Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic 771: History Repeats Itself

Period blah bluh whatevr
[Alt: The same people who spend their weekends at the Blogger Reenactment Festivals will whine about the anachronisms in historical movies, but no one else will care.]


In the future, people will not have a good sense of how history happened:



Blagojavichfaire

---------------
OK, I've let my copy and pasted comics speak for themselves for a day, I suppose I should write a few words.

There are two basic facts about this current comic that bother me. The obvious one, which the other comics here are meant to illustrate, is that this idea is dumb and old. I find it incredibly similar to the PBF quoted above - particularly because the scene is presented as future-theatrical representation of life happening in our era. Both present things from all different parts of history as though they happened at once. Of course, it's telling that PBF was able to do so without explanation, while xkcd needed a caption to explain what the hell what going on. But that's a separate matter.

And of course, the whole "blogger reenactment fair" thing is a straight out repeat of the other xkcd above. The whole concept of people in the future misunderstanding what is now the present is copied exactly as well.

The other problem is that the comic is simply not true. The comic is not really about the future, of course, it's about the present, and saying that this made up thing in the future seems silly but the humor of the comic is supposed to come from the fact that we are doing the same thing today (after all, a comic that just said "a few centuries from now, politicians will wear funny hats while covering themselves in honey and eating rocks" is just random, and not funny. you can make up anything about the future!). So is it true? Does all language older than say, 100 years, sound the same to us? I'm not sure. I don't know a lot about language. Someone who does, though, is commenter A, who wrote the following comment below (hope you are ok with me posting this A!)

But the English people used in say, the 1700s sounds completely different to the English used in the 1800s. Comparing even the early and late 1800s you can see the difference, it's like, the difference between an Austen novel and Dracula.

Then again, I'm just an English literature student, and that's no hard science so what do I know.
This point is great. Yes, English from the 18th century and English from the 16th century might sound similar to someone like Randall Munroe, who has never studied it (or, for that matter, me). To someone who has, 16th century language and 18th century language are as different at 18th century and 20th century.

To put it in terms xkcd might understand, show the average dude a calculus proof and a physics proof and they'll look the same. Here, try it yourself: i got this one googling "calculus proof" and this one for "physics proof" and see if you can tell the difference. Here's something wikipedia tells me is calculus, and something wikipedia tells me is physics. For the record, I can't tell the difference at all, which means that I may be wrong and these are both the same thing. So who knows. The point is: If you don't know what you are looking at, it's not going to be meaningful.
(update: The original links I posted were, in fact, not very good examples, as pointed out by a commenter. hopefully the new ones are better.)

Which would all be well and good if Randall Munroe didn't have a history of mocking the non-math based disciplines. Come on! You can't on the one hand dismiss these fields as dumb and not worthwhile, and on the other hand laugh about how little anyone understands the differences in language over time. Maybe those fields of study aren't so stupid, huh?

No, he won't admit that. He'll keep having it both ways, and the people who hate English or Literature will keep siding with him and thinking it's hilarious and the people who think that hey, maybe things you don't like are still worth studying by some people. You don't have tpo even study them yourself! You just have to stop denigrating the people who choose to study what they love. Is that so hard? It really shouldn't be. And yet, somehow, it is. I hate it.

178 comments:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3dhSnEtdWw is another case of this.

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  2. ... Did Randy just reference his own redundancy in his alt-text?

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  3. i don't care if it's a repeat, it's still funny to me. the first funny comic in months

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  4. And the futurama episode about the moon. ("We're whalers on the moon")

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  5. Language! An actual comic about language!

    Some of us were afraid he'd forgotten.

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  6. For a moment I thought I would have to comment about this one on 770's post. This one made me smile, but I didn't laugh at it.

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  7. Also, when I first saw the title (it took a bit for the image to show up) I groaned because I thought it had to deal with a bitchy woman on her period. Thank god it wasn't.

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  8. pbf is the best, why have you forsaken me???

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  9. Wow.

    That really is exactly the same comic done again.

    What an idiot.

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  10. This is not a redo of 239. Well, maybe a little, but it's different enough. If anything, its reference to 239 in the alt-text is some rare internal consistency and an example of callbacks that are more frequent in good comics (Achewood).

    It's not hilarious, but much better than some of his most recent Mountain Dew fueled abortions.

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  11. Hurr, linguists are just a bunch of ren-faire enthusiats and no one cares about them derp derp derp.

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  12. I really, really despise the word 'grok'. I hate every aspect of it. It's a made up word by a science fiction writer that means something that doesn't exist, and is wrongly used by people with Asperger's on the internet as a synonym for 'understand'. The only reason they use 'grok' is because they are basically waiting for someone to ask what it means, so they can act all casual and mock surprised about the fact that someone doesn't know what it means, and so they can assert their intelligence by explaining. It also looks horrible and is an abortion to pronounce. It's the worst word anyone has ever conceived, and while I can hardly hate Heinlein for coming up with it, I hate the people who latched on to it.

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  13. Fred, I'm sensing that there is some history here. I think that you should let go of your anger with these people who have wronged you remember that you are on the internet. This means that instead of holding on to the past, you should move on and begin hurting many other people as they once hurt you.

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  14. I laughed hard at this one. I don't CARE if it's not a wholly original joke. I thought it was pretty darn funny.

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  15. Oh, there is no past history with Grok or aspies on the internet for me. But I do enjoy the idea of hurting as many people as possible.

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  16. And I'm going to start with the ones who use the word grok. Look out, John Muir. If you are still alive.

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  17. I've really only seen the word "grok" used in Stranger in a Strange Land and xkcd. That's enough to make me opposed to any further use.

    My first thought on this comic, even by the time I read the caption, was "Hurr, yes, future people will have an inaccurate image of the past." Much like people in the future will not give a shit about historical inaccuracy, I cannot give a shit about hypothetical historical inaccuracy that is yet to come.

    Intrinsically, it's a nice enough observation, because it's of course just enough of a shocking twist to bring home the point that right now all the English from between 40 and 400 years ago sounds interchangeably oldey-timey. Adam Roberts makes the point better than I could. And far better than Randall actually did.

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  18. @Fred:
    "Grok" is actually well-established jargon in software development and computer science academia. It's often helpful to distinguish between "grok" and merely "understand" when you're talking about sections of code.

