or 732: HDTV as examples. In both cases, he expresses either frustration or smugness due to his "superior" knowledge of technology. You might suggest to me that this is simply him making a joke, and you might be right if there weren't so many clear examples of this.

    Put all this together, and I think it becomes clear. Randall was not "kidding" he was expressing how he felt more clearly here than ever before.

  129. Does anybody know what university Randall went to?

  130. Okay, I actually took the time to google it. He went to Christopher Newport University and got a degree in applied physics with a minor in mathematics and computer science. Now Randy takes pride in the fact he's a physics major. That makes him the purest science, better than the plebians, blah blah blah. Barring the fact he doesn't have a PhD (required to do serious research) and has never shown major physics competence, can he conventionally be called a physicist? I took the time to track down the requirements, and I'd argue no. For reference, the catalogs I'm using are:

    I'm assuming this was the same when he graduated, because I'm a lazy bastard. Anyway, let's start with the physics one for now. He's gotta take 201-202, 303, 341, 351, 401, and 404. He could be taking more physics for his electives, but with two minors this is somewhat unlikely.

    201-303 are basic "general physics" plus labs. From the course descriptions all of them are heavily biased towards engineering methods; fewer physics proofs, more procedures. 340 is a math methods course, 341 is about experiment. 351 is 'modern physics', a standard course most universities have which covers the beginning of quantum physics (up to about the Schrodinger equation). 401 is a computer modeling course, 404 is the first parts of intermediate EM.

    Notice anything missing? Actual quantum physics, for a start. The very basics of modern quantum are offered in 402, but it's doubtful Randall ever took it. He claims he "spent a lot of time learning about quantum mechanics", but there's a good chance he never solved a Hamiltonian or had to normalize a wave equation. I wouldn't be surprised if he learned the uncertainty principle as "you have to bounce light off stuff".

    There's also no significant coverage of special relativity, intermediate mechanics (Lagrangians are godsent), or statistical physics. All of these are considered vital to understanding pure physics. What he's learning seems more like physics for engineers. Useful, important, but not the core of the thing.

    Similar thing's going on with math. To get the minor, he had to learn multivariable calculus, linear algebra, ordinary differential equations, and mostly procedural functions. Randall did not need to and may not have ever taken a proof-based course. This is even worse than the physics, where at least he's learning a little bit of it. If he didn't have any familiarity with proofs, you could make a good argument that he didn't learn capital-M Math. Even if he took "Abstract Algebra" or "Introduction to Proof Writing", he still has no experience whatsoever with mathematical analysis.

    So yeah. He *could* have experience with quantum and proof writing. Emphasis on 'could'. Neither was necessary to get his degrees and there's an extremely strong chance he took classes in neither. Even if he did, Randall has probably forgotten most of it by now. He should (should) make it clear that his degree is APPLIED physics, which is respectable but completely different from pure.

    But he won't. Because he wants his damn prestige, even if it means lying about his coursework. He wants to be known as a physicist, even if he doesn't have any of the knowledge required to be one. He wants to revel in mathematics without actually knowing it. He is, in short, a hack.

    But we already knew that, didn't we?

  131. *cough*stalker*cough*

    oh whumpus we love you really

  132. I'm an anthropologist, and the overt racism irritates me far more than the lamely executed slight on my profession. I'm used to hearing derogatory comments about the social sciences emanate from the mouths of "hard" science wonks, especially those who, like Randall, get out of school after working themselves to death for years and suddenly realize that there isn't a lucrative job waiting for them. They get a little pissy and defensive about their chosen field, and I get that. But that doesn't excuse bashing "primitive" cultures for a joke that isn't even funny to other racists much less anyone else.

  133. Finding out my school had a directory search was the happiest day of my life.

  134. @Anon 6:12
    Dinosaur Comics actually has three alt-texts.

    Wikipedia says he went to Christopher Newport University, which ironically happens to be a liberal arts college. I guess poor Randy couldn't get into a "real" university.

  135. Finding out my college had a directory search was the happiest day of my life

  136. Oh, I see I posted a little late. But dang, I had to do more math than that to become a SOFTWARE engineer, which barely requires math at all!

