917: Hofstadter

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 04:05, 13 December 2013 by (talk) (Explanation: At least, I think)
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"This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke."
Title text: "This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke."


The second panel reads "I'm So Meta, Even This Acronym." Going back and reading the first letters of these words yields "IS META."

Douglas Hofstadter is an American author who has written several books about philosophy, mathematics, and science. He is perhaps most famous for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach which explores "strange loops," or self-referential systems. "Meta-" is a Greek prefix meaning "outside" or "beyond." As an adjective, "meta" informally refers to anything self-referential, like this sentence.

In the title text, reference implementation is a reference to the standard implementation during a software development process.

Additionally, around the time of this comic the "explain <insert whatever here> in six words" meme was making the rounds.


[Cueball sits at a desk, working on a laptop. Megan approaches the desk and picks up a tiny book.]
Megan: What's this?
Cueball: Douglas Hofstadter's six-word autobiography. After all those 700-page tomes, I guess he wanted to try for brevity.
Megan: Huh. Let's see...
[Close up of Megan, reading the tiny book.]
Book: I'm So Meta, Even This Acronym
[Full shot of Cueball and Megan again. Megan looks down at the tiny book in her hand.]
Megan: ...whoa.
Cueball: I think he nailed it.

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I bet Randall felt so clever when he came up with that acronym. Davidy²²[talk] 01:24, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

IMO he had every right to. ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Is it worth mentioning that Is Meta is an acronym for "I'm," the first word of the acronym? That seems like it would be in the spirit of Hofstadter and "meta," especially since Hofstadter talks a lot about the meaning of "I" in his books. -- 04:28, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

Would "this acronym" imply that the sentence itself is an acronym for something much larger? A biography, perhaps? 14:48, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

The acronym of the title text is "tit riots (r)j". I'm fairly sure this doesn't really mean anything, but "tit riots" just made me giggle. 11:41, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Should it read “I'm so meta, even this acrostic”? Or did Randall eschew correctness in favor of more readers knowing what the comic's words meant? YatharthROCK (talk) 22:25, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

The explanation is factually incorrect... the prefix "meta" comes from the (ancient) Greek preposition "meta" which doesn't mean "beyond" or "out of" but merely "after". It came to mean, as a prefix, "beyond" or "reflexive", in modern european languages, via the latin neologism "metaphysica", supposed to be a translitteration of the title of Aristotle's collection of essays. This mysterious title was given by their first editor, living centuries after Aristotle, and was "ta meta ta physica", that is to say something like : "those [the books] after those regarding nature". As those mysteriously titled books concerned the general principles of reality, (including famously the "god", the divine principle of nature"), the title came wrongly to be understood as meaning "beyond nature". Eventually, the "metaphysics" of something came to be understood as dealing with the principles "beyond" a given domain, hence "meta-studies" or "meta-psychology", etc. It is, however, a mistake made since centuries... --Antinomiste (talk) 19:31, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

The last panel's boustrophedon acronym. "Woah I Think He / Nailed It" is an acronym for "Within", if you read in boustrophedon.