Many songs, particularly those written by Americans, contain the word "America." Randall has listed 6 such songs: "America the Beautiful", "God Bless America", Neil Diamond's "America", "America" from the Broadway musical West Side Story, the Guess Who's "American Woman" and Green Day's "American Idiot". These songs usually either praise the United States for its perceived virtues or mock it for its perceived flaws. Regardless of the content of the song, one could likely sing such songs replacing each usage of the word "America" or "American" with another four-syllable word or phrase with emphasis on the second syllable, without disrupting the cadence or meter of the song. Words and phrases like this are said to "scan" with the word "America," which means to conform to that metrical pattern.
The comic provides a list of such names, most of which are locations. While some share virtues or flaws with the United States, most would fit into songs about the United States poorly, and only some are prominent enough to justify a song praising or mocking them. So the substitution is humorous for most of the examples. Other examples include Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Liberia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Siberia, Somalia, Albania, Bulgaria, Colombia, Cambodia, Armenia, Australia, Dominica, Estonia, Mongolia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, El Salvador, the Alamo, the Netherlands, and the Philippines.
Note that inhabitants of some real-world locations mentioned in this comic do not pronounce their names in a way that scans with "America". Also note that the adjective form of many of the places listed either does not exist or does not fit the same rhythmic structure as "American". (For instance, while "Antarctican Idiot" scans with "American Idiot", "St. Petersburgian Idiot" does not; meanwhile, "Canada" does not scan with "America", but "Canadian" does scan with "American" and was in fact used as such in Weird Al's parody, "Canadian Idiot".) In these cases, it would be necessary to use the noun form of the name to preserve the song's meter.
|| Spelled incorrectly, should be Saskatchewan. A province in Canada, whose capital is Regina and largest city is Saskatoon.
|| The largest Canadian province by population and 2nd largest by total area. Includes the capital of Canada, Ottawa, and its largest city, Toronto.
|| Capital of the state of Washington.
|| National park in the state of California. Pronounced "yoh-SEM-ih-tee" (/jəu-'sɛ-mɪ-ti/).
| Los Angeles
|| Largest city in the state of California, and 2nd largest city in the United States. There is another city under the same name in the state of Texas.
| Lake Michigan
|| One of the five Great Lakes in the United States. Borders the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.
|| The county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, and the largest city on the Illinois River. The oldest permanent European settlement in Illinois, according to the Illinois State Archaeological Survey.
| Columbia (MO)
|| Fourth largest city in the state of Missouri. One of many cities in the US named after Columbia.
|| The capital of the state of Vermont, which is a three syllable word pronounced mont-PEEL-yur and thus is erroneously on this list. However, the demonym "Montpelierite" is in fact four syllables so it can be used for the "American" songs.
|| City in Schenectady County, New York. In the 19th century, nationally influential companies and industries developed in Schenectady, including General Electric and American Locomotive Company (ALCO).
|| Near-ghost town in central Pennsylvania due to a long running mine fire burning beneath the town.
|| Capital city of the state of Maryland and home to the United States Naval Academy.
| Columbia (SC)
|| Capital of the state of South Carolina. One of many cities in the US named after Columbia.
|| City in the state of Georgia, known for their Vidalia onions. Vidalia may not actually scan to "America", as it is pronounced "vy-DALE-yuh", not "vy-DALE-ee-ah" or "vee-DAHL-ee-ah".
|| National park in the state of Maine.
|| US State, whose capital is Hartford and largest city is Bridgeport.
|| One of the three major airports in New York City metropolitan area, named after former mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The West Side Story song in question was performed on February 29, 2020 on Saturday Night Live. The airport was described in 2014 by Joe Biden as being like a third-world country.
| Virginia Beach
|| Most populous city in the state of Virginia. Name is pronounced with five syllables when speaking formally, Ver-gin-ee-a Beach, but speaking quickly can be squashed into Ver-gin-ya.
| The Villages
|| An unincorporated senior living community in the state of Florida. Notable for its local newspaper, The Villages Daily Sun, which was the only top 25 American newspaper (by circulation) to show growth in 2022.
| St. Petersburg
|| The fifth largest city in the state of Florida. Part of the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.