  137. Whumpus: <3


  138. The actual comic was pretty funny though.

  139. @ Anon 5:54

    >>Yes, but you actually mean those things you idiot.

    Yes, I did mean those things. Let me break this down for you:

    1) Randy made an offensive remark about those majoring in anything aside from "real" sciences. Later, he added the word "zing" as if made his comment less offensive.

    2) Using what is sometime termed "parallelism" I also made an offensive remark, which I also followed with a friendly "zing."

    3) My words remained unflattering, zing or no. In this way, my post serves as an insult toward Randy's comic-crafting skills and emphasized how silly it is to think that zinging makes a statement less offensive.

    ...I'm not sure why this was so hard for you to follow.

  140. @Anon: 10:35 - I'll speak for Anon 5:54 here. He didn't follow, because he, for some reason, doesn't actually think that Randall meant what he said seriously in the alt text. He, therefore, did not think you were creating a parallelism and got confused. He wrote as much as Anon 6:03.

  141. Whumpus:
    Excellent thrashing. Now we know that while Randall is an elitist, he's also a minimalist. Wait a sec, he draws 3 stick figure comics a week. Well, at least now we know that he's the same now as he was back then.

    Everyone else:
    ... What the hell? Zing? Is that the BEST coverup he could do? This is shameful. This is him making a statement using the guise of humour. Humour is sometimes best used as a way of saying something you're afraid to say. Every joke has within it a kernel of truth; except this one has the whole damn cob.

    In short, this is Randall:
    "Black people are stupid. Zing!"

    Ugh. He disgusts me.

  142. @whumpus
    Webdog, is that you?

    Seriously though, I think this is xkcd's version of Loss from CAD. We all knew CAD was not great to begin with, but Tim with his robust, oversized ego decided to give "serious drama" a go with a miscarriage and then made it worse by making a blog post that went on too damn long and in some ways just dug a hole for him to fall into and never come out of (what with his whole spiel about miscarriage in the past, him having to defend his timeline for whatever reason... the list goes on). I mean, let's face it folks, we've had people on this blog come out and say that this is it, this is the turning point for them, they have gone from being our sane debate opponents (this is how I always felt about people I debated in High School and Jr. High, you just were serious and didn't make it personal) to becoming "one of us" because Randall decided that it was time to go from making a simple potshot to doing head-on, full-frontal attacks.

    Well, that's how it feels to me, I mean sure he always pokes fun at us Liberal-Arts Majors because we aren't smart enough to comprehend hard science, blah blah blah, but we just kind of shake it off as that someone shooting shit, so we shoot shit back at them. Yet this time he has turned around and basically said "all right, now it's personal, I hate you, go fuck yourself" and we are replying with "what the... all right, if that's how you feel, fine. Fuck you too".

    Also, despite it probably not having as much an effect on me as doing more Anthro courses (or, you know, minoring or majoring in it) I took a course that was called Race and Racism and I tell you that course seems to have been the perfect course to have taken because of this here comic :)

    also, this comic was so bad that it made me stop lurking, hi everyone, it's been a few strips

  143. yeah, the alt text reads basically like someone who is really trying to be as insulting as possible. it's one of those things that you say when you're trying to burn bridges. it's not actually insulting, of course, but the way it's phrased makes it sound pretty much like he's mostly just trying to piss people off. you could always take the other comics as being at least a little light-hearted, however condescending and smug they were. and they were always directed at science people. this one is directed at anthropology people. "hey, I think you suck," it is saying.

    still not entirely sure what he's hoping the "zing!" will accomplish. it's sort of like saying "BURN"--it's a word which exists to say "YOU JUST GOT INSULTED." it can be used ironically, sure, but mostly only when the insult is intentionally terrible. this one it just makes him look like he seriously thinks that he's just said something incisive.

  144. Yes, cos thats how you can tell a real scientist- they spend their time sneering at other peoples' science.
    After all the world really is divided up into the tiny little areas that each individual human can manage rather than being one big integrated consilient whole that it is our collective task to understand.
    Ah ah ah.

