1650: Baby

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Does it get taller first and then widen, or does it reach full width before getting taller, or alternate, or what?
Title text: Does it get taller first and then widen, or does it reach full width before getting taller, or alternate, or what?


Cueball (possibly representing Randall) is uncomfortable about talking with couples who present their baby to him (here represented by Megan and another Cueball-like guy holding a baby in a blanket). Because he never knows what to say, he has many strange thoughts and/or reasonable questions, that shouldn't be mentioned in front of happy parents showing off their precious baby for the first time. See the table below for his thoughts.

Cueball's thoughts of what he didn't say includes awkward or plain strange lines, musings about science which has nothing to do with this baby, and a rating of the baby. Nonetheless some of the thoughts are quite true.

In the end he manages to make a comment about how cool the baby is, and immediately regrets this, as he just realized he has squandered the chance to say something meaningful and instead has come out with something quite inane.

In the title text he continues his thoughts again, going in the scientific direction with a question regarding how a child grows. Does it get tall first and then put on weight? (i.e. widen). This is a valid question which has no general answer. (See more in the table below). But he is not sure, as he also wonders if instead the child will reach full width before getting taller or alternate stages.

Randall was 31 at the time of the release of this comic. As far as this page and Wikipedia informs, at the time of writing, he has no children, although he is married. However, given his age, it is highly likely that many of his friends are having babies during these years, so he will probably often get into the depicted situation. Therefore, it is highly likely that the comic is based on his own experience, possibly with an added degree of comic exaggeration, and that it is indeed Randall depicted as the thinking Cueball.

Having problems with small talk is a recurring theme in xkcd (see 222: Small Talk), even something as simple as talking about the weather can be a problem (see 1324: Weather). This comic is the third in less than a month were Cueball has issues with this; the first two were 1640: Super Bowl Context and 1643: Degrees.

There has previously been a "plural" version of this comic called 441: Babies, here Cueball also manages to say something better left unsaid, even if it was about his own baby.


  • In the table is a list of all the different sentences Cueball can think of or actually speaks in this comic:
Cueball’s thoughts, including final statement and the title text.
Sentence Explanation
Wow, it's getting so big! Unlike most babies, which stay the same size forever. The first part of the sentence is quite a normal response, if it is not the first time the person sees the baby. But the second part can be interpreted as sarcastic, as newborn babies are supposed to grow fast, and it would be strange/bad if the baby had not grown considerably if it had been some months since last time. This also shows how inane the normal statement is, though people often feel inclined to say it anyway.
Hi! I'm talking to a baby! People often talk to the baby, rather than the parents. This makes no sense for Cueball, as the baby doesn't understand him. Should he mention this?
What brand is it? Typically a question one would ask about a new car, article of clothing, electronics, or other inanimate object, not a baby. Alternatively, the "brand" could also figuratively refer to the baby's sex. Usually it may be OK to ask what sex the baby is, though the normal question would be Is it a boy or a girl.
Wow, definitely much smaller than a regular person! As all babies are... Typically a real response would be Wow, they are so small. Possibly also a reference (in a complimentary sense) to, e.g., a compact vehicle vs. a normal-sized one, or how modern computers are/tend to be tinier (comparatively) than their predecessors, all other things equal.
You sure did make that. A typical comment would be he sure looks like you. (See the comment that it doesn't look like you.) Such a sentence basically means you can see that it is clear that these two people did in fact make this baby. But making a baby requires sex, so when he puts it like that he actually refers to the sex part, which may be an awkward topic for many people.
★★★★☆ Great baby. It is custom to praise parents for their lovely baby, but not to ever rate it with stars. In 1608: Hoverboard Megan rates a sea, something also not usually done. At least Cueball gave the baby more stars than Megan gave the sea.
It doesn't really look like you since you're not a baby. A common comment is He totally looks like you. What people mean is that they can see features in the face (he has his father's nose but his mother's eyes). But of course given that the parents are adults they of course no longer look like a baby. Often it could be speculated that people just say this because they wish to see the similarities and to please the parents (hopefully).
So do they learn words one at a time alphabetically or can you pick the order or what? Here Cueball displays interest in the process of learning to speak a language as a baby. Very interesting subject, but since this is a very small baby, not something first time parents would have thought about yet. Learning one word at a time seems reasonable, but the two suggestions that they learn alphabetically or in a specific order the parents choose is plain silly. Babies learning language are the topic of 2567: Language Development.
I hope it does a good job. Cueball could be referring to the baby's future, such as schooling and employment, or could be saying "I hope it does a good job being a baby/growing up/etc."
Wow, that's a really cool baby! This is what Cueball actually ends up saying. He thinks immediately that this was a silly thing to say and thinks Dammit (see title text of this comic: 559: No Pun Intended).
Title text: Does it get taller first and then widen, or does it reach full width before getting taller, or alternate, or what? It is not possible to generalize about how children grow, but of course it doesn't reach full width before getting taller! But it's mostly true that kids do alternate between putting on weight and using that weight to get taller. So they might get chubbier during a period of time, but then suddenly they will lose the fat as they grow taller and become thin again. If they don't eat much, they may stay small. If you feed them a diet with lots of sugar, they may stay fat even during growth spurts. But not necessarily, as each kid is different. The question is thus very interesting, but again not something to discuss as an anecdote the first time you have the chance to comment on a newborn baby.


