1662: Jack and Jill

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Jack and Jill
Jill and Jack / began to frack. / The oil boosts their town. / But fractures make / the bedrock shake / and Jack came tumbling down.
Title text: Jill and Jack / began to frack. / The oil boosts their town. / But fractures make / the bedrock shake / and Jack came tumbling down.


"Jack and Jill" is a traditional English nursery rhyme. The rhyme dates back at least to the 18th century, one version even with 15 stanzas.

The first and most commonly known verse is the one referenced by Jill in the comic as she says the first three lines:

Jack and Jill
went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

The comic makes fun of the counterintuitive idea that Jack and Jill go up a hill to fetch water, because natural water sources like rivers and streams flow downhill, making them usually found in valleys rather than on top of hills. Thus it shouldn't be necessary to have to go up a hill to get water. Similarly, if the water is coming from a well, then building a well at the top of a hill seems an odd choice to Megan. The groundwater table stays at about the same level over smaller areas, so building a well on a hill would require digging further.

However, Megan is probably not aware that since groundwater tends to flow in a similar direction to the slope of the land, it is often considered safer to dig a well uphill from potential sources of runoff, such as outhouses, fields, or septic systems. In times when populations were more predominantly rural, and probably when the poem was composed, "Always dig your well uphill from the outhouse" was a well-known maxim. Moreover, since it takes more energy to bring water uphill from a well (especially in a pail), there is a long-term advantage to having wells higher than main residential areas, as opposed to lower. (This principle explains why water towers are used, even in cities.) Finally, artesian wells deliver water from confined aquifers, which can sometimes be as close to the surface at higher elevations as at lower ones. As an urban dweller, Megan probably gets water from city plumbing, and is not familiar with the principles of well placement that Jack and Jill grew up with.

This all said, the predominance of drawing Jack's and Jill's well at the peak, which is not the best place to put the well, makes Megan's (and Randall's) comment understandable. Alternatively, the nursery rhyme may refer to a dew pond (which is more likely to be at the peak than a well), another concept that Megan would not be familiar with, having not grown up in the English countryside.

The title text is Randall's own version, a parody of this first verse, where the names have been switched in the first and last line:

Jill and Jack
began to frack.
The oil boosts their town.
But fractures make
the bedrock shake
and Jack came tumbling down.

This version, which may explain why they went up the hill after water, connects the idea to hydraulic fracturing (colloquially "fracking") methods for oil and gas extraction. In these methods, highly pressurized liquids are forced into a given ground stratum (or layer). With enough pressure, the stratum starts to deform and crack. This allows potential gas and oil to flow more freely. The liquid used for fracturing usually also contains materials like sand or ceramics which, once the liquid is removed, will help to maintain the newly formed cracks so as to further allow the desired free movement of oil and gas.

A common side effect of this method is that water levels and presence at the surface might be modified. In this comic, water can now be found at the top of the hill. This goes against the usual laws of hydraulics, themselves subject to the laws of gravity, which indicate that water should go down through ground cracks. Thus water is usually found at the bottom of valleys or hills. But in the comic, fracking at the bottom forces the water up, thus explaining why the kids go get water up the hill, which, as Megan points out, is messed-up hydrology. Also, fracking may cause induced seismicity in the form of micro-earthquakes, as alluded to in the title text, which is the cause for tumbling down in the title text version.

Randall has previously composed another version of this poem, which was by mistake published in Five-Minute Comics: Part 4.

Jack and Jill went up a hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Alas, that hill was San Juan Hill,
And gruesome was the slaughter.

In this comic it is made clear that Randall did know that it is possible to have a well on top of a hill, as he has drawn just one of these in the second image.

This is the second Wednesday in a row that Randall uses two children to make a reference to an environmental issue, the first being 1659: Tire Swing, about tire recycling. In the other comic one of the girls is Science Girl who looks like Jill in this comic, and this fits well with her knowledge of science, fracking, and needing to go up the hill after water...