  145. I know that this is obvious, but...

    The fact that Randall sucks at writing, drawing, and, well, *art*... sort of shows that he doesn't have a leg to stand on in terms of criticizing humanities types.

    He's no different from a weatherman attempting to debunk climate science.

  146. right now I am watching an episode of Mythbusters which is about all the myths that they got scads of emails from angry nerds for getting it wrong.

  147. re: Primitive
    In Out of the Silent Planet, toward the end, C.S.Lewis has the main character translating to a "primitive" society why the another character believes he is justified in killing and conquering their people. The claim basically runs that his society is more advanced, which the translator can only render as basically, "We can quickly move great loads long distances, therefore we are better than you." In other books, he suggests that a society may have been "primitive" in terms of technology but great in aspects that don't always leave behind artifacts, like song or dance.

    re: Alt-text
    To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was just a joke that went too far. Given that many of the jokes could be better if only he'd take the time to edit them, he probably just put it out there without giving it the second look it needed. Gary Larson showed some examples of the comics that "went too far", some he pulled, some his editor pulled, and some probably went too far to even show. Granted, there were better responses than trying to fix it with a "zing", but he may have just been innocently trying to appeal to his target audience.

    re: Cuddlefish
    Does anyone remember when it was simply a synonym for "anonymous"?

  148. I still use it to mean "anonymous" sometimes. it has a few distinct definitions by now:

    1) a member of the commenting community of XKCD sucks, esp. an anonymous commenter of the same community or a one-time commenter.
    2) (usually pejorative) a commenter who posts criticizing the blog.

    mostly it refers to anonymous and non-regulars; usually a recognized name isn't a cuddlefish, but it's not unheard of. the pejorative sense came from the fact that the anonymous commenters tend to be more negative, and that the anonymous commenters who are posting negative comments tend to be a lot easier to ignore, since they seldom return, and their lack of a name means their opinion holds no weight with the community.

    I don't remember the context anymore but I recently called someone who was posting in favor of the blog a cuddlefish on the IRC channel.

  149. Wow, I always thought Randall was an unfunny dick and (weirdly) a closet misogynist, but I never suspected that he was a racist.

    But at least it's a sophisticated form of racism, based on notions of the "primitive" and language, rather than biology or some such nonsense. So, ironically, Randall is more allied with the humanities in this than he thinks. Granted, the humanities of the 1830s, but the humanities nonetheless.

  150. And, before someone starts, it's one thing to judge "primitive" cultures over things like gender equality or infanticide or human sacrifice or what have you, and it's quite another to judge linguistic patterns of some African tribes and use those notions of inferiority as the basis of a joke.

  151. Yeah because my entire massive quivering jelly filled body was burning with the need to say "so is it racist to call predominately muslim middle eastern societies on their bigotry, violence, and oppression?" because I am too dumb to tell that is different.

  152. This comment has been removed by the author.

  153. Perhaps I'm being my usual thick-headed self, but I fail to see how this in any wise proves that Randall is a racist. He's a pretentious, jerky, jerkface with delusions of adequacy, sure, but racist? Simply because he used the word "primitive?" How does that follow?

  154. @Gryffilion: I'm pretty sure he doesn't eat children, either but that's not gonna stop us making the accusation -- what are we, scientists? Last I checked my field isn't a "Real Science" and therefor doesn't require these petty "Facts" and "Proof" things.

    Randall eats children, as suggested by some of his earlier comics. Zing!

  155. randall is a fucking hypocrite, he mocks liberal arts because "THEYRE NOT DOING ANYTHING IMPORTANT THEY SUCK LOL!1!" when he is the one not doing anything for the advancement of mankind, in fact he is impeding it with his stupid as fuck comics. Is there any way for someone to revoke his degree from whatever college he graduated from where apparently they let dumb fucks in?

  156. Ok, that's it.
    I used to enjoy xkcd, and for long I've been waiting for it to go back to its former self.
    For too long I've been putting up with Randall's juvenile pedantery.
    Not anymore.
    I'm officially done with xkcd.
    From this day on, Randall won't get a single pageview from me.

    PS: I'm not a native speaker, so feel free to correct any and all grammar mistakes.