| Miami Beach
|| A coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, across the bay from the city of Miami.
| Below the map
|| A country in North Africa. The largest and the 9th most populated country on the continent of Africa. Bordered to the northeast by Tunisia; to the east by Libya; to the southeast by Niger; to the southwest by Mali, Mauritania, and Western Sahara; to the west by Morocco; and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea.
|| A landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region.
|| The capital city of the West African country of Liberia.
|| The federal capital of the country of Brazil and Brazil's 3rd populous city. Actually spelled Brasília.
|| A country which comprises the mainland of the continent of Australia. The world's sixth largest country by area.
|| The 3rd most populous city in the country of Spain.
|| An ancient Greek city and capital of the Byzantine Empire. Its name was changed to New Rome in 324, Constantinople in 330, and finally Istanbul in 1930.
|| An major ancient Mesopotamian civilization which existed as a city-state and then a territorial state and eventually an empire. The Assyrian Empire fell to the Babylonians and Medes in the late 7th century BC.
|| A prehistoric land mass and region in the Bering Sea region. It is the most popular site of the hypothesized "land bridge" that early humans used to migrate to the Americas.
|| The earth's southernmost and least-populated continent, mostly covered by ice.
|| A fictional country in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Described to be in eastern Europe between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Its capital city is destroyed during a battle between Ultron and the Avengers in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron, leading to the ratification of the Sokovia Accords.
|| Several things: a constellation in space, a galaxy within that constellation, or the Greek mythological character whom the constellation and galaxy are named after.
|| A realm of the elves in Middle-earth in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn. Actually spelled Lothlórien in the books.
|| Not a place, but an open-world survival action-adventure video game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment released in 2018.
| The Metaverse
|| The online world of virtual reality. (To substitute into American Idiot, the singer could use "don't wanna be a Metaverse Idiot" or "The Metaverse idiot".)
|| Actually spelled Econo Lodge, though their wordmark doesn't help. An economy motel chain in the US and Canada.
| Jurassic Park (title text)
|| Jurassic Park is the titular theme park of cloned dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park franchise of books, films, and other media. Inevitably, the dinosaurs escape and attack humans.
Many of these rely on "ia"/"ie"/"io" serving as the 3rd and 4th syllables, so every song would be sung like "God Bless
Olimpiya Algeriya". Virginia Beach appears to be the only one to escape this.--Magtei (talk) 19:39, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- As a Washingtonian, I pronounce Olympia without the diphthong (so four syllables; the “a” being distinct). It’s probably a dialect thing, and some pronunciations are more common than others, but as long as one fairly-common pronunciation scans, I think it’s fine. [User:Szeth Pancakes|Szeth Pancakes] (talk) 03:37, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- Alright, bad example. Skipping it is unheard of in areas further south. Do you (or a large part of the US) fully pronounce most dipthongs, Syria with three syllables, etc.?--Magtei (talk) 07:02, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- I can't speak for the rest of the US, but in the case of places I usually pronounce the extra syllable. Virginia is the one exception I can think of right now. Szeth Pancakes (talk) 21:08, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- There are also some locations with three-syllable names, such as Detroit Lakes or Fergus Falls (both located northwest of St. Cloud, Minnesota) which, although not listed by Randall, will also work and not use the noted syllables. RAGBRAIvet (talk) 02:35, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
This phrase, "scans to", has me confused. Can the explanation address what this is supposed to mean?
--anon 16:23, 29 August 2022
- You betcha Szeth Pancakes (talk) 20:38, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- What does scanning mean in relation to sung verse? Just syllables and their stress pattern, or is their more? 220.127.116.11 23:11, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- I'm not familiar with the term, but I assume it's related to scansion. If I'm right, it's probably just syllables and stress pattern. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 06:52, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- - There was a young man from Japan
- - Whose limericks never would scan.
- - And when they asked why,
- - He said "I do try!
- - But when I get to the last line I try to fit in as many words as I can."
