145: Parody Week: Dinosaur Comics

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Parody Week: Dinosaur Comics
Guys: while I was writing this, I accidentally swallowed a table-size slab of drywall. I know! Wacky.
Title text: Guys: while I was writing this, I accidentally swallowed a table-size slab of drywall. I know! Wacky.

[edit] Explanation

Dinosaur Comics is a webcomic by Ryan North. The artwork never changes, save a few rare exceptions, and only the dialogue is different. Randall traced the comic's usual artwork, though the drawing of the house about to be squashed in panel 4 is a more rudimentary rendition.

For those who haven't read it, this is a typical strip, and here's a strip dealing with the same subject as the parody (but posted five years after this xkcd comic). See also this particular example where the title text actually refer to Randall and xkcd.

Randall makes several shots at recurring themes in Dinosaur Comics. T-Rex, the green dinosaur, is bold and enthusiastic, discussing various topics, a favorite of which appears to be linguistics. This time, he is talking about they being used as a third person singular gender-free pronoun and how it should be more widely used, even though its acceptance varies. Dromiceiomimus, the white dinosaur in the third panel, usually responds calmly to T-Rex's discussions. Utahraptor, the orange dinosaur, typically contradicts T-Rex, but Randall subverts this pattern and has him agree. The comic suggests that the perpetual disagreement stems from a 'rift' in the author's mind, which would be healed if only he lived in a world where there were a land bridge between Asia and North America.

Just like xkcd, Dinosaur Comics also has title texts. Ryan's title texts tend to be bizarre non-sequiturs, and the title text in the parody seems to be a riff on this.

Note that the last word by the T-Rex is split over the last two frames and it is divided in "the wrong" place: subc- -onscious. With the other text above and below "-onscious?" in the last panel this can be rather confusing. Probably something Randall is very c-onscious about!

There is a reason for this, I believe, but since nobody else has added it, let me do so. This represents Utahraptor reverting to type and interrupting T-Rex, as per normal, after first lulling him (unless T-Rex is a her. But I am going all Utahraptor myself here, and interrupting, because I think this is a perfect counterexample where using 'them' for a singular T-Rex of unknown gender would have been very jarring at best, and downright confusing at worst!), lulling her into a false sense of security by explaining that that is what s/he would normally have done. This suggests that they (see how confusing that sounds?) have no intention of interrupting this time. But it (Utahraptor) still goes ahead and does it (interrupt) to poor it (T-Rex) anyway. I hope that clarifies both the interruption, and why there remains a rift about singular gender-neutral pronouns. There really are times when they/their doesn't cut it (pretty much always, if you ask me) and when it fails also, because it implies a lack of animation in a 'sentient' actor in a dialogue or scene.

Although a singular "they" keeps from making assumptions about a person's gender in these politically correct-obsessed times, it can, as mentioned above lead to confusion. Often, there is simply a better way to write any sentence. Consider the following sentences. A pedant will be annoyed by anything he considers "wrong." A pedant will be annoyed by anything they consider "wrong." Pedants will be annoyed by anything they consider "wrong." Simply by generalizing the subject, "they" becomes the proper term. Indeed, Randall may be poking fun at pedantry in general because this topic often annoys pedants when it oughtn't, as there is already correct, gender-neutral phraseology to use. To clarify: the singular "they" isn't a real grammatical issue, since "there is already correct, gender-neutral phraseology to use," and that debate when there shouldn't be one is part of what Randall is parodying by making Utahraptor not debate T-Rex.

In the last panel, the narrator starts with "In a world…", a phrase made famous by Don LanFontaine in movie trailers. The suggestion that "everyone is bicurious" may be a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's Imperial Earth.

Characters from Dinosaur Comics later appeared in 1350: Lorenz (see under Dinosaur) and in 1452: Jurassic World.

This comic is a part of the Parody Week, just joking about other webcomics.

[edit] Transcript

T-Rex: THINGS I AM UPPITY ABOUT: "They" as a third-person singular gender-free pronoun.
T-Rex: I'm all for it!
Dromiceiomimus: But isn't that terrible grammar?
T-Rex: Only by recent convention! It's been in use that way for centuries, and its use is widely accepted! ALSO: this lets us avoid ridiculous constructs like "he/she", "s/he", "xe" or "hirs"!
Utahraptor: T-Rex, I... agree.
T-Rex: What?
Utahraptor: That sounds good to me!
Utahraptor: Normally I'd jump in with an objection, but I think your point makes sense.
T-Rex: Could it be that the rift in our author's mind has finally healed? Is he no longer locked in perpetual war with the self-doubt that lurks in his subc-
Narrator: IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS STILL A LAND BRIDGE BETWEEN ASIA AND NORTH AMERICA FOR SOME REASON:
T-Rex: -onscious?
Narrator: ALSO HOW ABOUT IN THIS WORLD EVERYONE IS BICURIOUS
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