Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
|Like I'm Five|
Title text: 'Am I taking care of you? I have a thesis to write!' 'My parents are at their house; you visited last--' 'No, no, explain like you're five.'
|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: The explain and the title text need some more rework.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
There are two things going on in this comic. The conversation begins normally with Cueball asking Megan what she has been up to.
In her response, she tells Cueball that she is working on her thesis, which is a long-term project graduate students work on. In the fields of science and mathematics, a thesis generally consists of original research and deals with esoteric material that are difficult for laypeople to understand. A thesis topic might be something like quantum fluctuations of gas particles, or x-ray crystallography. Thus, the meaning and implications of such research need to be reduced to the simplest explanation possible. Cueball, wanting to understand Megan's thesis topic asks her to explain it like he's five so he, or any child could understand.
The punchline to this joke is Megan's response in which she treats Cueball as if he is an actual 5 year-old. Asking where his parents are is what a concerned person might say if they see a young and vulnerable child by themselves. However, her response is in quotes, which is a denotation of sarcasm. She is not actually asking Cueball where his parents are, but rather pretending like he is five.
In the title text, the dialog is as follows:
Megan: 'Am I taking care of you? I have a thesis to write!'
Cueball: 'My parents are at their house; you visited last--'
Megan: 'No, no, explain like you're five.'
In this exchange, Megan continues playing along, feigning concern that she will have to abandon her work to take care of this supposed lost child (Cueball).
Cueball responds as an adult, explaining to Megan that his parents are at their house, reminding Megan that she recently saw them. Megan interrupts Cueball, disappointed that he has abandoned the "let's pretend I'm five game" but wanting Cueball to respond to her like he is a child.
In short, Cueball wants a dumbed down explanation of Megan's research, but this has led them to play a game of actually pretending Cueball is an innocent, naive child.
"Explain like I'm five" is a way of asking for a simpler explanation of some difficult topic — a concept Randall has explored previously. This is inspired and apparently misquoted by the famous quote "Why a four-year-old child could understand this report! Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it." See also Groucho Marx at Duck Soup from 1933.
- Cueball: What've you been up to?
- Megan: Doing tons of math for my thesis.
- Cueball: Can you explain it like I'm five?
- Megan: "Oh my god, where are your parents?"
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
I bet this comic was at least partly inspired by Randall's writing for this week's what-if, in which he's answering a question posed by a 4 1/2 year old, and does indeed seem to be attempting to explain to someone of that age.18.104.22.168 04:39, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Almost certainly a reference to this. 22.214.171.124 05:58, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I actually do something like this, though I never heard of the Reddit thing or the above page. 126.96.36.199 06:46, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
The alt text leads into me imagining them both "being" 5 and start arguing in a very childish way. I think that's a part of the alt joke.
188.8.131.52 08:59, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I read it as a pun on "parens". As in the equations being so complicated it's hard to tell which parentheses belong together. 184.108.40.206 12:04, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
- But those parentheses are only in your mind. The thesis could very well be about Psychology or Latin. 220.127.116.11 14:24, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
- Well, Megan is "doing tons of maths for (her) thesis", so 18.104.22.168's idea can be right. 22.214.171.124 07:24, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
I did remove this statement: "possibly originating from an episode of Psych)". Maybe someone can give a better prove; the explain still needs some enhancements. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:31, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Does this remind anyone else of 547? Except that xkcd argued the opposite (that simplified explanations are beneficial). I'd assume that this means there is a happy middle ground between offering simple, accessible explanations and dumbing things down to the level needed for a 5 year old to understand. S (talk) 23:02, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
The reddit thread has high traffic *after* this xkcd comic? The xkcd comic is *based* on reddit's ELI5 (Explain like I'm 5) subreddit, which has been around for ages! Langusto (talk) 05:35, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
- So please show me the traffic before this comic. Is there any link to the initial post? I can't find. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:29, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
- The traffic before this comic can be seen using ELI5's "next" button, or for example search for "heartbleed". There are loads of threads with huge traffic from the last two years. That's what this xkcd comic is about. I don't know what the "initial post" was, but this is a subreddit, not a forum thread. Langusto (talk) 05:26, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
- I'm sorry, but just give me one single link on that site on this topic which was posted before this comic. Browsing that reddit is still really like nerd sniping, so please give a prove that this thread is older then this comic we are talking about. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:24, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
- That's funny, when I search I get not one but *thirteen* threads from the last month. I can't prove anything, but do your own search of the ELI5 subreddit for literally anything and you'll get a bunch of threads from up to 2 years ago. Search for 'gravity', search for 'magnet', search for 'television' (all within the ELI5 subreddit). Langusto (talk) 06:34, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
- I still can't see any relevant posts belonging to this comic's topic. Reddit is chaos, most posts are off-topic, and the matter of this comic was not seriously discussed there. And even the first page at Gooogle for "ELI5" isn't very helpful on further investigations. For me it is still clear that the current traffic belongs to this comic while former posts do not belong to this matter mostly. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:04, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
- I don't know why you're having so much difficulty with a simple search of ELI5. "This comic's topic" is explain like I'm 5. Reddit's explainlikeimfive subreddit is two years old. Search within the ELI5 subreddit for 2012. Like for example ELI5's "The Best of 2012: Contest Winners". Are all those "explainlikeimfive" threads in 2012 due to this xkcd comic in 2014, in your opinion? Langusto (talk) 06:00, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
- The problem seems to be that Dgbrt doesn't know how to find ELI5. Here it is. It's existed for a long time. Randall is very aware of reddit's existence, as he's shown with previous comics. (Directly mentioning it, criticizing its upvoting method of displaying comments, having a sort-of AMA. 126.96.36.199 00:40, 23 November 2014 (UTC)
Why is it not mentioned that this comic is *based* on reddit's ELI5 (Explain like I'm 5) subreddit? It is pretty clear that it existed long before this comic. Proof of its popularity (as I see the discussion above), could be the youtube series done by the reddit, named (suprise, suprise) "Explain like i'm five". The videos are submitted in march 2013, but I'm pretty sure they didn't get the idea in one day and filmed everything on the other. 188.8.131.52 03:32, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
I completely rewrote the explanation. Can this be closed now? 184.108.40.206 13:50, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
- No.The explain and the title text still need some more rework. --Dgbrt (talk) 23:35, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
Different from the explain, I first got the impression that Megan's response is because the math is so hard that Cueball would be scared from it and would want his parents. I may be completely wrong, though... 220.127.116.11 00:04, 11 November 2015 (UTC)