- ...though – and this is me talking, not the famous limerick – after making sure your poetry rhymes (if you want it to; and/or assonate, consonate, etc) and scans (some words are tricky, as mentioned, according to dialect/accent/etc) you also need to check the meter (does it obviously flow and split in patterns like the iambic one where "da-DUM da-DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da-DUM" might be how it works with word-boundries).
- You might be wise to avoid words like "vehicle" with theoretically, two to four syllables and all kinds of stress-patterns and vowel-sounds (c.f. stereotypical Deep South, north British, Aussie, etc), at least as an early (establishing) element. Maybe you can set up its far more knowable rhyme/scan/metering partner first and rely upon the reader adopting the intended variation (give or take the relatively opposing strengths of writer/reader accents, etc) after being given the prior clue.
- I would personally say the scan(sion) is mostly the simple syllable count, and may need some writing tricks ("learned" as in "I learned something" and "learn'ed" as in "a very learned person") to convey well during sight-reading or initial internalised read-through.
- On that, I personally have some problems reading "-ya" syllables as singular (depending upon what the preceding symbol is, I would consider it a "-ee-ah"/"-ee-uh" (or mid-point) with a cut-down "-ee-"), while I have no problem with the "-lm" dipthong/whatever (c.f. Northern Irish tends to clearly enunciate as "fill-um" for 'film', whilst I might almost consider it a syllable/beat of its own). But I suspect the right voice (internal or external) could convince me of any of those examples as given, eventually... ;) 18.104.22.168 13:46, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
Aussie here: we tend to say (and sing) "Australia" with three syllables. For example, see the Australian national anthem. Occasionally two syllables: Straya mate!! But saying it with four syllables is perhaps an American thing. 22.214.171.124 21:19, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- Interesting! It probably is a dialect thing. As an American, I've always pronounced it with four. Szeth Pancakes (talk) 21:23, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
In the comic, Saskatchewan is spelled as Sasketchewan. Might be fixed later?
Just putting this here: https://www.quora.com/A-lot-of-place-names-in-the-USA-have-four-syllables-Minnesota-Chattanooga-Albuquerque-Tallahassee-Talladega-Massachusetts-Massapequa-Mississippi-Cincinnati-Sacramento-Indiana-Alabama-Oklahoma-etc-Is-there-a (with the understanding that "scanning" doesn't necessarily mean only the number of syllables, e.g. Al-BUH-ker-key has the wrong stress pattern.)126.96.36.199 21:51, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque! 188.8.131.52 22:03, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
- AlBUquerque, AlBUquerque, God shed his grace on theee...! 184.108.40.206 22:46, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
Does anyone know how to craft a Wikidata query for all the place names with four syllables following the .'.. stress pattern? We should probably say how many there are. 220.127.116.11 23:15, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
Jurassic park, Jurassic park, how lovely are thy branches… Fabian42 (talk) 23:31, 29 August 2022 (UTC)
The pronunciation of Vidalia, Georgia, is "vi-DAIL-ya" -- three syllables, not four. It doesn't actually scan like "America". Seems like the comic is assuming the pronunciation is "vee-DAHL-ee-ah", which would scan.ing
- And the age old question of whether an optional schwa constitutes a syllable rears its head. 18.104.22.168 05:14, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- I came to say a similar thing about Montpelier. In Vermont, at least, it has three syllables. CeramicMug (talk) 10:42, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- Uhhhhh, born and raised in Montreal, i.e. just north of Vermont, such that all our American stations come from the region (I think one PBS I think is actually based in Montpelier) and they always pronounce it with 4 syllables. :) Mont-peel-E-er. NiceGuy1 (talk) 07:50, 12 November 2022 (UTC)
I simply wish to note the similarity to "Thighs" (#321), which is one of my favorite xkcd comics and one that I find comes to mind surprisingly often.