    Someone who really groks baseball can instantly tell you how a hit-and-run is different from a straight steal and in what game situations each one would be appropriate. Someone who merely understands the game can watch it on TV without getting lost, but they might miss a lot of the finer points.

    Oops, I just used baseball jargon. Please, someone ask me, so I can act all casual and mock surprised that you don't know what it means. Isn't it a shame that everyone who plays baseball has latched onto those terms? I mean hit-and-run sounds like a car accident, for goodness' sake!

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  19. Actually, it's well-established jargon in software development and computer science academia because those are fields predominantly populated by those same aspies that I was talking about earlier.

    Also, somebody who really understands baseball can also tell you how a hit-and-run is different from a straight steal and in what game situations each one would be appropriate. This may be surprising to you because you didn't realize that grok doesn't simply mean "Understand really well". This is probably because you are more retarded than you thought you were.

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  20. It's annoying because half the point of the term "grok" in SfaSL was that it was a concept that humans didn't really have, and so of course it's a bit bothersome to see the term reduced to "understand really well."

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  21. Seems like you're more upset that I used the word incorrectly than that I used it in the first place. In that case, my work here is done.

    PS. "Ice" is a really ugly word. We all know it's just really, really cold water.

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  22. I really, really despise the word 'grok'. I hate every aspect of it. It's a made up word by a science fiction writer that means something that doesn't exist blah blah blah

    people with Asperger's on the internet

    so they can assert their intelligence by explaining

    probably because you are more retarded than you thought you were

    Are you doing this on purpose?

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  23. burn all autistics

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  24. Seems like you're more upset that I used the word incorrectly than that I used it in the first place. In that case, my work here is done.

    If you reach that conclusion then you are truly more retarded than I had at first imagined. And I can imagine quite a bit.

    PS. "Ice" is a really ugly word. We all know it's just really, really cold water.

    Breathtakingly retarded.

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  25. At first I thought this comic sucked because there was no reasonable way that could happen.

    Then I thought this comic sucked because I read this post, and saw that it was horribly clichéd, but I also stopped thinking the first reason.

    Then I thought this comic was actually pretty good, because it's a direct parody of how we often get previous vernacular dead-wrong and mixed up too.


    Then I got horribly angry over this comic when I realised that, wait, no we didn't, and Randall was trying to make it look like a false stereotype was actually true again!

    I really wish he'd stop doing that.


    ....on second thought, I may have come to conclusions a bit too much there.


    The alt-text is REALLY annoying though. It's another one of those "Nerds regularly point out flaws that nobody cares about" things. About 30% of the comics have that as a subject or alt-text, and it's REALLY! FLIPPING! ANNOYING!

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  26. Whats the difference between XKCD and XKCDsucks?

    One is a tedious little blog with a forum full of idiots trying to one-up each other and mocking a subculture that they feel excluded from. And the other is...

    Actually, nvm.

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  27. Aw, don't knock the grok. Randall might have thrown it in as shameless goomhba-bait here, but it is a handy word.

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  28. I like the idea of "how will people in the future misinterpret our present?" but the thing is ... (more to do with 239)

    - inaccurate RenFaire female costumes tend to be reasonable approximations but distilled down to the basics, with modern materials, aesthetics, and methods; men tend to wear either accurate costumes or kilts (which are ~17th century)
    - costumes from movies, when they're wrong, are usually only about ten years out of date or have a modern look

    A future period re-enactor would probably wear something we would recognize, like a t-shirt and jeans, but with some kind of futuristic spin that he might not realize he'd put on it because it seemed normal to him. And his shoes would probably be approximations of sneakers.

    But onto language - I still think he's wrong. If you listen to dialogue written for a period movie/play that wasn't written by a period author, it's not full of slang. It's just formal English. It'd be a much better joke if the play had been about bloggers and hackers, and they were speaking like Mr. Darcy. Maybe he's trying to say that we don't do this yet but we will, in which case ... I just don't see why he thinks that.

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  29. @ Plasma - And it's made even more obnoxious by the fact that he's decided that historical re-enactor nerds aren't the cool kind of nerd, so they "whine".

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  30. But the English people used in say, the 1700s sounds completely different to the English used in the 1800s. Comparing even the early and late 1800s you can see the difference, it's like, the difference between an Austen novel and Dracula.

    Then again, I'm just an English literature student, and that's no hard science so what do I know.

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  31. But it's still a solid type of English. It's not a collection of bits and pieces from all over - street cant from 1800 mixed with weird Shakespearean puns and 1920s slang. It would be recognizable and understandable to people from the 16th century to today, even if they thought the words were pronounced oddly or were strung together without enough ornamentation. (Although you can't entirely take literature as proof for the way people were speaking - until fairly recently written and spoken English were two different things, so, yeah.)

    Hey, I'm only a soft sciences person, that's not even REAL SCIENCE.

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  32. Wow, Randall really doesn't have a shred of self-awareness at all, does he?

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  33. I dunno, 12:24, inasmuch as "retarded" is an appropriate word to use in any circumstance I'd say it makes just as much sense to use it to refer to somebody with autism as it does to refer to somebody with, say, Down syndrome.

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  34. "But it's still a solid type of English."

    This was supposed to be "But the English of period movies is still a solid type of English."

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  35. Venn diagram SMBC: superlame. Zach Weiner is quickly becoming the new Munroe.

    Also he keeps drawing himself as naked, which is supercreepy.

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  36. I'd like to add a couple of more comics to the "this has already been done guys" pile, except unlike the other ones, it also extends to language. Check out these Aaron Diazes, from the futuristic era of 2007:

    http://dresdencodak.com/2007/05/22/for-lack-of-a-better-term/
    http://dresdencodak.com/2007/07/30/she-is-the-very-model-of-a-singularitarian/

    And from these very comics, Dresden Codak started "Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEtVGsV2EcQ

    Basically if Randall came up with this idea independently, he's the last person on the planet to do so.

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  37. Just to check: "grok" means the same as "bellyfeel", right?

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  38. It's a kind of truthiness.

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  39. @6:25
    Didn't know this was also smbcsucks.