  157. Cue letters from geography majors complaining that this view of polar placement perpetuates a widespread myth. They get to write letters like that because when you're not getting a real science degree you have a lot of free time. Excelsior!

  158. as someone who has actually tried to defend xkcd in other parts of this blog, I say:

    randall can go fuck himself, this comic's beyond saving.

  159. @Cam: Nah, just a guy with google and too much free time. I have free time because I'm not majoring in the social sciences. Zing!

    captcha: grump. What I am. Right now.

  160. All right, I'm officially coming around to Randall's side. This whole "we can't say what we all know to be true because it might offend these totally not-primitive, same-as-us cultures" PC garbage is exactly why anthropology has a reputation as something less than a real science.

    Way to go, guys.

  161. So the only defenders XKCD has left at this point are racists. Will this have any impact on his the comic's content?

  162. @anon 11:51:

    No one really cares, dude.

  163. I do not see how this comic is racist at all.
    What the hell are you guys griping about seriously.

    Why would you assume that by "primitive cultures" he means anything other than prehistoric cavemen just starting to use numerical systems?

    Which is probably not an accurate depiction but that is even admitted in the shitty alt-text. Boo hoo Randall is racist against cavemen.

  164. The earliest place I encountered the counting system "one, two, many" was in Watership Down (published 1972), an excellent book and well worth reading.

    However, as a source on primitive cultures it has weaknesses. First, it is fiction; second, it is about rabbits.

  165. "All right, I'm officially coming around to Randall's side. This whole "we can't say what we all know to be true because it might offend these totally not-primitive, same-as-us cultures" PC garbage is exactly why anthropology has a reputation as something less than a real science."

    No, its not called PC its called not being an ignorant, arrogant prick.

  166. Carl you lazy fuck what are you even DOING that you can't even take 20 minutes to crank out some angry rant about this shit?

    Or post the shit people email you?

  167. I don't know why I keep responding to Cuddlefish, you never come back and respond to what I say, probably don't even read it. But here I go anyways.

    Anon11:51 - All right, I'm officially coming around to Randall's side. This whole "we can't say what we all know to be true because it might offend these totally not-primitive, same-as-us cultures" PC garbage is exactly why anthropology has a reputation as something less than a real science.

    You're not using Politically Correct (PC) correctly here. There is a difference between saying something offensive, and saying something insulting. PC really means saying something that would be offensive normally and dressing it up to make it sound less offensive. I completely agree with you that that is bullshit. If you've got something to say, say it. "No one has the right not to be offended." But Randall wasn't just saying something offensive, he was being insulting. Example time:

    For the sake of this example, let us assume that Rob is in fact very fat, as his blog post today suggests may be the case. If I was being Politically Correct, I might refer to Rob as "A little overweight" or "Big Boned" or "he's a large fellow". These aren't really offensive, because I'm trying to be PC. If I said though "Rob's pretty fat. Way to heavy for his own good, he really should get more exercise." That might be offensive to him, but it's not insulting, It is a statement which is true. Now if I was to call Rob a Stupid Retard, that would be an insult, because it's not based on any factual points (arguably =P).

    What Randall said wasn't just offensive, it was insulting, and just plain wrong. If what he was saying was a true inarguable fact, and he was pointing it out in an offensive way, we wouldn't really care too much.

  168. Anon 12:41 - Because primitive assumes all sorts of meanings. I wouldn't know exactly what is really wrong, at worst it's probably a slip where he meant to say "Early Cultures," or something. The big problem really isn't that, it's the alt text which is plain insulting.

    Captcha: Winnon:
    When Rinnon wins an argument.

  169. @ Anon 12:41

    "Why would you assume that by "primitive cultures" he means anything other than prehistoric cavemen just starting to use numerical systems?"

    And that's exactly why this is racist - the idea that a simplified counting system could only be used by a bunch of "prehistoric cavemen." That's the joke: that a society that had a "one/two/more" system would only be primitive savages, and thus would never have a television show, natch.

  170. Except it's actually the idea that maybe "prehistoric cavemen" would have a simplified counting system.

  171. I honestly don't see the racism challenge here. Associating 'undeveloped' numerical systems with 'primitives' may be bigoted, yeah, but not racist. Unless he's subtly referring to a pre-existing group of non-white culture that has a similar counting system?

