Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
|One Of The|
Title text: 'The world's greatest [whatever]' is subjective, but 'One of the world's greatest [whatever]s' is clearly objective. Anyway, that's why I got you this 'one of the world's greatest moms' mug!
Cueball is a news anchor describing the Gateway Arch as one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis.
When describing things, reporters try to make only factual statements. If reporters use absolutes (that something is the largest or the smallest thing of its class, or that it is unprecedented, to give several examples) they risk making errors: it is possible that some other example of the thing exists that is even larger or even smaller or that there was some similar incident in the past, and they were not aware of it. If a reader or viewer points out the existence of that thing, even if obscure or trivial, the reporter must issue a correction. As a result, reporters learn to hedge by using formulations such as "one of the biggest" or "a rare example of."
Randall states that it is his pet peeve when reporters avoid absolutes unnecessarily — that is, in cases where there's vanishingly little risk of error. As an absurd example, Randall depicts one such reporter using this language about the Gateway Arch. As the most well-known monument in Missouri and the largest free-standing arch in the world, it's indisputable that this would be the most recognizable arch in St. Louis.
In the title text, Randall jokes about what could happen if you misunderstand the practice of avoiding absolutes; he thus appears to think it is an ostentatious display of faux objectivity, as opposed to a correction-avoiding strategy. The title text refers to novelty mugs (and T-shirts, and other printed items) that use superlative descriptions such as "World's Greatest Mom" or "World's Greatest Dad." Obviously, such a statement is an expression of personal affection on the part of the family member who gave such a gift and is not meant to be understood as a literally true fact about the world. Using a parody of reporter-speak (like giving a mug to your mother that says "one of the world's greatest moms") would ruin the compliment by suggesting to her that you thought some other people's moms were as good or better.
The title text also refers to Mother's Day, which in the US was three days before this comic was published.
- [Cueball is a news anchor sitting in front of a screen showing the Gateway Arch with some landscape features around it.]
- Cueball: ...And he went on to design the Gateway Arch, one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Pet peeve:
- Reporters unnecessarily hedging with "one of the"
- This comic is referenced in the what if? Tungsten Countertop, with the quote "the sun is one of the meltiest things in the solar system."
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There's a set of golden arches at Jefferson and Russell, Arguably more identifiable. 22.214.171.124 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- If you are talking about the McDonald's arches, then well played, sir, well played. Definitely more identifiable. --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 14:57, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
- On the other hand, any specific set of McDonald's arches isn't very identifiable. One tends to look like any other. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 11:12, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
"Reporters on television and in other media try to only make statements they can verify in fact"
Seriously??? Maybe once, but not now. The point of this cartoon is largely that reporters are hedging their bets on what's a fact.
When you have prominent reporters like Chuck Todd (one of the most prominent reporters on TV) saying "not his job" to report factual information but merely to repeat what politicians have said, or everyone on Fox "News" basically ignoring facts in favor of ideology, claiming reporters try to speak only facts is not supported by demonstrable facts.
126.96.36.199 16:42, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
- Or maybe it's because of the liability reporters face for reporting even errors made by the police. | Keith Todd or Todd Keith. Pallas (talk) 19:16, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
- "In the complaint, Todd alleges that Eastpointe Police "incorrectly researched" databases and sent the wrong photo, name and information to the network." Sounds like the blame is really with the police, not the network. 188.8.131.52 16:37, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
- In a lawsuit filed last week in Wayne County Circuit Court, Todd said a snafu incorrectly naming him as the suspect in the “Caught on Camera” program has caused him humiliation, loss of employment and other misery. He’s asking NBC Universal, the Eastpointe Police Department and A One Limousine, to pay an unspecified amount of damages. Pallas (talk) 20:09, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
- That's generalising. How about: "Seriously??? Maybe once, but not now. The point of this cartoon is largely that US reporters are hedging their bets on what's a fact. When you have prominent US reporters like Chuck Todd (one of the most prominent reporters on US TV) saying "not his job" to report factual information but merely to repeat what US politicians have said, or everyone on US branch of Fox "News" basically ignoring facts in favor of ideology, claiming US reporters try to speak only facts is not supported by demonstrable facts. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Right. Because it's only in the US that reporters fail to do their jobs well. Why, just look at the UK and Australia, for example. Nope, no reporters covering their asses there. Oh, wait. 220.127.116.11 16:52, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
I know it's not really part of the joke, but should the explanation say who the reporter is talking about? Who designed the Gateway arch? I'm curious now.18.104.22.168 02:18, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
- The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. As stated on the wikipedia page already linked from explanation. -- Hkmaly (talk) 09:15, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
Note that the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday on the fourth Sunday in Lent as if it was Mother's Day. --22.214.171.124 10:45, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
The explanation text misses the fact that stating "one of the world's greatest moms" is hardly perceived as an actual compliment by the recipient. Ralfoide (talk) 14:17, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
- Done - also added an explain and a wiki link to pet peeve - something not explained so far. Kynde (talk) 18:53, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
- I don't think Randall misunderstands the practice - he's just pretending that to make a joke. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:16, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
- That is for sure true. I did not write it like that and have now corrected it acordingly Kynde (talk) 11:26, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
- Interesting. Do you really think "Randall does not misunderstand anything" (from the history-edit explanation) and so any inaccuracy must be understood as a deliberate part of the joke? Even if the inaccuracy is about a matter outside of his field of expertise and is unnecessary to the joke? Maybe you're right in this case, but I doubt Randall himself would claim to be infallible. Cs7 (talk) 20:08, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
- My mom wasn't insulted by a card that said "One of the two greatest Moms in the world*" (and, below, "* Sorry, Mom, but I don't want to get killed in my sleep"). She found it funny, and so did my wife, and the fact that you can buy this card in shops implies they aren't the only mothers in the world that can take a joke. 126.96.36.199 11:06, 24 September 2015 (UTC)
No so much a real discussion item, but this is "One of the most useful Explain XKCDs out there"... 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
The arch is so large that there are rotating pill-elevators inside the rising legs and a large observation lounge at the top. You can look down at the busy barge traffic on the Mississippi far below. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)