[Cueball is standing in front of a family consisting a Cueball-like guy holding a newborn baby, with spiky hair, in a blanket and Megan. Cueball is thinking lots of thoughts about what to say to the couple upon seeing their baby for the first time. There is thus a huge thinking bubble in the top of the panel above the characters. Everything in this bubble has been crossed out like taking a pencil and drawing lines on top of the text, but it can still be read. After using all this time thinking, Cueball finally decides what to say, only to immediately regret this as can be seen in a small thought bubble below his spoken line, which is between the huge and the small bubble.]
Cueball (thoughts that are crossed out):
Wow, it's getting so big! Unlike most babies, which stay the same size forever.
Hi! I'm talking to a baby!
What brand is it?
Wow, definitely much smaller than a regular person!
You sure did make that.
★★★★☆ Great baby.
It doesn't really look like you since you're not a baby.
So do they learn words one at a time alphabetically or can you pick the order or what?
I hope it does a good job.
Cueball: Wow, that's a really cool baby!
Cueball (thinking): Dammit.
[Caption below the panel:]
I can never figure out what to say about babies.

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In second sentence, it says bobble instead of bubble. 10:08, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Fixed it. This referred to the transcript which was the only part of the explanation at that time. You could also just have done it yourself, even faster than writing here. It is a wiki, and correcting spelling errors in explanations is always appreciated. Not everyone who writes here is a native English speaker (I'm not, and I know I make several mistakes.) Hopefully the explanations make up for this, and others will fix the bad spelling/grammar. ;-) --Kynde (talk) 15:52, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

"Good job getting it outside" ... Talking to people about their baby is basically something like talking with collector about his hobby you don't share. Well ... at least they can't show you two things looking exactly same and talk about how they differ. Unless they have twins. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:35, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

the pressures of a new baby are such that it's very tempting just to stay inside and deal with them. having to gather up all the stuff you think is essential to take them outside and then actually do it is absolutely a big deal. if you see people with a newborn, congratulate them, they'll appreciate it. -- 13:06, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
I meant outside of Megan. Which, while certainly something worth congratulating (despite Megan not really having so much choice), is usually not said directly, so it would match other "weird" responses. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:21, 4 March 2016 (UTC)

Say something creepy, maybe they'll keep the baby away from you... Seipas (talk) 11:48, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