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  40. Why shouldn't it be, @7:52? If they both suck, but this blog is pushing the overrated SMBC as better than XKCD, we should mercilessly abuse both.

    Either way - today's XKCD actually made me smile - having seen a version of Shakespeare in Modern Dress (where they screwed with the dialogue too)... this is about what it is. It's a strong and unfortunate trend. But it is funny to extrapolate.

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  41. I just like how Randall thinks that, despite being better-documented and better-analyzed than four hundred years ago, that our language and our customs will be MORE cluttered and incomprehensible to people in a few hundred years.

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  42. A possible legitimate use of 'grok': 'understand such that it changes the way your mind works.'

    No matter how much you know about the rules of baseball, then, you would not have 'grokked' it until you were (to some degree) seeing life through a lens of baseball.

    Added bonus: grokking in this sense is not unambiguously positive.

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  43. SMBC updates daily and with [if not complicated] colour. For the past 7 years or so he's only missed about 3 updates because he was getting married... so until that changes we're all just sorta grudgingly giving him the benefit of doubt. Quantity > Quality? Well, XKCD has neither so we are here to bitch.

    Whether it's already been done or not, Randall had a good idea here and just executed it poorly. Re-ordered or if he'd just learn how to write a succinct caption I'd probably have laughed.

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  44. lol @ Fred.

    You're not Rob, no matter how much you want to be.

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  45. SMBC is better than xkcd, but nobody here is saying that it's flawless, so I have no idea why 6:25/8:15 is bothering to bring it up. It's certainly not on the same level of bad as xkcd, and Zach Weiner doesn't seem to completely lack self-awareness like Randall does. And that's kind of why I'm not fazed when Zach draws himself nude, whereas if Randall were to draw himself nude, I might be a little weirded out.

    And the most recent SMBC? It's not bad. It's obvious pandering to math nerds, but that's the joke, and it seems like it's making fun of the typical xkcd kind of humor, which I'm on board with!

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  46. Wait I thought Fred was Rob's sockpuppet account.

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  47. Anona @ 8:33 - this, exactly.

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  48. This.

    This. This.

    This this. This.

    This this this.

    This!! THIS!!!!!!!!!!1

    this...

    this is very annoying.

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  49. On a completely unrelated note, has anyone else noticed that SMBC is starting to suck just as hard as xkcd for the exact same reasons?

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  50. Wait, wow. I wanted to say that after reading the new SMBC comic today and didn't even realize people made the same comments. Dammit, I used to like SMBC!

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  51. Everyone look at XKCD Explained...on this comic they drew a ... line coming from the stick guy's crotch.

    Why?

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  52. they just do that sometimes

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  53. I hope Fred IS Rob. That would mean he hasn't actually stopped being an asshole, he's just modularizing his behavior.

    If that's not the case: Rob, why are so nice lately? It's making it difficult for me to hate you.

    Rob you suck. Zing! Hah, I still got it.

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  54. XKCD explained was dealing with a period where they, like we, were struggling to find something entertaining in deconstructing comics that weren't terrible, but rather just were terribly unentertaining and barely worth mentioning.

    I also think they're mocking how easy it is to deface an XKCD and have people wonder if it's legitimate or not.

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  55. I'm not Rob. I'm my own asshole.

    Also the word grok still sucks. And that one anon (or many of them, who even knows what they are) is still an idiot for lacking even the most basic reading comprehension skills.

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  56. @ Ann Apolis:

    While "bellyfeel" does mean a very deep and powerful belief grasped beyond the mere conscious level, I think its Orwellian connotations of blind, unthinking belief conflict a bit with the whole grok idea. For example, I picture Rush Limbaugh bellyfeeling practically everything, but still grokking nothing.

    But bonus points for bringing up a Newspeak word far less common than doublethink or doubleplusungood.

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  57. The best added wang is the one in the sunset strip. The colored one.

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  58. @9:21

    "whereas if Randall were to draw himself nude, I might be a little weirded out."

    Um. How would you tell?

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  59. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  60. I'd also like to point out, Re: 771, that this is officially the smallest proscenium stage I've ever seen. The Theater Historian in me feels like I'm being mocked, somehow. (Reposted due to spelling errors.)

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  61. I just wanted to take this moment to say

    QC fucking sucks

    had to get that off the top of my chest

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  62. I really think this is xkcd tailoring to the high school students. At least, I thought similarly when in highschool.

    Example scenario...

    Two people would be talking about how hard Shakespeare is to read, how nobody could talk like this, it doesn't make sense, etc. Then some smarty pants high schooler, the sort that would read xkcd, may assert how the language we speak will seem ridiculous in 400 years. Like the phrase, "what's up?" will be impossible to understand in 400 years. What is up, there's a lot that is up, "nothing much" is a horrible answer!

    har har har'ity ensues.

    So to me he's not so much making an original, good joke as he's just offering a mediocre joke that, if thought of by other people beforehand, will seem very good. Or at least that's my opinion.

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  63. Ex-ambivalent: mainly I was setting someone up to say "how ORWELLIAN".

    I'm... I'm not proud

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  64. But the language Randall speaks (or writes in) is already ridiculous.
    It also makes no sense and nobody talks like that. The hard to read part is way off though.

    So do me without a condom, Anon.

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  65. Fred, you lack the finer reading comprehension skills.

    You just don't grok it =/

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  66. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 26, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    yeah grok is a stupid fucking word that only stupid fucking people use

    it is cacophonic which is my main reason for disliking it but perhaps a less petty issue is that it does not mean anything that you cannot express using other (less shitty) words

    i would seriously punch any of my friends clean in the jaw if i heard them use "grok" in an actual conversation

    and they would thank me

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  67. I actually can think of a word that's shittier than grok.

    Cacophonic.

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  68. translation:
    "do you understand"

    "yes"

    its feels like im writing newspeak

    how...orwellian?

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  69. Futurama has actually made this same observation in "Roswell That Ends Well." Leela and Farnsworth enter a store in 1950s America and Leela says to Farnsworth, "Fry's from this time period. I'll talk like him." She then walks up to the saleman and proclaims, "Yo homes!"

    You could even extend it to such instances as referring to "Baby Got Back" as "classical music" in "A Fishful of Dollars" and so forth. Futurama was pretty loaded with jokes about how people in the future will view the present, and it did it a lot better than XKCD.