    It struck me as more stupid than anything, tbh.

  172. thanks to the idiocy of American politics, we've come to assume that 'race' refers to 'skin color' when it actually refers to a shared cultural origin.

  173. "Race" means "subspecies", nothing more, nothing less. In the 1800's people thought that white people, black people, asians, and native americans were all different subspecies. Anyone who says there's more than one extant race of humans is either relying on nearly 200-year-old biology or is using the word wrong.

  174. I guess the dictionary is wrong then?

  175. @Rob,

    Point of clarification--is using the word "primitive" to refer to a culture de facto racism?

  176. doesn't bother me personally.

  177. But Rob you're white as newfallen snow, why does whether or not you're offended matter?

  178. Hey, muppets have suffered centuries of oppression. I think Rob knows what it's like to be discriminated against.

  179. This is how you insult an academic field with a web-comic. Yep, I sure loves to refer to John Campbell, but this is a good counterexample of why Randall's tooltip makes him a douche. Zing.

  180. @Ves: I'm inclined to agree with you. I think calling him racist, while entertaining, is actually bit much. I think his use of the word "Primitive" doesn't actually show him to be a racist. It's more that he doesn't understand that a culture is not defined by their numbering systems. A more sophisticated numbering system does not make a culture better or worse, just different.

    @Rob: Dictionary: A large collection of opinions sorted in Alphabetical order.

    In all seriousness though, I know what Anon is trying to say. He's saying that the the use of the word "Race" suggests that we are more different than we really are. There is more difference between a Golden Retriever and a Jack Russel (Genetically) than there is between a White man and a Black man. I think he's trying to say that to categorize humans as different races is wrong, because White, Black, Asian, etc. are not in fact different enough to be considered "Sub-Species".

  181. That would be a good point, but 3:04 is still dumb for thinking that definitions never change and that most major dictionaries and the vast majority of the English-speaking world are somehow using a word wrong.

  182. "Randall" more like "Klandall".


  183. yeah, the word "race" has long stopped meaning "subspecies." it's mostly about a cultural background, though america has broken it so people think that 'white' is a race (hint: it's not).

  184. Yeah what idiots think pure-blooded Aryans and swarthy Papists are of the same stock?

  185. "That's the joke: that a society that had a "one/two/more" system would only be primitive savages"

    No it isn't. That is merely a background assumption, and why he used the word "primitive." He thinks "primitive" is the (an) appropriate adjective for describing a culture that has a "one/two/many" counting system, but that is not a joke.

    The joke is that if you had a "one/two/many" counting system, the Count character on sesame street would be absurd. This isn't a good joke, but it isn't inherently racist; one could change the caption to say, "Cultures with a one/two/many counting system invent Sesame Street." It would be the same crappy joke, but it wouldn't have the word "primitive" which is all people really have to point to in their accusations of racism.

    I'm not sure there's any actual evidence for the accusation that he thinks a "one/two/many" counting system makes all members of the culture savages, either. Most likely he simply isn't aware that "primitive" is a dirty word to anthropologists, and thinks it's it's the right word for a society that doesn't have anything resembling industry, or science, or anything else that would lead you to invent numbers. And he's probably in that situation because he doesn't give two shits about anthropology (not that I do, either, but I don't go around telling anthropologists they're worthless assholes).

  186. Anon 9:28 - There were a few corrections needed to your post. I've amended it accordingly.

    Ok, that's fucking it.
    I used to fucking enjoy xkcd, and for fucking long I've been fucking waiting for it to fucking go back to its fucking former self.
    For too fucking long I've been fucking putting up with fucking Randall's juvenile fucking pedantery.
    Not any fucking more.
    I'm officially fucking done with fucking xkc fucking d.
    From this day on, fucking Randall won't fucking get a fucking single fucking pageview from me.

  187. irt. Rinnon 1:57

    That was an interesting distinction between offensive and insulting but I don't think that's what the Anonymous you were responding to was talking about.

    Anonymous claimed that avoiding the use of the word "primitive" (in the comic) is ridiculous PC prudery.

