This is a reference to a famous joke (see the first of the meta versions under the wiki link), mistold in the above comic.
The original, correct telling of the joke is:
- Think of words ending in "-gry". "Angry" and "Hungry" are two of them. There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word? Hint: The word is something that everyone uses every day. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.
Phrased this way, the answer is "language" because "There are only three words in (the phrase) 'the English language' ."
Cueball tells this joke (unfortunately by mis-phrasing the original riddle). When Cueball attempts to say the answer is "language" and act smugly about it, Black Hat is unimpressed and cuts off Cueball's forearm, explaining that communicating badly is not the same as cleverness. Black Hat's point is that the riddle's "cleverness" depends on misleadingly implying that "three words" refers to words ending in "-gry," rather than the phrase "the English language." Black Hat does not seem to agree that this riddle is clever.
In the title text, Randall clarifies that his point about bad communication applies to the riddle in general.  However, a secondary interpretation is that Black Hat is angry that Cueball botched the joke. The joke is supposed to go, "There are only three words in 'the English language,'" while only implying that you meant "words that end in '-gry.'" By instead saying, "There are three words in the English language that end in '-gry,'" Cueball has ruined any chance of Black Hat determining the correct answer; now, "three words" can't refer to the correct answer "the English language" because Cueball has accidentally used a longer phrase instead. Thus, Cueball has communicated badly both intentionally and unintentionally.
In any case, no matter how annoying Cueball's smugness, Black Hat responding by cutting off Cueball's forearm is a comical overreaction  (while his calm demeanor in doing so is a comical underreaction to the overreaction). Additionally, his calmly-made point about the riddle is likely not to be understood by Cueball, who can only focus on his debilitating injury. Black Hat has, ironically, failed to communicate his point about proper communication, although given Black Hat's personality he likely doesn't care, and may even have intended the irony.
As Black Hat mentioned in the comic, if you count obscure and archaic words, there are additional English words that end with "-gry." Some are listed here.
The title text refers to postmodernism, a philosophy and corresponding art movement. Postmodern music is often minimalist, as exemplified by the weird sounds of Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and postmodern visual art saw trends such as lowbrow and installation art gain attention. Apart from a rejection of modernism, however, it is difficult to outline postmodernism to justify the strange works of art. Deconstruction is another important concept, but it is difficult to describe the process. In short, postmodernists make art that no one understands and may act smugly about it, but they do not adequately explain what their art means, or it doesn't really mean anything. In other words, there is nothing to understand. Thus, Black Hat's statement, that such practice is not "cleverness," applies to them as well.
- [Black Hat and Cueball are standing next to each other.]
- Cueball: There are three words in the English language that end in "gry". "Angry" and "Hungry" are two. What's the third?
- Black Hat: I don't think there is one, unless you count really obscure words.
- Cueball: Ha! It's "language"! I said there are three words in "the English--" Hey!
- [Black Hat grabs Cueball's hand, with a knife in hand.]
- Cueball: What th--AAAAAAAAAA
- [Black Hat slices off Cueball's hand with the knife.]
- [Cueball is bleeding profusely.]
- Black Hat: Ok, listen carefully.
- Cueball: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
- Black Hat: Communicating badly and then acting smug when you're misunderstood is not cleverness.
- Cueball: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
- Black Hat: I hope we've learned something today.
- Cueball: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Around the time this comic was posted, Randall also posted Blue Eyes: The Hardest Logic Puzzle in the World. He apparently took his own advice to heart as he explicitly states he has gone over the wording of the puzzle several times before publishing it to make it as unambiguous as possible.
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Ok, everything on this page, I already got. The bit I came here for, is the exact nature of the ambiguity. What is 'the phrase'?
"The English language that end in gry", he's wrong because there are more than three words.
"The English language", he's wrong because none of them end in gry.
"There are three words in the English language ...", wrong again because language isn't the third word.