    The joke works well as a one liner in a 22-minute cartoon episode, or even a brief comedy bit. But it's not as strong when it's the only joke you've made all day, and all you really say is, "Hey! People in the future will probably conflate contemporary English with English from 300 years ago! Isn't that funny?"

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  70. @6:06AM -- 12:24 here. My problem wasn't the inappropriate use of "retarded." Re-read the excerpts I quoted, taking each one in the context of the previous.

    Or, alternatively, re-read any one of Fred's rants about Those People On The Internet And Software Developers Goddammit, They Don't Use English In A Fred-Approved Fashion And Therefore They Suck, They're All Aspies With No Social Skills Who Just Need To Feel Superior To Other People And Invent Stupid, Irrelevant Reasons To Support That Delusion, That Word Doesn't Mean What They Think It Means Because I Can Tell You What It Means, And If You Don't Agree With Me Then You're A Goddamned Retard.

    Let the irony envelop you like a warm, pink cloud. Drink in the knowledge that either Fred is the least self-aware person in the room or this has been a glorious, transcendental bit of performance art in which the audience is invited to contemplate those who deal with a poor social life by turning to meaningless trivia to salvage their self-esteem through Fred's explicit, demanding demonstration of exactly the behaviors he keeps whinging about.

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  71. you're still fucking retarded

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  72. you're still fucking retarded

    Fred? Is that you?

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  73. Fred is far more intelligent and reasonable than Rob. if you think otherwise then you are not reading what he is writing carefully enough, or you are simply wrong.

    SMBC has always been hit or miss, but his cartoony art makes the misses less horrible (usually) and his 7-updates-a-week means that even a low hit percentage translated into plenty of good comics.

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  74. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 26, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    on the topic of this terrible comic i cannot call to mind any modern instances of archaic phrases from several eras being mixed together in any setting where the accuracy would matter

    recontextualizing behaviors to point out their absurdity is a valid form of comedy but it does not really work unless the behavior you are recontextualizing actually happens in the first place

    the comic makes more sense if you imagine that randall pretends his grandparents are pirates in a bitter attempt to make his pitiful existence more interesting

    @arthur weird that you "actually can" think of a shittier word when nobody implied that you could not its like you were pretending that somebody asked you a direct question when really nobody cares

    nice try at discrediting my comment though i guess

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  75. The EqualSuccessor.gif is one of those false proofs that tries (but fails) to prove something incorrect either as a joke or some sort of jab at mathematics. It has nothing to do with physics, and is also simple algebra that everyone ever should have learned at school. Check the site.

    The calculus one... If you bothered to check the site it was from you would know that it's someone asking their readers for help learning calculus (notice the "How does this happen?" bit?).

    In a way they're absolutely terrible examples... which is why they're such good examples because it seems you couldn't tell that they were terrible examples.

    Are people putting on theater productions necessarily going to have the knowledge to differentiate speech that sounds the same to them? It's a common occurance that theater and film (etc.) even now a days uses the incorrect period speech so it doesn't seem to strange that it might happen in the future. Especially in some random play.

    You should have left your post as it was before. Just the images. I'd liken the rest of your post to post-punchline-dialogue. It's a wall of text trying to explain things that comes no where near the succintness and strength of the point that the juxtaposition shows the reader. Maybe Carl needs an editor.

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  76. maybe you are my editor - I'll go get some better examples at least, and note the change. Thanks.

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  77. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YeOldeButcheredeEnglishe

    It even has an xkcd comic as the image.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AntiquatedLinguistics

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  78. Physics proof is reflective of the physics major's skill in math.

    Just remember, Carl said it, not me.

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  79. OK, the edit is silly.

    Of course a linguist can tell the difference. Of course a historian wouldn't make such mistakes as those shown in the PBF comic. Regular people tend to mix together anything old to such an extent that, for instance, people call Shakespeare's language "Old English". If people now see no essential difference between the language of Beowulf and the language of Shakespeare, then maybe people in the future will mix idioms across centuries too. And the results would be wacky.

    The comic's not good, but your criticism was way off the mark.

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  80. @UndercoverCuddlefish

    Funny that you claimed that nobody...

    Actually, nevermind. It's too easy.

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  81. While we're discussing SMBC: did everyone notice that the latest SMBC video is a remake of xkcd comic 513, only better in every possible way?

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  82. Anon 9:06 - If someone actually read Beowulf how it was originally written, there is no way they would mistake it with Shakespeare. Old English and Modern English, which Shakespeare falls under, are different languages. It would be like conflating the languages used by Goethe and Byron.

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  83. Anon 10:09, you're absolutely right. In old English the word for cloud is Walken if I remember correctly. That's properly Germanic and completely alien to your average English native speaker.

    And Fred, using Asperger's syndrome as a pejorative is totally without class. Some people (like me, admittedly) are actually legitimately diagnosed with it by actual psychologists and are continuously struggling in their daily social interactions. Grow up, man.

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  84. Some people are legitimately diagnosed with retardedness by actual doctors and are also continously struggling in their daily social interactions, and everything else they do. But you don't complain about me using 'retarded' as a prejorative. You're only butthurt about the prejorative that happens to applies to you. All those people with Down's can just fight their own battles, is that it? Maybe you're the one that needs to do some growing up.

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  85. You all need to grow the fuck up.

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  86. Also Anon 8:31: I think I hate the jargon people make up at TVTropes as much as I hate the word grok.

    Which is an amazing achievement.

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  87. You can't say grow up that's insulting to people who are diagnosed as being under age.

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  88. "Old English and Modern English, which Shakespeare falls under, are different languages."

    It's almost like that's EXACTLY WHAT I WAS SAYING.

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  89. Holy shit! The math that physicists use looks like math! I'm shocked! Some of it even looks like calculus, which was developed with physics as a significant motivation!

    Astounding!

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  90. There are most certainly actual uses for 'grok,' but I've only heard it in computer science contexts, where it's jargon among a particular kind of Old Guard computer scientist. I've had several computer science professors use it, as in, "You don't need to grok Prolog to pass this test, but you should at least know how to write Prolog." On a shallow level, it's comparable to knowing not just how to do something, but knowing why it works and how it affects anything else. For example: I know Ruby, but I grok Python.