[Megan is watching as the two kids Jill (drawn as Science Girl) and Jack (with spiky hair) are walking by her. Jack has a pail in his hand.]
Jill: Me and Jack are going up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
[Megan, standing back alone, calls out after them.]
Megan: Okay, have fun!
[Beat panel.]
Megan: ...Wait. What the heck is going on with the hydrology around here?

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I am surprised no one has mentioned the bad grammar "Me and Jack..." 07:37, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Often water in spring (up hill) has better quality than in stream or river (down in the valley) --JakubNarebski (talk) 14:23, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

The ground water table tends to be really close to ground on legs of a hill, so it's an ideal place to dig a well, in some places just a mand-made pond about a feet deep is all that is needed, in which case it's called a spring. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

jack and Jill / went up the hill / to have a little fun / but silly Jill / forgot the pill / and now they have a son. 14:28, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

I'd always assumed that there was a well at the top of the hill, though I hadn't realised I'd made that assumption until now. And, come to think of it, the top of a hill's a pretty bad place to put a well. --jwanders 14:39, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

High water sources are ideal. Not only do they tend to be cleaner, but it also makes for easier transportation. Note that hills are often at the base of mountains. 14:49, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

It's been three weeks since Randall made a really complicated joke with 1653: United States Map (and a week before that also with 1649: Pipelines). Someone mentioned a possible school book project based on Thing Explainer as the reason for this. Personally I hope it is because he is saving up time to spend on the joke (on us all :-) this Friday with the next April fools' comic like 1350: Lorenz or 1506: xkcloud. Can't wait. --Kynde (talk) 15:12, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

I found the title text explanations to miss the obvious implication that earthquakes shake the ground causing people (and buildings) to literally fall down. I preface my comment with my ignorance, I have never experienced an earthquake first hand and I am not knowledgeable as to which magnitude is required to bring things to their knees. Perhaps to this date fracking has not been associated with earthquakes of sufficient magnitude to produce this result. Still, I think this was the intended meaning on its face and I added it to the explanation without removing the others as they did make some sense.--R0hrshach (talk) 15:24, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Well someone has deleted both yours and my speculations. I still think that the idea that people who begin with fracking at first can be popular for the money they bring to the local economy, but then when all the problems related to this endeavor begin to be felt (and micro earthquakes are probably the least given how many dangerous chemicals are released into nature during the process) then maybe those who at first celebrated the project will bring you down, i.e. make you fall. (Maybe only financially be suing Jack) The deleted explanations can be seen here. If anyone else agrees that this may be the reason for the fall in the title text maybe it should be re-added? But else it will just be left as my thoughts here in the discussion page. --Kynde (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

The third line of the title text has an ambiguous trochaic foot with the word "oil". Some people (myself included) pronounce this word as almost two syllables (oy-el), while others make it a single syllable. 15:35, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Why does that child say "me and Jack" instead of "Jack and I"? That seems such a glaring grammatical mistake that it must be intentional, right? 17:18, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Because she's a child. Children often use incorrect grammar of that kind. 20:02, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
I think many kids will say it like that in spite them being told by their parents (repeatedly) to not name them selves first. But by letting Jill speak like this, he just let them be ordinary children. How many small kids do you actually hear say Jack and I will go up the hill, instead of Me and Jack will go up the hill? I think it would be more strange had he done it the other way, so yet I think it was on purpose, but only for the purpose or realism, not to hide any meaning... --Kynde (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2016 (UTC) (When first posting this it resulted in a posting conflict with the above comment, so won't change even though saying basically the same as it was a reply to the one above before the other one was posted.)
This is actually an extremely common mistake, by native English speakers of all ages, such that it is frequently used in popular media (movies, TV, etc), often corrected by someone. And despite this correction frequently showing up, people still make this mistake, to the point where many people consider it "correct enough". I've seen this "me and him" grammatical mistake portrayed so often that I've even picked up a rule of thumb offered by some of these portrayals: Take the other person out, does it still make sense? "Me am going up the hill". This format is so common that it is less an error and more casual speaking, on par with words like "ain't", "gonna" and "gotta". In fact, saying the correct "Jack and I" can even sound odd, it's so rare. - NiceGuy1 02:32, 1 April 2016 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. NiceGuy1 (talk) 15:18, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