So...? -- Zergling_man 188.8.131.52 15:24, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
- The second paragraph in the explanation is what you are looking for. But as a brief overview: The reason it's easy to miss is that the words are written as a dialog would happen. If it had been properly punctuated it would have read "There are three words in 'the English language' that end with gry: 'Angry' and 'Hungry' are two. What's the third?" Cueball is saying there are three words in the phrase 'the English language' but to distract his intended victim he continues the sentence so the phrase is hidden among other words that, when taken as a whole, have a seeming continuity. This is why Black Hat cuts off Cueball's hand. Because the "joke" is not funny and being intentionally ambiguous and then being smug when the ambiguity has its intended effect is not humor. lcarsos_a (talk) 16:01, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
- But this doesn't actually answer my question. Take it without the distraction. "There are three words in the English language that end in gry. What's the third?" Even then, it still doesn't make any sense. If you take it as "there are three words in the English language. What's the third?", then you're left with "that end in gry: Angry and hungry are two", and that doesn't make any sense at all. I'm not seeing how there's any way both meanings can be valid, whatever you do to this, it seems at least one is completely nonsensical. -- Zergling_man 184.108.40.206 13:00, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
- The trouble is that Randall told the joke incorrectly... it should be (with proper punctuation) "There are three words in 'The English Language'. Ending in 'gry' there are 'angry' and 'hungry' What is the third word?" 220.127.116.11 04:59, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
- I think a better way to say it is:
- There are at least 3 words in "the English language that end with 'gry'. 'Angry' and 'hungry' are two". What is the third word? 18.104.22.168 08:33, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
- For anyone who is curious, the answer is "gryphon." Greyson (talk) 20:47, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
- They have to end with "GRY", an answer can be "unangry", but "gryphon" does not end with GRY (source:http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=words+that+end+in+GRY) -- 22.214.171.124 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- No; the original question asked for 3 words that had 'gry' in the end. 'Angry' and 'hungry' have 'gry' in the back end. 'Gryphon' has 'gry' in the front end.
- Also, sudo sign all your comments by adding 4 tildes in the back end of your comment. Greyson (talk) 19:37, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
- You are not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported. --Jlc (talk) 03:59, 21 November 2018 (UTC)
- actually, as you van read in the explanation, the entire question is wrong, the joke should not have the requirement of English words ending with gry, but have the question simply be there are only three words in the English language, what is the third, prefaced by a misguiding comment about words that end with gry, like angry and hungry. The point of the joke is that this preface is not part of the question, and as such it creates a hilarious intentional misunderstanding. 126.96.36.199 10:01, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
- I fear you are missing the point. The comic is intentionally written ambiguously to highlight the frustration caused when one misuses grammar in retelling the joke. The original joke is grammatically correct: the third word of the phrase "the English Language" is "language." The reference to words ending in "gry" is just a distraction. However, if the distraction is combined with the phrase, then the grammar becomes confusing, ruining the joke. Lanejb24
I really doubt this is Cueball, as he is seen later with both arms, and he is nowhere near as much of an asshole (or an idiot) to tell this joke incorrectly. 188.8.131.52 18:45, 8 August 2013 (UTC) tildes for the win
- There are many Cueballs, just read the page on him. However, this doesn't exactly fit the normal Cueball's character. Gman314 (talk) 16:40, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
The title text is missing. Am I right that Randall states that postmodernists are not clever?--Dgbrt (talk) 19:31, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
- Well, postmodernists are pretty much thrashed in Urban Dictionary...Pacerier (talk) 19:41, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
- No, I would say that Randall is making a joke about postmodern art. Stereotypically, postmodern art is very subtle and symbolic and doesn't look like much, but there is still a message hiding underneath. Randall is saying that they're not conveying their point well, but are still acting smug when people don't understand their poorly communicated point. Gman314 (talk) 16:40, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
- What makes you think that it only refers to postmodern art and not postmodernization in general? Pacerier (talk) 19:41, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
- No, but almost. Randall does feel that post-modernists are prone to this behavior, and this behavior is not clever. 184.108.40.206 01:44, 6 February 2014 (UTC)
- And where is the source for "Randall does feel that post-modernists are prone to this behavior"?Pacerier (talk) 19:41, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to the -GRY joke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-gry) 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Cueball's hand
- Can someone explain what is the significance of BlackHat cutting off Cueball's hand?Pacerier (talk) 19:41, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
- He's punishing Cueball for being smug. It's not significant that it's the hand in particular (that just seems to be the limb closest to BlackHat). 18.104.22.168 23:35, 12 September 2015 (UTC)
He's trying to give Cueball an easy way to remember to not behave this way in the future. It's funny because the lesson is a failure, it causes more long term harm than long term benefit. Also it is unlikely that Cueball is paying attention to the lesson anyway, being distracted by the pain and loss.
Or possibly it's funny because Black Hat is just causing his usual mayhem, and pretends to be a teacher to hide his intention, and does an unconvincing job. Shingleslant (talk)
Hangry. That is all I have to add. 22.214.171.124 01:41, 24 July 2019 (UTC) Cye