    That being said, I don't believe it'll ever gain any real usage outside of geeky circles, and it's disappearing even there. There is, however, a phenomenon of faux-geeks looking up terms in ESR's Jargon File in an effort to appear more computer-savvy than they truly are, and using jargon that has dropped out of common usage ages ago. You may draw whatever conclusions you will from this.

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  91. I draw the conclusion that I know Ruby but I understand Python.

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  92. People don't actually think that Shakespeare and Old English are indistinguishable, of course. They just don't realize that "Old English" is used by linguists to refer to "untranslated Beowulf", not "olde-timey English".

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  93. why the fuck is everyone comparing me to Fred

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  94. What am I, your mom? I have to correct everything you do wrong now? If someone is either thoughtless enough or simply enough of an asshat to use "retarded" as an insult, it probably won't do any good to lecture them about it - you know it's tasteless and rude but do it anyway, then try to make some inane kind of hay out of my not immediately calling you on it, like that makes ME a bad person. It does speak to your character, sure, as does the fact that you get all bent out of shape and lose your much-vaunted affinity for the language in a flurry of spelling and grammatical errors when you have to deal with what you like to dish out, but it's all kind of subsumed by the fact that you don't display a lick of self-awareness in the first place.

    Since you want a reason to despise me - oh, you want it so bad you'll slap yourself in the face to make one up - I don't use the word "retarded" or the word "grok", but I do use "borked". Maybe you can summon a sense of unjustifiable superiority over that. Never say I didn't help you where I could.

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  95. Hell, it's pretty easy tell Shakespeare's and Chaucer's English apart, and there's only 200 years or so difference there.

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  96. I don;t say grok, but I remeber it being used in ralph kostner's theory of fun.

    I don't say borked, but I like the word 'munge' (verb).

    I like it so much that I try to use it as often as possible, and therfore wholly inconsistently.

    also, I liked carl's commentery, and this comment thread is totally munged

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  97. What am I, your mom? I have to correct everything you do wrong now?

    Why did you even feel a need to correct one thing I did wrong?

    If someone is either thoughtless enough or simply enough of an asshat to use "retarded" as an insult, it probably won't do any good to lecture them about it

    But when it comes to Aperger's, that's totally different and worth lecturing about.

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  98. Also:

    then try to make some inane kind of hay out of my not immediately calling you on it, like that makes ME a bad person

    Being a bitch about someone using your particular ailment as a prejorative but remaining totally silent about other ailments being used as prejoratives? Yes, that does indeed makes you a bad person.

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  99. Prerogative + pejorative = prejorative?

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  100. I'd have sworn the comic changed. I remember reading it before and it saying "All the *jargon* of the past 100 years"...

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  101. yes, I think I remember that too.

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  102. Would Capt Sperglord quit bitching about his condition being used as an insult- is this conversation was taking place in a special needs class or at a disability convention (those exist, right?) I could see his point.

    But as it stands, this is the internet, and every downs-faced gay retardodyke is going to make a point of spouting whatever tourettes ADHD vaginal discharge their dyslexia addled mind can think of.

    faggots.

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  103. 11:38 - so, do you think regular people will mix up modern German and English in the future? Because that's pretty much what you're saying people do right now.

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  104. Hey Rob, THAT'S YOU

    Captcha: Flasp. A flask in the shape of a wasp.

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  105. oh, and FI, Wer does auch nicht alle that? But no, people would only do that if they were severely foreign. Randall, a native English speaker, just doesn't understand people/language at all.

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  106. Raven your mixed language thing doesn't even make sense, and I speak german. Was that the point? Anyway, I study history and linguistics and find this in no way offensive. Why is Carl so dumb? I could go through all the dumb things in his post he still hasn't corrected but I must away. Work and all that. Counter-rant available on request.

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  107. Anon @ 8:31 PM
    Of course TVTropes uses an xkcd comic as the image. GOOMHTT!

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  108. Hubert you must be a pretty shitty linguist if you can't follow this line of reasoning.

    and "Oh I could totally refute this but I HAVE WORK TO DO"

    yeah, sure.

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  109. This is the best xkcd in a month or two. I feel like I shouldn't pick on it for lack of realism, but...

    Who actually does this? IN A THEATER, no less?

    I was worried that faux period English was more common than I thought when I saw the TV Tropes link (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YeOldeButcheredeEnglishe), but no. 80% of the examples there are "subversion/parody", and a substantial amount of the remainder are video games and fan fiction (the only real examples I could think of were video games).

    Most period fiction just uses modern English. If faux period English is used, it's usually done as a joke. There are no theatrical works that use faux period English.

    Of course, the two places we're most likely to encounter real period English are the King James Bible and Shakespeare.

    Randall's setting this comic in the theater strongly suggests that he has Shakespeare in mind. It appears Randall believes that Shakespeare's use of 16th century English was a deliberate anachronism. In Randall's mind, Shakespeare actually spoke 21st century English and wrote his plays in 16th century English for that old-timey flavor. Physics rules. English literature is for losers.

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  110. It came from the XKCD forums!
    "Not gonna lie, saw the "Period Speech" title and expected a prepubescent girl at a podium.
    Not sure if I'm disappointed or not.
    Makes me sound like a pedophile..."

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  111. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  112. I like that the point of the alt-text is that only linguists and nerds will care about how inaccurate this speech is, and then you say the author is an idiot because clearly linguists will care about how inaccurate this speech is. Um, yeah.

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  113. @9:55 Anon. You're missing the point. Carl is saying that Randy is having his cake and eating it too - he mocks such things as the study of the English Language, and THEN (in this comic) mocks people who don't understand the nuances of the English language.

    The point isn't that Randy is wrong for mocking linguists (although he is), but that he's a fucking hypocrite. He's mocking DA STOOPID FUTURE PEOPLE but also likes to mock the very subject which would educate them and mean they're no longer so STOOPID.

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  114. A: Extrapolating the future from the present is what people DO.

    B: Maybe you should abandon your theory that Randall actually hates non-math majors, since he clearly find some non-math fields interesting.

    B2: Alternatively, the evolution of language falls under linguistics, which is at least sometimes computational, therefore kosher.

