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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 03:05, 4 September 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have an explanation for all 1413 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Go to this comic explanation

Writing Skills
I'd like to find a corpus of writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. I've heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I'd bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day.
Title text: I'd like to find a corpus of writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. I've heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I'd bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Much more is needed on the reason why the use of SMS should enhance the writing skills. The title text is also not mentioned.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Cueball and White Hat are discussing the positive and negative effects of young people writing on mobile phones in the vernacular of the day, Short Message Service (SMS) with lots of abbreviations.

SMS messages are one of the primary means of text communication on mobile devices, and are typically limited to 160 characters. Due to the limited space available on this and other messaging platforms, and also to decrease the time taken to write a message, SMS language (aka textese) developed as a form of short-hand writing. This involves the abbreviation and deliberate misspelling of words, and the use of acronyms.

Naturally, the use of this style of language has expanded into other areas, including those where brevity is not an issue, and this expansion and evolution of language is a subject of intense debate. The main viewpoints on the subject are:

  • Language is being negatively degraded by the use of text speak
  • The use of text speak is a natural evolution of language

Cueball's point is that "practice makes perfect". Ability to form good grammar comes from practice through a lot of writing even when that writing is informal and hence the SMS generation get a lot of practice compared to the previous generations who communicated much more with speech, over the phone and in person, and may have written only a few letters a year. To foster talent for a major literary work we should encourage more practice even when that practice is through informal writing such as SMS.

James Joyce was an celebrated Irish novelist and poet, and his novel Ulysses is considered to be one of the most important works of modernist literature. It was criticized in some quarters for the frequent lack of punctuation and ungrammatical stream of consciousness narrative mode. In addition to his well known work, he wrote a number of love letters with extremely explicit content.

In the title text Randall wishes to prove Cueball's point by analyzing and comparing bulk volumes of texts (= a corpus) written by children today and 20 years ago. Randall favors todays children's writings for their everyday use of written word over situation in the past when children wrote only if forced to do so.

Transcript

[White Hat and Cueball are walking together, White Hat is holding a newspaper or report.]
White Hat: Weird- Another study found that kids who use SMS abbreviations actually score higher on grammar and spelling tests.
Cueball: Why on earth is that a suprise?
[Cueball turns to White hat (who is now out side the frame. Inserted in the frame is a panel showing several kids throwing balls.]
Cueball: Imagine kids suddenly start playing catch literally all the time. Everywhere they go, they throw balls back and forth, toss them in the air, and hurl them at trees and signs- Nearly every waking hour of their lives.
[Cueball talks on while White Hat begins to walk.]
Cueball: Do you think their generation will suck at baseball because they learned sloppy skills?
White Hat: ...So you think someone will become a great writer while sexting?
[They walk together.]
Cueball: Have you read James Joyce's love letters? The phrases "My little fuckbird" and "Arse full of farts" appear. If we want to write Ulysses, our generation may not be sexting enough.
White Hat: Eww.

Trivia

  • Randall originally misspelled surprise as "suprise" in the first panel and also wrote "writing writing" in the beginning of the title text in stead of just "writing". It was initially conjectured here that the errors may have been deliberately introduced as they are relevant to the subject. However, both of these errors were corrected on the same day the comic was released and currently are not present in the live version.

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Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a table of most recent xkcd comics and links to the rest, and the corresponding explanations. There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • If you see that a new comic hasn't been explained yet, you can create it: Here's how.
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

Rules

Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

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