1393: Timeghost

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
'Hello, Ghostbusters?' 'ooOOoooo people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now ooOoooOoo'
Title text: 'Hello, Ghostbusters?' 'ooOOoooo people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now ooOoooOoo'


Megan has been haunted by a Timeghost for some time. It is obviously not the first time the ghost arrives to let Megan know that "...ooOOOOOOOOooo... Tiiiime is passiiiing!" The ghost is dedicated to making people feel old by having them think about the passage of time. It is shown to reference time periods related to well-known people and events, such as famous actors and the release of movies and TV shows. Megan is just annoyed that it is back and wishes it to go away.

But then when Cueball ask "How long has it been doing this?" the ghost suddenly predicts that Megan and Cueball will die in a shorter amount of time than the time that has passed since the ghost began its hauntings. This disturbs Megan who stops her complaining and asks "What!?" This is not the first time she has been haunted by the ghost but it has probably not been that long, so this is a very scary thought to her (and Cueball).

We do, however, not know how long the ghost has been haunting Megan. Also the "staaaaart of my haunting" may refer to the first time the ghost haunted anyone, not just Megan. This could be a long time ago and thus be true for anyone it meets today. Or it could mean since the start of this particular manifestation, meaning their deaths are imminent! It is also possible Timeghost is being deliberately ambiguous in an effort to frighten them even more. This is of course only scary if you believe the ghost can predict the future, which is not what it has been doing so far. There is no example in the comic where it makes a prediction that we know is accurate - only comparing time spans we can look up - see below.

But one thing about the prediction is true - they will eventually die. And this is the scary part about realizing how old you are and that you are quickly getting older: You will die, and "soon" (for some value thereof).

The comic seems to be using "factoid" to mean a small fact. "Factoid" can also mean a "questionable or spurious statement presented as a fact", but this does not seem to be intended usage here. In this instance, some of the factoids are easily verifiable, while others are reasonable assumptions based on the number of years passed since the individual events. Several sources advocate the use of the word "factlet" to express a brief interesting fact, while using the word "factoid" for unverifiable or untrue statements passed as fact.

While factoids tend only to have mostly only entertainment value, the last fact from the ghost is a prediction of the future (Megan and Cueball's death) which is actually of some practical value if it can be trusted.

"Timeghost" might be a literal interpretation of Zeitgeist, which is a German term for "spirit of time" and refers to the school of thought that influences or dominates the art and culture of a time period. All the events and people mentioned in this comic may be considered influences on present day art and culture.

In the title text Megan calls Ghostbusters (from the 1984 movie) to help get rid of the Timeghost. This of course makes the ghost state that "people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now" making her feel old once more.

Randall has covered making people feel old several times in 647: Scary, 891: Movie Ages, 973: MTV Generation (in which White Hat utters Cueball's "That can't be right" line), and 1477: Star Wars. Also see the blag post Odd Temporal Milestones. This is, however, so far the only one that makes a prediction of anyone's death. A similar ghost with a much different agenda was seen in 1108: Cautionary Ghost. Similarly annoying fact(oids) were given in 1272: Shadowfacts. 926: Time Vultures make you feel old because the entire remainder of your life is only perceived as a few moments by them.


Year Event
1955-1975 Vietnam War
19 years
1994 Forrest Gump
20 years
2014 Year of this comic
1964 Keanu Reeves (Actor) born
2 years
1966 Today's new grandparents born (Average age: 48 in the US)
48 years
2014 Year of this comic
1990 Today's new parents born (Average age: 24 in the US)
3 years
1993-1994 The Simpsons Season 5
2 years (from '93 to '95)
1994-1995 The Simpsons Season 6
4 years
1999 Eminem (Rapper) got big (second album)
15 years
2014 Year of this comic
1984 Ghostbusters
3 years
1987 Today's people just having a second child born (Average age at first childbirth (24) + average gap between first two births (3))
27 years
2014 Year of this comic