    C: An expert may be able to distinguish 16th from 17th century English, but this does not mean they are never confused in works of entertainment, such as plays.

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  115. @Hubert: Yes, that was the point; confusing the two languages makes no sense if you know either at any rudimentary level. I'm basically fluent in English, only took a few basic German courses [I cannot conjugate in German for my life], but I can still tell you that some of those words do not work there as they are supposed to. I don't need to understand what they are doing, just what they are NOT doing. There was not much point in that comment except for a sarcastic reply, so don't look into it TOO much.

    All criticism aside, I actually thought the subject material was entertaining. But the joke needs to be reformatted; I didn't laugh, but I feel like I should have -- the idea is funny. Hence we're back to the "Randall needs an editor" idea... or the "Randall, make your comics before 23:55 Sunday night!"

    Captcha: thellogi. The Llogi, The Hiring, as in Welsh.

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  116. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 27, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    i do not know of any works that actually conflate phrases from different eras without being intentionally silly

    i mean sure people butcher period speech all the time by ignoring the rules or making shit up that sounds sort of correct but i have never seen anybody actually treat speech from different periods as interchangeable

    please somebody tell me that this is really a real thing that really happens and that randall did not just make something stupid up for his comic

    because right now i am still going with my imaginary pirate grandma theory

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  117. Honestly, this is just preposterous (your post, not the comic....). Your "English major" commenter apparently isn't too good at math (not trying to knock English majors or anything) because if the 1600 and 1700s sounded the same, that would imply that what Randall is proposing would be true RIGHT NOW, not in 400 years. According to the theory he states in the comic, speech between 1200 and 1600 sounds the same.....and I'd daresay that it does to most, even to English majors who haven't taken a particular interest in the linguistics of that period.

    Even if that weren't the case, the fact that an ENGLISH MAJOR can tell the difference between different forms of English doesn't have anything to do with what the comic is saying. Last I checked, writing fiction didn't require an exam or a degree, and apparently the author of the play in the comic isn't one of the people with the specialized knowledge to tell the difference (which is entirely believable...read a Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer novel if you only think people with fantastic language skills can write fiction)

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  118. oh my god i played frogger ten years ago, randall get out of my head

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  119. Comic 772 is about what would happen if Frogger were programmed so that cars do not hit you, but rather crash into each other and die. The answer is, I hate this comic.

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  120. Prerogative + pejorative = prejorative?

    i'm going to have to refudiate that word, i'm afraid.


    Pat: I disagree with point B. Do you have good evidence of it? I mean, I know he has mentioned things like astronomy, physics, maybe a little chemistry, etc, but very, very little respect for the social sciences or other non-hard science based stuff.

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  121. 772: a frogger joke? Seriously? randy, you're not even fucking trying at this point.

    Whelp, it's barely better than "frogger gets squished by cars herp derp"... so there's that, I guess.

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  122. The thing that makes me mad about the word "grok" is that it so obviously sounds like a made-up sci-fi word. It's hard to make up words that sound cromulent. A good made up word can be understood by other people just by its context, and sometimes just by the way it sounds. Grok just sounds stupid.

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  123. from the comments on the forum:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9dMRJZn01A

    ouch. robot chicken beat randall to the punch.

    and many other before that, i'm sure.

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  124. How I think 772 could be not-so-bad:

    Option A: Incorporate the alt-text in the strip, because the strip by itself is...bad. Very bad.

    Basically, Panel 1 would have a guy saying something like "I really dig the gameplay, but could you try making it a little more...realistic?"
    Then there would be a panel or 2 showing something ridiculous involving an iconic game character (Frogger dying of dehydration, Pac-Man and the ghosts failing to interact because they're ghosts, Mario is just an ordinary plumber and nothing interesting happens, etc.)

    Then the final panel would be the guy saying "...I meant the graphics."
    Still pretty terrible, though, I guess.

    Option 2: For some reason, I find the idea of a giant frog hilarious, so you can have the first panel telling the guy to make the graphics better.
    Then we get a highly-detailed depiction of a frog crossing the highway...but the scaling is still the same way it was, thus: Giant Frog.

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  125. Hell, then the alt-text could have an awful pun like "At least the crocodiles and turtles were scaled properly."

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  126. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 27, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    @anon9:25 shhhh that is apparently not a popular opinion around here

    re:772 robot chicken already did this joke so there is pretty much no excuse for the comic

    also i do not know why we needed to hear people on the side of the road screaming and calling out for their moms why are there people even over there what is going on

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  127. Aww, someone beat me to the GOOMHR post.

    As for this comic, well, people have already said what has been needed to say, such as: WTF WHY ARE PEOPLE BY THE HIGHWAY??, bad execution on this comic, and the like.

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  128. I just stumbled upon this blog today. I suppose it's to be expected. Everything great comes with a group of haters. I don't believe he was making fun of people who can't tell the difference between languages of different eras; it seemed to me that he was making fun of the nerd who could tell the difference
    ("The same people who spend their weekends at the Blogger Reenactment Festivals will whine about the anachronisms in historical movies, but no one else will care.").
    So that source of hatred seems fabricated to me. Your other source of hatred, the fact that "this has been done before" is completely ridiculous! Comedy would be dead if we could only use a concept once. It's not the same joke, it's part of the same broad category.
    To date there have been 772 xkcd comics. You can't possibly expect that each comic brings a radical new idea. There's a lot of truth to the saying, "There's nothing new under the sun". The title of this blog should be, "xkcd: Not the Divinity".

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  129. truly, your low expectations and bad interpretations of jokes have SKEWERED US TO THE VERY CORE.

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  130. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 27, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    @hawb what about the fact that the comic is not actually funny

    but you called xkcd "great" so i understand that your humor meter might not be calibrated very accurately

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  131. You seriously think that "The future will produce historically inaccurate fictional representations of the present day" is a broad category? And you're seriously pushing the "NOTHING is original so it doesn't matter that XKCD is even less original than every other comic!" platform?

    Fucking terrible. Rob, have you done a "nothing is original anymore" rant?

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  132. my favorite is how he called it great in the same post as he basically said "you can't expect them all to be any good, there's like 800 of them!"

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  133. Me smart amerikan blogger. Me use wikipedia for knowledge.


    Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

    watta putz

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  134. Hawb could you indulge is in more of your interesting monologues? Perhaps you can spice them up even further by making them more novel-like.

    "My name is Harrison, but most people call me Hawb. I stumbled upon this blog today, after months of travelling the great wasteland, trying to find what shreds of humanity were left after this great, terrible war. At first, I was almost overcome by a sense of loathing and melancholy, but I suppose it's to be expected; everything great comes with a group of haters."

    You could call it "Hawb rising" or something fascinating like that and submit it to the New Yorker.

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  135. Oh my god! 772 actually made me laugh, especially the alt-text.

    WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME!?

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  136. Wow, now Randall is stealing from Robot Chicken. Sad.

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  137. Alt-text for new one is pretty funny, actually. Comic isn't but that's hardly a shock.

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  138. 771: it's been done before, and better. But that's all it warrants.

    Look at the PBF strip say. It IS hilarious, and part of that is because it's so over the top absurd and nonchalant about history. We can't then fault Randall for taking the liberty of assuming that some future theatre play will be written (and presumably enjoyed) by linguistically uninformed people.

    772: languagelog has not yet enlightened me about it, but instead drew a PhD Comics to my attention ("It's scholarin' time!") that was hilarious.

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  139. Maybe it would be better if it was from the viewpoint of the truck driver. He sees the frog, swerves, hits another car. The comic zooms out and the last panel shows the frogger screen with the frog on a log and the road in chaos.

    Although that would require art and effort...
    Yeah, never gonna happen.

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  140. Hey, hey guys! Imagine if, in Frogger, you're the frog, but instead of the drivers running over you and ending your life, they swerve into other drivers and end their own lives? ISN'T THAT HILARIOUS?!

    This comic hass a trifecta of things never to have in a webcomic:
    1: Making a humour-based comic completely lacking of any sense of a joke.
    2: Making a comic about people suffering or dying, for reasons other than humour or drama. [pay extra note of that character that shouts "MOM!". Now consider how that can be in any way funny]
    3: Making a comic about "What if a videogame was real".


    The alt-text is another one of those "would be great if it wasn't done to death" things. Still good for an alt-text, but does not nearly make up for the comic.



    I really feel like I should be raging more over the comic...

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  141. You may have a point with that physics/calculus thing, although the point you're making is that humanities majors don't know or care about the world around them.

    Comparing calculus to physics is something quite doomed to fail, since calculus is basic enough as far as math goes that it can't be considered an independent subject at all; if you want to do anything with physics, you need to know calculus. There's a reason the father of physics is also the father of calculus, and there's a further reason that the father of mathematics lived fifty years later. You can't tell the difference because there is no difference, most of physics just being calculus with meaningful variables plugged in. It would be like saying "I can't tell the difference between circuit diagrams and conceptual microchip schematics." Frankly, a decent high school education should be enough to know this.

    In any case, do you really think this is a jab against linguists or historians? Linguists and historians are the annoying nerds. This is a jab against screenwriters.

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  142. This Frogger one reminds me of Perry Bible Fellowship. I don't like Perry Bible Fellowship, and I don't like this either. Let's have some lighter comics, please.

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  143. I have to admit, I rather like ~burm~'s edit, but that's because I work in the software field and that kind of "can you make the font less font-y" feedback, and the ensuing aggressively literal response by the developer is exactly what we'd /like/ to do to annoying clients, but can't due them being the source of our paycheques.

    More cathartic than funny, in the way The Big Bang Theory is, really.

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  144. irt. Anonymous 6:40

    A brief off-topicness.

    Calculus is basic math as far as physics is concerned but you can tell wether a proof was made by a physicist. It contains phrases like "time interval so short that we can consider x to be constant", "we ignore small contributions", "tiny displacement" and so on. More intuitive, less mathematically abstract (and some mathematicians would say, rather careless).

    Back in Newton's day the difference was not really there, but after the nineteenth century it really took off as Mathematicians became ever more concerned with being as rigurous (and miserly with assumptions) as possible, while physicists remained more laidback.

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  145. Carl, I'd really wish you would stop saying a joke being similar to a joke made before is a negative trait. Because it isn't. This joke has been made before, but it is in no way repeated too much. I mean, if it was one that people said all the time and you couldn't escape it (i.e. This is Sparta. Your mom. etc.) I can understand how it would be negative. But this is not. It's really unfair to ask him to think of a joke that is completely unrelated to any joke ever made through the history of time.

    Besides, such a joke would probably not be funny. I mean, jokes are repeated because they ARE funny. Though, your attack on the truthfulness of the statement may be significant. But for me, I find it funny whether or not it's true. Just like I found those other comics you posted to be funny, even though things wouldn't turn out like that.

    Also, "People in the future will get confused about the past" is a large field of possible jokes. You can make several without being repetitive. As demonstrated by you guys just now when you posted several examples.

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  146. Riogirafarig: Please explain how the two xkcd comics featured in the post are telling different jokes.

    (WV: uncram)

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  147. Did anyone else note the mockery of XKCD in a recent PvP? http://www.pvponline.com/2010/06/28/xkcatd/

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  148. @Steph - some freeways/highways are near to dwellings. Or businesses. For that matter, some freeways/highways have dividing strips of grass or whatnot down the middle and those could easily be opposite moving traffic. Not that far fetched.

    @Plasma - what, nothing is funny if someone's mom dies? (not that I think that is what happened, as the chances of someone either being on the side of a busy highway/freeway as a relative happens to be in an accident or being in traffic going the other way are so small as to be negligible. Think more: kid getting parent's attention) Also, to say there is no joke here is obviously incorrect - the joke is pretty obvious, even if you don't like it/don't think it's funny

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  149. Goddamnit, I hate it when I come here and the comments are "blah blah blah you're dumb blah blah blah no, you are blah blah blah retarded aspergic fuckwit yadda yadda yadda I know what you are, but what am I" FUCK THAT NOISE!

    We're being divided, people! The enemy is out there and his name is RANDALL MUNROE! Let us not be divided amongst ourselves and focus our hate, rage and bloodlust on him and his horrendous excuse for a comic! xkcdsucks besiegt Randall!

    ...okay, deep breathe... Where was I? Oh, yes!