In explanation "...he actually refers to the sex part, which may be uncomfortable for many people." - Now, I know what is meant. And I also know that sex can be uncomfortable, in the performing. But I think we need different words here. That though it is often quite plain that a woman with a baby, or obviously pregnant, has had (s) (e) (x) (!), and that this is probably even very much expected of married (or 'modern') couples, and quite clearly all non-adoptive parents did it at some point, possibly even with each other... ((Yes, that probably applies to your own parents. And if you don't already somehow know what it looks like for them to 'get it on', you're potentially going to now start to imagine them 'doing it', right? Urgh!)) ...yet the idle fiction is maintained that nothing much like that goes on and most people don't try to break through that fiction. At least not in a baby-meeting social situation. ...but how to insert that into the Explanation? 15:43, 14 September 2022 (UTC)

Small talk category[edit]

How about introducing a category "Small talk"? Containing e.g., 222, 1640 (I didn't do an exhaustive search) -- 12:43, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Could be interesting. Would that then also include all those where two people walk together, or should it specifically be when it is a subject like the weather he cannot find out to discuss like people expect? (There is also one like that with the weather... 1324: Weather ) But it is difficult to search for this I think? If anyone care to list anyone they can think of here it would be interesting. --Kynde (talk) 12:48, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
I would find that appealing. The focus should be the socially awkward smalltalk, like just lately 1643 --TheHolgi (talk) 13:10, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
That is three in less than a month. I have included this in the explanation. If there are enough of these for a category, we could link to that instead of individual comics. But I think for this a little sketchy category, there should be some more than five... Maybe if we can find ten it would be relevant? --Kynde (talk) 15:54, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
Would this new one 1652: Conditionals also belong in this category and if so what about this 1576: I Could Care Less --Kynde (talk) 23:13, 7 March 2016 (UTC)

In answer to the question posed in the title text, you can't generalise about children. but it's mostly true that they alternate between putting on weight and using that weight to get taller. so they'll get chubbier and chubbier and then suddenly lose the weight and get tall and thin. or, if they don't eat, they stay small. or, if you feed them sugary crap, they stay fat. but not necessarily. each one is different. -- 13:06, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Have included almost a copy of the above in the table. Thanks. Fell free to add it yourself ;-) --Kynde (talk) 15:52, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

In an earlier comic RM outright trashed the idea of humans reproducing. I'll link to it if I can find it. As a father of two I was outraged, but I was over it until the comic today raised his prejudice against parents again. Today he's oblique, but still reprehensible. tbc (talk) 14:50, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Could it be some of these? 441: Babies, 583: CNR or 674: Natural Parenting ;-) --Kynde (talk) 15:49, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
How on Earth is this "raising his prejudice against parents"? He's basically admitting his own incompetence in dealing with a somewhat common social interaction, not attacking parents. Even in his other comics involving babies, it's far more likely he's making jokes about the incompetence or malice of the individual characters, not a general comment on parents. I am curious which comic you've interpreted as "outright trashing the idea of humans reproducing", especially since 387: Advanced Technology implies he finds it fascinating. -Pennpenn 00:34, 4 March 2016 (UTC)

I don't think it's a newborn baby, since he refers to it as "getting big". Can someone correct this? -- 15:56, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

I think you could do it yourself, when you can post here? Anyway I agree so I have changed this. --Kynde (talk) 23:13, 7 March 2016 (UTC)

It would also be socially inept to suggest that the baby looks more like a child of Hairy than Cueball 2, so I won't. (On the other hand, less embarrassing than the possibility of it being Cueball 1's...) 16:47, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Well it would be inept, but since the mother has a lot of hair, it would not be strange for the baby to have that too. Maybe Cueball was not bald as a kid, and generally Cueball is not necessarily a bald guy. But just a generic every man so he could in principle have hair, as well as clothes, facial expression and hands and feet and body... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 23:13, 7 March 2016 (UTC)

At the end of the comic, where Cueball says "That's a cool baby", and them immediately reprimands himself for saying something dumb- possible reference to the same habit Trunks has in Dragon Ball Z Abridged? -- 20:33, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

""I can never figure out what to say about babies. "" :

My father in law used to look at babies and to say :" Our babies are much more beautiful" 22:02, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

I am so using one of these lines the next time someone shows me a baby. -- 20:05, 4 March 2016 (UTC)