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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 23:07, 7 August 2012


Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki! We currently have 11 comic explanations. Come and add yours!

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Unicode
I'm excited about the proposal to add a "brontosaurus" emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument.
Title text: I'm excited about the proposal to add a "brontosaurus" emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: first time making page. Needs much more work including links, sources and the Brontosaurus reference.

Cueball, along with two other figures, is placing traffic signs in a river. As rivers flow according to the landscape, this plan will not work and the river will continue on its course. Cueball is very frustrated by this and is still trying to make the river obey traffic laws. The caption lays out the punchline: the comic compares the useless approach of Cueball attempting to divert a flowing, moving river with fixed signs that do nothing, with the Unicode Consortium's attempt to define the diverse and ever-changing human language with strict technical standards.

Unicode is a largely successful attempt to have a standard for representing all possible letters, numerals, digits and symbols that make up human writing in all languages. This includes the roman letters used in this article, characters with modifiers like ê (both with the common characters as well as the modifiers selectable separately), ideographic characters like in Chinese, syllabic writing system like Japanese, right-to-left and/or top-to-bottom writing systems, mathematical symbols, emoji, and many other writing systems. The symbols on the signs in the river, are, in fact Unicode, with the warning sign triangle with an exclamation mark ⚠ having code (U+26A0) and the black, rightwards arrow ➡ having code (U+271A). As can be imagined, coping with the wide variety of character sizes, orientations, ways they can be modified, capitalization rules, etc. can get to be very challenging as the Unicode Consortium tries to write rules that accommodate how printed language is actually used.

The title text refers to a proposal to add three dinosaur heads to the official list of emoji. This is likely to stir debate between the following opposing camps:

  • those who favor the inclusion of more emoji vs. those who oppose emoji on principle
  • those who accept the existence of Brontosaurus vs. those who deny its status as a species unique from Apatosaurus
  • those who favor a traditional, scaly image of dinosaurs vs. those who have accepted the feathered-dinosaur paradigm
  • those who point out that two of the dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Emoji" set actually come from the Cretaceous period, and as such renaming is necessary vs. those who think that "Jurassic" is a cooler word
  • those who for religious or other reasons deny the existence of dinosaurs.

See also

636: Brontosaurus

Transcript

[Single panel scene: Cueball is standing waist-deep in a river. With one arm he is holding on to a traffic sign that says "Detour" with an arrow pointing to the right. The other arm is pointing horizontally. Further up the river is another street sign apparently in around 0.5 metres of water; this sign has an exclamation mark inside a triangle. In the distance on one bank of the river, two people are standing and making gestures, with a sign lying on the ground next to them. Behind them is a parked car on a road that crosses a bridge over the river.]

Cueball: No, go this way, not —

Are you even listening!?

Hey! That's not what this area is for!

[Caption]

Watching the Unicode people try to govern the infinite chaos of human language with consistent technical standards is like watching highway engineers try to steer a river using traffic signs.


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