[Cueball and Megan are approached by a floating ghost]
Timeghost: ...ooOOOOOOOOooo... Tiiiime is passiiiing!
Megan: Ugh. Timeghost.
Cueball: Huh?
Megan: Here come the factoids.
[Timeghost floats around.]
Timeghost: Forrest Gump came out closer to the Vietnam War than to the present daaay.
Megan: Go away!
Timeghost: The average new grand-parents are younger than Keanu Reeeeves!
Cueball: That can't be right...
[Megan clutches her head, possibly attempting to cover her ears.]
Timeghost: Today's new parents were ten when Eminem got big. Daaaaaad muuuuusic. They remember Simpsons season 5 or 6 at the earliest.
Megan: Argh!
Cueball: How long has it been doing this?
[Megan and Cueball looks up at the Timeghost as it delivers its most scary message.]
Timeghost: The staaaaart of my haunting is now further away than your deaaaths!
Megan: Will you sto- -WHAT!?
Timeghost: ooOOOOOOOoo
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


A lot of the facts seem to fit information that sites like http://you.regettingold.com/ would provide. But I'll leave it up to someone else to work out the dates of everything (except for the imminent and possibly eerie deaths of the strip characters) being referenced, and thus what ages Randall is assuming the various cohorts are... 04:58, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

Forrest Gump the book - 1986

Forrest Gump the movie - 1994

Vietnam War - 1955 to 1975

Keanu Reeves - born 1965 (age 49)

The Simpsons season 5 - 1993 Dude1818 (talk) 05:15, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

I'm sure you all remember Cautionary Ghost; there's got to be a lot of those around in the xkcd universe... 07:23, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

I don't know enough about the English usage of the term to see the connection, but could this be a play on "zeitgeist", seeing how it is a literal translation of the word? Tobl

Maybe it is just me, but I don't see the characters' deaths as imminent. In the first panel, Megan is not suprised to see that ghost and can even identify it easily. So my guess is that she previously met the ghost "some time" before, but she (obviously) doesn't like to know how much time she has left to live. 08:12, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

(average age of new grandparents is less than 50) [citation needed] (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

can I site xkcd:1393 as a source for that data? 09:17, 11 July 2014 (UTC)BLuDgeons

Google gives 25 as the average age people get their first child. Wikipedia also says Eminem rose to mainstream popularity in 1999 (His debut was earlier but the comic says "when Eminem got big", a subjective term but the 1999 figure might be more accurate?) This also makes season 5/6 of the Simpsons at age 4/5 the earliest age most people remember well. Maybe change the dates to 1989, 1993 and 1999 for parenthood, simpsons and eminem respectively?

Sources: Parent age: http://www.babycenter.com/0_surprising-facts-about-birth-in-the-united-states_1372273.bc?page=2 (questionable maybe) Eminem got big: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminem (Second paragraph, subjective) Earliest memories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood_amnesia (Second paragraph, personal recollection offset is 4.5 years) 09:46, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

I can't find a current number, but extrapolation from this chart would put the average parent age for their first child at 25 or maybe 26. 28 is the average parent age for any child. Condor70 (talk) 12:34, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

How can we say that the time-ghost only first appeared in the beginning of this particular comic? In the first panel Megan seems to recognize the time-ghost, inferring that she's met him before - but Cueball has not. Jarod997 (talk) 12:29, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

Implying. 05:47, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

I do not know about the proper etiquette for submitting possible edits to the explanations. Should "[...] than the time that has past since the ghost's began its" become "[...] than the time that has passed since the ghost began its"? Zyzygy (talk) 9:24, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Looks reasonable. When you see lexical errors like that, feel free to just change it yourself. Davidy²²[talk] 11:02, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

So, how old is Randall? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

We need a category for "comics that make people feel old", if we don't already have one. You know, like that one with the eight-year-old talking about 9/11. If we do, just add this comic to it. 22:53, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

RE The Simpsons: If you had a tape or boxset you may remember more of seasons 1-4, because you watched it over and over. Also at the time, seasons 1 and 2 were entering rerun territory/premiering in other countries (see below). The strange thing is, Network Ten in Australia used to regularly broadcast episodes dating back to at least season 3 during my childhood (late '90s and early 2000s'), but now the earliest episodes they play are from seasons 4-6, minimum. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nobody seems to interpret the last Time Ghost statement the way I did, so I thought I would list my perspective here. Death is when one stops existing. When do Megan and Cueball stop existing in this comic? When the strip is over. It started its haunting three panels ago, and they all die in one panel. 13:00, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

I remember The Simpsons from The Tracey Ullman Show, before there was even a Season 1! -- The Cat Lady (talk) 21:37, 28 October 2021 (UTC)