    Your post, I think, applies more to the alt-text and its take on anthropology. (About which Randall doesn't care enough to know that value judgements and "primitive" are no-nos).

    There was an anonymous reply that explained well why "primitive" and synonyms are no-nos in anthropology and biology (which even Randall and Anonymous here must admit is a science). You don't make value judgements because you strive for objectivity, and especially avoid things like primitive because cultures don't follow the same path, and there's no such thing as a common destination anyway.

    PS: about your evidence that Randall meant what he said and it was for sure no attempt at a joke-

    it's a pretty airtight case. The only thing that still gives me hope is the hypocrisy of the alleged joke.

    I mean surely everyone, even Randall, can see how untrue and reversible it is. Surely no mere mortal can be that deluded?

    Hope dies last.

    (Stupidity is immortal.)

    irt Rob, about "race" and its meaning:

    Some people commenting here are from outside of the US, and may come with a different understanding of the term "race" because of their own linguistic background.

    Where I'm from the "shared cultural origin" meaning is present, but so very rarely used as to be negligible. There are different words for that.

    When people speak about "race" they most often mean it about things like the Asian/Black/White groups. The relevant dictionary definition goes something like "each of the biological groups of [human] populations, characterized by colour of hair, skin and other external traits".

    So if you discriminate against some cultural group you're a xenophobe, but unless that group is of a different skin tone you're not yet a racist.

  188. Oh come on really I just think "primitive cultures" just came to his head as a term to describe a group that might have such a numbering system. I wouldn't come close to calling that racist, just, I dunno, a slightly stupid way to express a sentiment. Really I would consider it nothing but a writing flaw before I'd go making accusations of racism.

    And as all of that is what I would do, I, um, I guess that's also what I AM doing?

    CAPTCHA: Mista. Mista Munroe, wat you got against soft science majas?

  189. I really don't think the comic was racist. Maybe primitive wasn't the best word, but it got the point across and primitive certainly isn't always pejorative.

  190. So... when I saw "primitive cultures" I thought he meant very ancient cultures, like cave men. Why do people think he means modern cultures?

  191. @2:19
    Because there are documented instances of modern cultures using number systems as described in the comic. Talk about not getting (the lame attempt at) the joke.

  192. @Bland: Upon further proof reading, I suspect that you are right. I may have been unintentionally talking about the Alt Text at the time, rather than the comic. I'm not sure why I started doing that, when Anon was clearly talking about the Comic itself and the use of the word Primitive. Though I do stand by my opinion that Primitive is insulting to any modern culture who uses the number system described in the comic.

    I'm going to use a real world example here too. Japanese lacks certain distinctions in the language. There isn't a great way of referring to someone when you are making a statement, besides saying their name. There are ways of making a statement about yourself, but not a good way of making it about another. This means that when someone says "You dropped your pencil!" it actually would be directly translated to "Dropped the pencil!" This can lead to confusion. "You look tired" would come out to "Looks tired." It's possible you may not even know your friend was talking about you.

    This example really isn't too far off from a language not containing each and every number. The culture may not feel it is needed. So I stand by my statement that it was the incorrect word, and is insulting.

    I agree with Scott though, I think it was just the first word that popped into his head. It doesn't bother me that much that he used the word, I just think it's not correct, and is a bit insulting.

  193. Dude(s), I've got to say... you have a whole blog here, very regularly updated, in which you criticise a sometimes-funny web comic, in an either humourless or not funny way. Having accidentally found my way here, I've just got to take a minute or so to ask you and any regular readers- or more accurately, encourage you to ask yourselves... why? Is there nothing better to do with your time?

    (Of course, a comment like this is kind of hypocritical. But you know what? I'm not going to regularly blog about how pointless this site is)

  194. Anon 4:32 You might want to check out Rob's Rants, at the top left, #4: Don't You Have Anything Better To Do With Your Time? should answer your question.

    Thinking about it, I actually think Randall was going for a joke and missed by a mile, in that he cues letters criticizing him perpetuating a stereotype, then perpetuates a stereotype. He's just really, really bad at both humour and not looking like an elitist douchebag in general.