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Suddenly Popular
Are Your Teens Practicing Amplexus? Learn These Six Telltale Signs!
Title text: Are Your Teens Practicing Amplexus? Learn These Six Telltale Signs!


Many phrases that used to be of mainly academic interest become popular when an important event or global trend is described with such phrases in the media. Randall presents a timeline of past examples, and predicts phrases that may be popularised in the near future. The past events are a mix of buzz words and words learned through disasters, crime and terrorism. The future events seems to be all related to natural disasters or other kinds of serious issues, except Amplexus — which is the joke of the title text — showing that no matter how many disasters there are, people are generally more concerned about their teenagers' sex lives.

The title text is also an example of a clickbait headline. Many organizations will post a link on social media to their content with a sensationalized headline in order to draw readers in. In this case, the headline is geared towards parents who are worried about their children being sexually active in this new Amplexus way. Such headlines are the internet's answer to television news' promos ("A new trend among teens is sweeping the nation, but is it dangerous? Details at 11:00.").

Global catastrophic risk is a theme throughout this comic. Randall predicts a large asteroid impact/near miss and a volcanic eruption, followed by an impact winter or volcanic winter. An insect borne, global pandemic without a cure also strikes, and then the technological singularity occurs.

List of the phrases

Below the phrases are listed with the closest year from the time-line noted behind the phrase. Note that this year does not necessarily match with the in-real-life relevant year. This may be found in the explanation of the phrase below.

World Wide Web – 1994
Though first proposed in 1989, and the first test being completed in 1990, it took until around 1994 for the world wide web to start becoming well known.
DNA Evidence – 1995
Prominent coverage of the O. J. Simpson murder trial in 1994 brought widespread discussion of DNA Evidence, making it famous and showing its limitations.
Militia Movement – 1996
After the standoffs at Ruby Ridge in 1992, Idaho and the Branch Davidians compound in Waco, Texas between U.S. Government Agencies and militias in 1993, people started becoming more aware of their presence, culminating with the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing on the second anniversary of the fire at the Branch Davidians compound.
Supermax – 1997
Super-Maximum security prisons. Possibly referring to the 1997 film Con Air, starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and John Malkovich, in which prisoners being transferred to a new Supermax prison seize control of their transport plane. Also possibly referring to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, perpetrators of the aforementioned Oklahoma City bombing, who were incarcerated at ADX Florence, the former from the time of his arrest to 1999, and the latter from the time of his conviction to the present day.
A butterfly ballot
Butterfly Ballot – 2000
In United States presidential election in 2000, Florida had a major recount dispute that took center stage in the election. Thus, the outcome of the 2000 United States presidential election was not known for more than a month after balloting, because of the extended process of counting and then recounting of Florida presidential ballots. The butterfly ballot was the type of ballot design used in Palm Beach County, Florida, and was a central issue in the election controversy. Evidence suggests that many voters who intended to vote for Gore or Bush actually marked their ballots for Pat Buchanan or spoiled their ballots, because of a confusing layout of the ballot.
Al-Qaeda – 2002
The September 11th terrorist attacks brought the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation into the spotlight almost overnight.
Wi-Fi – 2003
Wi-Fi, though developed in the '90s, first became popular in the early 2000s.
Tsunami – 2006
There were a number of tsunamis around this time period, in particular the Boxing Day Tsunami which caused 230,000 deaths, and the 2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami. These were some of the first tsunamis to be widely captured on camera, bringing these previously obscure seismic events into the public eye.
Viral – 2009
In this context, the word viral is used to describe anything which spreads rapidly and widely on the internet. In particular an online video clip is said to have 'Gone Viral' or become a Viral video if it racks up a high number of views over a short time. This phenomenon has become especially prevalent due to users sharing content on Social media.
Radicalize – 2011
Due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, and the relative ease with which one can travel from Europe to Syria by way of Turkey, there is growing concern about the risk of young Muslims in Europe (and, to a lesser extent, the United States) becoming radicalized by indoctrination from fundamentalists either in their communities or on the Internet.
Metadata – 2013
Following the highly publicised 2013 leaks by Edward Snowden of information regarding the NSA's indiscriminate surveillance of global communication metadata, awareness of the privacy value of such data became widespread, where once it was mostly familiar to IT professionals.

From this point on, phrases were in the future at the time of publication.