The poem doesn't necessarily indicate that the water or well was located atop a hill, merely that they had to scale a hill to reach it. It could simply mean that the water source is beyond the hill in question. 17:49, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Interesting observation, but somewhat lateral. 20:02, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
Also, going up a hill to get to the other side would be "going over the the hill". 22:55, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, unfortunately "up" is vague and "over" would be an indication of beyond. 16:36, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

It seems like there have been a lot of environmental related comics, both recently with this and the tire swing and in general, often about global warming, but also about risk of Nuclear war/or pollution. Should there be a category, and if so, what should it be called, and should it only be about environment, also about nukes, or even only about global warming (or should there be more)? --Kynde (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2016 (UTC)

Where does it say that the water is at the top of he hill? They go some distance up the hill, but not necessarily to the top. There maybe any number of reasons why they go there for water. Maybe there is a brook running down the hillside. Maybe there a well was dug there because that is where most people live. Maybe the water in the valley is poluted. Andso on and so forth. -- 06:38, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

There are Dew Ponds which are at the top of hills, more info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dew_pond (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Abe and Ali,
Went down the valley,
To fetch a pail of water.
When rain falls down,
Hilltops don't drown,
The rivers flow; or oughta! 01:31, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

What happened to Friday's comic

I know they don't happen at 00:00 GMT, but it's now 19:44 GMT/20:44 BST and no new comic.

Everything ok, Randall Hun? -- Kev (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

See the header on the site: "The xkcd April 1st comic is currently experiencing technical difficulties. / Please stand by!" 21:18, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

Aww! I was so much looking forward to it, and now it's 10 minutes to midnight in Europe, so I won't even experience it during April 1st. Guess it will prove to be a very interesting comic along the lines of the last two years April 1st comics and his game when Thing Explainer came out. I hope those in the US gets that pleasure - also for Randall's sake. It would be a pity that an April fools' comics came out on April 2nd... Of course this feels like I have been made an April fool so I'll take that as an experience, maybe like the first Fool's comic from 2008. Havbe fun those of you who still have a chance to try it out today. ;-) --Kynde (talk) 21:54, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

Additional updates have been posted...

Status update: Please stand by.
Status update: This is fine. Everything is fine.
Status update: Everything is on fire.
Status update: Searching for calendar systems in which Saturday is April 1st.

-- 02:20, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

Well then at least I did not miss anything... He still has 1½ hour where it is still April 1st in California... (But three more hours in Hawaii.) --Kynde (talk) 05:32, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
Too late for that as well. He still has almost two hours until April 1st ends in baker-island though... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 10:16, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
And it is officially too late, as the date has now changed past April 1st all over the globe. Sad on behalf of Randall. Hope he makes it work and the anticipation that this should be a really great comic is sky high now. I'm taking comfort in playing with Lorenz again ;-) --Kynde (talk) 12:04, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
New update Saturday afternoon (in the US):
The Friday xkcd comic is currently experiencing technical difficulties
[Editor's note: Everything is on fire]
and has been delayed until Sunday night.
So nothing for this weekend. --Kynde (talk) 17:28, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
And if it is Sunday night then it is not in Europe. In half an hour it is midnight in central Europe... Maybe he is making a hoax on us that have been awaiting a new Lorenz? Quite dissapointed now and will go to bed ;-) --Kynde (talk) 21:26, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

Is it possible that the April joke is the banner and the absent comic? I propose a new wiki page is created for comic 1663 (April 1st), containing the banner and discussion about where the comic has gone. 14:02, 2 April 2016 (UTC)Wilhelm

