Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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This comic is a meta-joke where Cueball explains to White Hat which words he often spells or pronounces wrong. Ironically, those words happen to be words whose definitions mean "to spell wrong" and "being pronounced wrong". While describing the words he says he has trouble with, he manages to use the same words correctly in sentences both inside quotation marks (to refer to the word itself) and outside (to describe the action corresponding to those words).
The word misspell is misspelled quite often (although not in this comic!). Misspell is quite commonly misspelled as mispell or miss-spell. Some might argue that misspelled is the one word which should always be misspelled intentionally and written mispelled, so that its orthography reflects its meaning. ("If it isn't mispelt, then it isn't mispelt!")
The word mispronunciation is often misspelled and mispronounced like "mispronounciation", with the middle part like "noun" instead of "nun". This is made even more confusing by the fact that the related word, "pronounce", does in fact have "noun" in the middle.
The punchline comes when Cueball tells that the epitome of mispronunciation is the the way Cueball pronounces epitome. This is also metahumor, as epitome refers to a very good or perfect example. Thus Cueball shows the epitome of mispronunciation when he incorrectly pronounces epitome.
The title text explains Cueball's mispronunciation of epitome. It is supposed to be pronounced in four syllables, /ɪˈpɪtəmi/ (uh-PIH-tuh-mee), starting with a schwa, then emphasis on the second syllable pronounced like "pit", and a long E on the fourth syllable pronounced like "me". Instead, he pronounces it /ˈɛpɪtoʊm/ (EPPY-tome), with emphasis on the first part pronounced like the beginning of "epic", and a silent E on the the second part pronounced like "tome". The mispronounced version is what a person unfamiliar with the word might reasonably guess, given other words with similar spelling like "epicenter", "epitaph", and "episode".
EpiPen, a trademark for a type of epinephrine autoinjector (i.e. adrenaline), is brought up to further illustrate the inconsistency between spelling and pronunciation. This time the word is supposed to be pronounced with an emphasized "EPPY", but he (intentionally?) mispronounces it like "uh-PIE", possibly to match other proper nouns such as Epirus and Epione.
- [White Hat and Cueball are walking.]
- Cueball: I sometimes misspell "misspell" and "mispronunciation," and I mispronounce "mispronunciation,"
- Cueball: But the epitome of mispronunciation is probably the way I pronounce "epitome."
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