Lahar – 2016
A Lahar is a mudslide caused by the eruption of a volcano that was covered with snow or ice. Randall is speculating on a future natural disaster being caused by such an incident. Bárðarbunga volcano covered with Vatnajökull glacier on Iceland increased activity just a few days before publishing of this comic and may erupt in the near future.
Insect-Borne – 2019
Some diseases are insect-borne, meaning specific species of insects are the main vector in spreading to humans. Malaria is an example of an insect-borne disease. Randall predicts some deadly insect-borne disease will emerge around this time.
Earth-Crossing – 2021
Earth-crossers are asteroids that cross the orbit of Earth. Most of them are harmless because they cross when Earth is not there. For this phrase to become popular, an Earth-crosser would have to be hazardous, crossing so close to Earth it may collide with it. Such an asteroid would rate 5 or more on the Torino Scale. As of 2014, there are no known dangerous asteroid crossings in the early 2020s. If the next two phrases are connected to this one, Randall is predicting a large asteroid impact.
Thermohaline – 2022
Thermohaline circulation is the largest group of interconnected ocean currents, which stabilize global climate by equalizing the temperature and salinity of oceans around the world. If this phrase becomes popular, it implies the thermohaline circulation would have slowed or changed significantly. This might be caused by asteroid impact or by polar ice melting. The latter scenario was apocalyptically dramatized in the movie The Day After Tomorrow.
Snow-Blindness – 2024
Snow blindness is an eye condition caused by excessive UV light reflected from snow and ice. This can lead to corneal damage and blindness (temporary, if treated properly). This phrase becoming popular might suggest a long impact winter (from the asteroid) or severe ozone depletion in cold regions of the world.
Amplexus – 2025
A form of non-penetrative reproduction carried out by some animals, for example frogs, involving grasping the partner with front legs. This may be connected to the other posts (some change in human society) or it may simply be a joke at how new sexual language/fads appear and hit mainstream media from time to time (for example a number of acts gained fame from Sex and the City). This also ties in with the title text that imagines a sensationalist headline suggesting teenagers may be doing this.
Controlled Hydroplaning – 2028
Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle tire comes in contact with a puddle in such a way that the water builds up between the tire and the road surface. The film of water, having a much lower coefficient of friction than the road surface, causes the tire to lose traction. Typically, in this scenario, the driver isn't planning to hydroplane and loses control of the vehicle. In theory, controlled hydroplaning would be achieved when the driver plans for it ahead of time. This could be necessary if, in this hypothetical future, most of the roads are flooded since the impact winter (after only four years) ends and thus a great thaw causes all roads to become wet all the time.
Paradoxical Reaction – 2031
A Paradoxical reaction is a medical term for when the outcome of a medical treatment, typically the taking of a drug, is the opposite of that expected. For example taking a pain relieving medication make the pain worse. For this term to suddenly become well known, a large scale or particularly notable case must have taken place (such as the insect-borne disease of 2019). Or, this and the following (and maybe the last as well) phrases may refer to the events from The Evitable Conflict by Isaac Asimov where robots, instructed with the Three Laws of Robotics, take over the world to prevent humans hurting each other. The paradoxical reaction is that these laws were specifically designed to, among other things, prevent robots from taking over the world in the first place.
Drone Desertion – 2033
Desertion is the abandonment of a post or duty, usually military in nature. With the increasing use of autonomous drones by the military this hints at an event where drones 'decide' to desert, possibly due to unspecified advances in Artificial Intelligence and Robot Rights. Or maybe they just start following the Three Laws of Robotics.
Rapid Hair Growth – 2034
Maybe some humans have developed a very rapid hair growth (maybe on the entire body) caused by the cold year after the impact winter.
I Swear Allegiance To The God-Empress In Life And In Death – 2038
This is a divine oath. After the impact and the desertion of the drones a strong fraction has made their leader divine, and everyone now has to swear allegiance to this new God-Empress using this phrase - which would certainly make it a very "popular" phrase. The phrase God-Emperor was popularized in the science-fiction work Dune in 1965 and has been repeatedly referenced since, notably in the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000 (and related media) and the computer game Starcraft (and related media).


Obscure words and phrases everyone suddenly becomes very familiar with.
[A time line to the left is marked of by several phrases to the right around the time they became familiar to the public:]
<-- World Wide Web
<-- DNA Evidence
<-- Militia Movement
<-- Supermax
<-- Butterfly Ballot
<-- Al-Qaeda
<-- Wi-Fi
<-- Tsunami
<-- Viral
<-- Radicalize
<-- Metadata
<-- Lahar
<-- Insect-Borne
<-- Earth-Crossing
<-- Thermohaline
<-- Snow-Blindness
<-- Amplexus
<-- Controlled Hydroplaning
<-- Paradoxical Reaction
<-- Drone Desertion
<-- Rapid Hair Growth
<-- I Swear Allegiance To The God-Empress In Life And In Death

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