I have thought about it, but I think we should await the next comic on Monday before creating any pages. It could of course be, I would think it was a poor April fool's joke especially since it is still up on the 2nd of April. And he would let down his fans... But of course he has done one such meta comics before, but that was not in stead of another comic. And if this is the April joke, but the comic on Mond1ay is called 1663 then it would be stupid to have called this "one" 1663. I have some screen shots of the first status update and then as it looks now. These can be used either in the explanation when the comic comes up, or if there never will be a comic. --Kynde (talk) 14:27, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

Update @ 5:37 PM EST (GMT -5:00, Randall lives in Boston, it's his timezone). Still the "everything's on fire" banner but no new comic. He should have it up within about 6 hours and 20 minutes maximum. Papayaman1000 (talk) 21:55, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

Update: Time is up for GB and Germany respectively, would have been an amazing birthday for someone I know. ẞ qwertz (talk) 00:30, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Update @ 10:30 PM EST: Still no comic. Same banner. Same person reporting. Papayaman1000 (talk) 02:32, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

10:20 PM CDT and there is still no comic 03:19, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

11:30. Nothing. Randall, I HATE you. Papayaman1000 (talk) 03:29, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

12:07am, it's Monday in Boston now, everything is still on fire. Miamiclay (talk) 04:08, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

02:06am Monday, neither the Friday nor the Monday comic is up. Atill same banner as yesterday. Fuck. Papayaman1000 (talk) 06:07, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Despair not, betcha it'll be worth the wait! Miamiclay (talk) 07:49, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
calm down! he still has 3 hours 45 minutes from Baker Island's perspective. ẞ qwertz (talk) 08:16, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Re: 'everything is on fire': Maybe Jack and Jill were trying to get water for that. 12:33, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

HOLYFUCKITSUP Papayaman1000 (talk) 08:43, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Finally Garden is up on xkcd

see Talk:1663:_Garden. -- Xorg (talk) 11:22, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Jeff's banner

This is off topic, but I noticed the banner from Jeff about 100 million views to the site! I followed the original explainxkcd site for about a year before the Wiki was created. If it's been going for 6 years then 100 million views would be an average of about 46,000 views per day and about 107,000 views per comic! Does anyone know when this Wiki was created?! I also know this average is misleading. Does anybody know what the current number of views per day is? Averaged over the last year for example?ExternalMonologue (talk) 00:53, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

(There's probably a better place to discuss this on the Community Portal link, but I haven't looked myself and your 'question' is here, so...)
100 million views may include a significant number of "Is the latest comic up yet?" or "Has someone replied to my Discussion Pane comment, yet?". I think a better 'metric' (less likely to be inflated by lurkers and other people bashing backwards and forwards over established pages, looking for changes for whatever reason) would be the number of edits made. Still some slight inflation by spammers and "Something is wrong on the Internet!"ers, but much more representative of the degree of community spirit. (Still, a milestone is a milestone!) 01:50, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

Am I the only one who got a sense of foreboding in the third panel and was expecting Megan to stop or dissuade the kids from this dangerous activity, rather than wondering about hydrology. I thought that was the joke here - most people would think of stopping the kids and saving them from broken crown and tumbling-related injuries, while Megan goes on a tangent about hydrology.. 02:51, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

I did not, she is not supposed to know the rhyme and would thus not know that they are supposed to fall down. --Kynde (talk) 05:32, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
No, and I'm also surprised not to see it mentioned. that's exactly the reason for the blank third panel, to provide the pause for you to fill in your own punch-line (the bait) and then the final panel is the one where you're taken away at the tangent (the switch). The joke is funnier because of Megan's concern about the hydrology (which is funny by itself) distracting her from the obvious.

The poem only says that they go up the hill; it doesn't state that they had to reach the peak. The text seems to presume they had to go to the peak. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)