Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: My all-time favorite example of syntactic ambiguity comes from Wikipedia: 'Charlotte's Web is a children's novel by American author E. B. White, about a pig named Wilbur who is saved from being slaughtered by an intelligent spider named Charlotte.'
The comic here is a mash up between the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the novel Charlotte's Web.
The title Cirith Ungol is a reference to Lord of the Rings where Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were led to Cirith Ungol by Gollum to the lair of the ancient spider Shelob.
And therefore in this comic, Frodo (by himself) is being led into the lair of the spider, Charlotte. We can tell by the "Some Pig" writing in the spider web on the lower right hand corner which is a direct reference to the story of Charlotte's Web, in which a spider named Charlotte writes the very same text in her web.
Syntactic ambiguity is a property of sentences which may be reasonably interpreted in more than one way, or reasonably interpreted to mean more than one thing. This allows us to derive two different meanings from the same sentence.
The second part of the quote in the title text, taken from Wikipedia, can be logically interpreted in either of the following ways:
- Charlotte the spider saves Wilbur from slaughter.
- Charlotte the spider attempts to slaughter Wilbur, but he is saved.
- [A character in a long flowing robe holds up the phial of galadriel in one hand; the One Ring is dangling from a necklace in the other. The scene is a cave, profuse with spiderwebs, bones hanging in some of them. On one of the webs are words, presumably written by the spider.]
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- SOME PIG
I don't think this is correct: "Another possibility of the ambiguity is that the author, E. B. White, was saved from being slaughtered by Charlotte."
The ambiguous sentence is: 'Charlotte's Web is a children's novel by American author E. B. White, about a pig named Wilbur who is saved from being slaughtered by an intelligent spider named Charlotte.'
"American author E. B. White" and "who is saved..." are separated by "about a pig named Wilbur" which references the novel.
So the relative clause "who is saved..." cannot reference "American author E. B. White".
BJL (talk) 05:22, 3 August 2012 (EDT)
I've deleted the sentence cited above from the page.
BJL (talk) 07:32, 6 August 2012 (EDT)
The ambiguity is if the "by" in "by an intelligent spider..." refers to "is saved" or "being slaughtered" - is he being saved by said spider, or is someone saving him from being slaughtered by said spider? 18.104.22.168 20:24, 25 May 2014 (UTC)
Shouldn't it have been some pigs?
Was it really some pig or just some pig?
The answer is in the proof I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 15:32, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
- I don't fully understand what you are asking in your comment, but 'Some Pig' is the correct phrase from the book. I'm not sure whether the phrase 'Some Pig' might confuse people who don't speak english natively. --Pudder (talk) 16:28, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
- If I recall the book, the meaning of "Some pig" is "a remarkable pig" (see sense 6 in
wiktionary). This message persuades the farmer not to slaughter Wilbur as a runt.22.214.171.124
11:49, 20 February 2015 (UTC)