Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
"There's no I in team" is a well-known saying that tries to encourage teamwork by reducing each member's individual self-importance. The intention of the phrase is to remind team members that, just as the letter "i" is not present in the word "team", focus on the metaphorical "I" (i.e. individual self-interest) is not constructive in teamwork. It can be used as a light reprimand to a team member who isn't cooperating, with the reminder that when working as a team one cannot think only for oneself, and must work in partnership with the rest of the team towards a common goal.
The phrase "no I in team" dates from the 1960s in the USA with printed references  showing it is familiar to baseball pitchers such as Vern Law. As an aside, it's interesting that it seems to come from baseball, a sport where players have significantly more independence compared to, say, rugby.
In this comic Cueball takes the sentence literally, as a metalingual comment (see Jakobson's functions of language), and he points out to Hairy that the spelling (or orthography) of a word doesn't relate to its meaning (an instance of the use–mention distinction).
Cueball is using the same joke against Hairy by saying there is a "u" in "People who apparently don't understand the relationship between orthography and meaning". There is a "u" (pronounced as "you") in what Cueball said, implying that Hairy is included in the set of people who mistakenly link orthography and meaning.
Of course, it's very likely that Hairy knows that orthography doesn't determine meaning, and could easily reply "There's also a 'u' in 'People who understand aphorisms too literally' ".
The title text "There's no 'I' in 'VOWELS'." provides another illustration of the distinction between orthography and meaning. "A", "I" and "U" are vowels, notwithstanding the irrelevant fact that they are not included in the spelling of "VOWELS".
Orthography was the subject of 1069: Alphabet.
- [Hairy and Cueball stand opposite each other.]
- Hairy: Remember, there's no "I" in "team".
- Cueball: No, but there's a "U" in "People who apparently don't understand the relationship between orthography and meaning".
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
There is no I in team, but there is an M and an E.22.214.171.124 08:26, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
- Ha, yes -- but they are backwards Spongebog (talk) 15:37, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
Check it out! there's "l" in "vowels"! --126.96.36.199 08:51, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
<sarcasm>There is an (annagram of) Randal in "People who don't understand how a proverb works" </sarcasm> No, seriously this is just cueball being a smart-ass. --188.8.131.52 08:53, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
There's no I in team, but there is an I in pie; there's an I in meat pie and meat is an anagram of team, so... 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- There's a 999999 in pi. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- BTW, it's called the Feynman Point. It's got a pretty interesting backstory. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Doesn't pi contain every possible number sequence though? 22.214.171.124 11:17, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
- No. There is no evidence that pi includes an offset of pi.
- There is no I in team, but there is meat... blessed meat :::Simpson drool:: -- Cwallenpoole (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- finite sequence. the kate bush conjecture is unproven. 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Though pic is an irrational number, meaning that you could theoretically find your birthday, your SSN, even a binary representation of your DNA sequence somewhere in pi's sequence. ChromoTec (talk) 15:30, 5 August 2017 (UTC)ChromoTec
The arbitrariness of this saying was demonstrated considerably more elegantly in Jeffrey Rowland's Wigu: "There is no I in 'team', but there is in 'family'." 188.8.131.52 11:56, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
This joke is not self-referential, it's metalingual. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakobson%27s_functions_of_language Xhfz (talk) 13:10, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
There is. --184.108.40.206 16:18, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
- That's deep. --220.127.116.11 18:05, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
It is interesting that Randall worded Cueball's dialogue as "There is a 'U' in People who apparently don't understand...". There is just that one 'U', in "understand". If he'd said instead something like "There is a 'U' in People who apparently don't get...", the reference to Hairy through 'U'/you would've been entirely allusional!
- Vik 18.104.22.168 19:30, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
This comment is my way of noting and speculating that it makes sense that the origin of "No I in Team" is from baseball pitchers: They're the only team sport player I know of who is regularly replaced mid-game for reasons besides injury. If a pitcher thinks he's on a hot streak, but the coach replaces him because reasons, a phrase like like "No I in Team" may be needed to smooth over the resulting disagreement, regardless of whether the coach or the pitcher has their respective heads up their asses or not. 22.214.171.124 20:05, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
But there IS an I in team! http://i.imgur.com/prPC7BX.jpg 126.96.36.199 02:16, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
I think it's interesting that there is exactly one "u" in "People who apparently don't understand the relationship between orthography and meaning", which has 76 letters. "U" isn't a terribly infrequent letter. 188.8.131.52 04:42, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
- The frequency of "u" is about 2.8%. Assuming a binomial distribution, one "u" out of 76 letters is about a 25% probability. Nothing of significance here, even though 2 "u"s would be slightly more likely. --184.108.40.206 14:43, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
I think part of the joke that is missed in the current explanation is that cueball is responding with a less vulgar version of the common retort: "But there is a 'U' in c*nt."220.127.116.11 09:32, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
- I have to say I've never heard that retort before. I'll have to try and remember to throw it into conversation next time I get the chance! --Pudder (talk) 14:02, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
"There is no I in team" is also sometimes used on voice coms for video games or other situations where the listener may not be able to identify the individual by voice, to explain why they should identify themselves in third person. --18.104.22.168 02:37, 31 August 2015 (UTC)