    I try my best to not check out xkcd comics by my own will. I even resist looking what the heck the comments on the new strip are about. But today, it happened. Someone shared the comic in Google Reader, and I was caught unprepared. And, boy, does it suck!

    Okay, one good thing: COLORS! Why doesn't Randall color his stuff more often? Couldn't he start his comics 10 minutes earlier for that? It isn't a masterpiece, but heck it inject some life into the comic!

    Now, to the bad points. The comic. The joke. It's like every gaming comic joke ever. "Har, har, how would this game be if it was, like, in real life? HILARI-USS!" And there he goes appealing to nostalgia and GOMMH-ism! And the joke isn't even good. Frogger steps in the road, a truck tries to get out of the way, there's an accident and poeple screaming. And... this is not funny. This is, at most, sad. But, really, it's nothing.

    Also, why did he put the caption in the alt-text? Really, this should be a caption. Or maybe an extra long panel at the bottom, with StickRandall talking with the developers. That's the reason behind the non-joke! He basically cut what could be the punchline away! How incompetend must you be to do such a thing? After almost 800 comics?!

    So, there we have it: xkcd, a comic about videogames, nostalgia, references and not a single hint of a real joke.

    HAH!

    Mandrake Siabod wyf i,

    Mole

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  150. "How incompetend must you be to do such a thing?"
    - Professional Mole, July 28, 2010

    Quoted for posterity.

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  151. Why in the world did someone say "Mom!" in the last panel? In general, if my mom was driving down the interstate, I wouldn't be hanging around the median. I can't think of a single reason why this situation would arise.

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  152. @Anon 3:44

    I'd guess the "Mom!" is directed at the kid's mom who is standing there as well. Kids do that a lot. Constantly, at certain ages. This one wasn't terrible as far as I was concerned. I didn't really need the screaming from the side, but in light of the Alt Text, it sort of fits the "zealous programmers injecting a sense of reality into a game" concept.

    Having to go to the Alt Text to make the comic work, though, is bad form. I'd say it was mildly funny, and a far cry better tham most of the crud we get from xkcd.

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  153. I'd guess the "Mom!" is directed at the kid's mom who is standing there as well. Kids do that a lot. Constantly, at certain ages.

    This is a sensible explanation and almost certainly not what Randall was thinking.

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  154. families often stand on the side of freeways.

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  155. i hang out in the median all the time

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  156. "families often stand on the side of freeways. "

    Yeah man, I go there with my family and take pictures of cars and frogs and stuff.

    And also, 772 is NOT more realistic then regular frogger. A semi wouldn't veer away from a frog, in most cases, it's far more likely that the frog wouldn't be seen. Unless of course the realism is derived that the frog is in fact the width of a semi and half the size of a small car. That's totally realis- wait.

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  157. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 28, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    yeah i stopped trying to justify any part of the latest comic after five minutes

    it seems like randall stole the joke then intentionally made it so terrible that nobody would be angry at him for the blatant theft

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  158. If I was a semi driver, hell, if I was just driving any car, on the freeway and I saw a frog in my path, I'd probably just ignore it. If a frog wants to get crushed beneath my tire, who am I to judge?

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  159. I think "MOM!" refers to the fact that someone's mom is so fat and ugly she looks like a car-sized frog when crossing the street. And drivers are so horrified of her ugliness, they close their eyes and lose controls of their cars. So basically, this comic is yet another "your mom" joke.

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  160. Could "MOM!" simply be that Randall's incompetence at writing dialogue extends to writing the things that people yell immediately following a traumatic accident?

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  161. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 29, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    is there any place that randalls incompetence does not extend

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  162. Well, the forums are decidedly unimpressed by 772. How long do you think it'll be until Randall realizes that the "comic" he whips out in five minutes every other night isn't actually entertaining anyone anymore?

    I know he REALLY dislikes criticism, too; can you imagine what it must be like to know that the people you depend on for your income don't actually like what you do?

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  163. Forsooth, but I thought a "grok" was something with which to hit folk. 771 would have been more funny if the semi had grokked the car and then went on to take out all 4 lanes of traffic, then spread to 4 lanes going the opposite direction and etc... ended with a giant mushroom cloud.

    C: Wartisck - the injury you receive from being grokked.

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  164. Blanket response to the seething masses of cuddlefish:

    It is not necessarily bad to copy a joke. It is bad to copy a joke poorly.

    If I wrote a TV comedy, and one episode were about a contest not unlike the one in Seinfeld's "master of one's domain" episode, it could be good. But if the only joke in the entire episode was "ha ha wanking," then we have an issue—not because I've copied a joke, but because I didn't make a funny joke.

    The problem is not that Randall copied PBF. The issue is that PBF did it earlier and better, and Randall added nothing. Quod erat demonstrandum, bitches.

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  165. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9dMRJZn01A

    What the fuck Randall, ripping off Robot Chicken? Hell maybe I should start a webcomic and sell T-shirts.

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  166. Wouldn't it be hilarious if people who love Tetris went to Hell and they had to play Tetris but the screen was curved, rendering the game useless?

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  167. i wish i was megan

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  168. The fact that you thought http://komplexify.com/math/images/EqualsSuccessor.gif was an actual proof discredits any claims you make about anything. I can't believe someone who thinks they're smart enough to critique media can think that that joke has anything to do with physics.

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  169. revenge of the physics nerds!

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  170. wait! what i said was that i COULDN'T tell if it was a physics proof or not! That was the point! They all look the same to me!

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  171. What is someone who doesn't know what calculus is doing reading a comic like this anyway? No wonder you think it sucks.

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  172. the math jokes were never only funny to math people. I've never been a math person and they used to be pretty damn hilarious early on.

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  173. Maybe webcomics you don't like are still worth reading by some people. You don't have to even read them yourself! You just have to stop denigrating the people who choose to read what they love. Is that so hard? It really shouldn't be. And yet, somehow, it is. I hate it.

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  174. maybe making fun of webcomics is still worth doing to some people. you don't even have to read their blog! you just have to stop denigrating the people who choose to do what they enjoy. is that so hard? it really shouldn't be. and yet, somehow, it is. I hate it.

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  175. Some may be. In any case, whether or not people choose to read it has no effect on whether it is bad. I happen to know that xkcd is bad, and so that's what I'm writing about.

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