For changing the tune of a song but not the lyrics (or the lyrics in entirety but not the tune), see the title text to 788: The Carriage 22.214.171.124 11:24, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
Shirley [surely] there must be some overlap between XKCD and "Weird Al" Yankovic fans, but no one has yet mentioned that Randall missed the "American Idiot"/"Canadian Idiot" overlap, mentioning the former but not the latter? --BigMal // 126.96.36.199 14:12, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
Needs a better explanation of "scans" (short for Scansion). Something something Syllables, something something stress pattern, something something rhythm. I'd write it myself, but no one wants a 30 page thesis on the topic. PS to those complaining certain locations usually use a three syllable pronunciation... poetic license frequently stretches (usually middle or penultimate) syllables to cover two beats, even without changing vowel length (although it's more common to do so). At least, in English; some other languages are not as flexible in this regard. --- 188.8.131.52 16:15, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
Should it be noted that one of the implicitly suggested songs, "America", from West Side Story, replaced with "LaGuardia", was in fact done in the Saturday Night Live sketch "Airport Sushi" in 2020? 184.108.40.206 22:32, 30 August 2022 (UTC)
- Omission would clearly be a travesty, but do you have a YouTube link? 220.127.116.11 02:57, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
- "Your wish is my command, Kemosabi." 2m30s. 18.104.22.168 04:36, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
- I was going to !vote against inclusion until the David Byrne wrap-up. 22.214.171.124 04:54, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
- The closed captioning is very inaccurate in that video, but exposes information about the pre-pandemic closed captioning cost benefit analyses. 126.96.36.199 05:13, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
- WHAT? lol, I fukn love this site. 188.8.131.52 05:33, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
Hmmm... It says above that "Antarctican Idiot" scans with "American Idiot", but "Ant-arc't-" and "Am-er-" are disjointed, if both "-ic-an" endings are the same. Or is it "-tic-" against "-ic-" (and possibly "An-tar'c-" vs "Am-er-")? Still voices funny, and with the former needing much more tongue-teeth complexity, in direct replacement. It's certainly hard to speak as a direct replacement, I'll try to get someone to speak them to me later, to get the proper listener experience, but right now I have my doubts that it's entirely valid. (Possibly less of a problem, but not removing all the issues, if you ellide the first 'c' from your voicing. This seems to be a thing. But "Arctic" is a solidly c-pronouncing word, so "Antarctic" should also be.) 184.108.40.206 14:01, 31 August 2022 (UTC)
I like to be in Gondwanaland
Okay by me in Gondwanaland
Everything free in Gondwanaland
For a small fee in Gondwanaland!
220.127.116.11 22:39, 1 September 2022 (UTC)
- Oh Middle Earth! Our home and native land! 18.104.22.168 11:53, 2 September 2022 (UTC)
I was ABOUT to point out how Canada doesn't scan with America, but Canadian scans with American, but I see someone already noted that. :) I sing Dennis Leary - Asshole at karaoke sometimes, and he uses "American" a couple of times - "the way our American hearts beat" - and as a Canadian I like to swap in Canadian. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:06, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
I propose accepting "mar-AH-la-go" as scanning, simply so people can write cool parody songs. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 05:00, 5 September 2022 (UTC)
Here are some more:
- Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
- Liberia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Siberia, Somalia, Albania, Bulgaria, Colombia, Cambodia, Armenia, Australia, Dominica, Estonia, Mongolia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa
- El Salvador
- the Alamo, the Netherlands, the Gambia
-Adrgru (talk) 03:59, 11 September 2022 (UTC)
- Truly excellent finds, all, except nobody I know says the Gambia, it's just Gambia. Are they wrong? 22.214.171.124 10:27, 11 September 2022 (UTC)
- Yes, they are. The full official name is "The Republic of the Gambia", short name "The Gambia". 126.96.36.199 17:44, 17 September 2022 (UTC)
I would love to listen to the song "Jurassik Parkan Idiot" --188.8.131.52 09:09, 14 September 2022 (UTC)
The name of our website "Neography" also works. ClassicalGames (talk) 14:06, 11 September 2023 (UTC)
Should this be added to Category:US_maps? --ColorfulGalaxy (talk) 07:46, 21 December 2022 (UTC)
- Arguable, yes. It is a map of the US (with non-US labels 'unmapped' below/etc it). If someone feels strong enough, they can convert the current [Category:Maps] to [Category:US maps], as easy as that (checking that membership of the latter confers sub-membership of the former?). And if someone then feels stronger that it isn't suitable, after all, they can undo it. The wonder of the wiki! 184.108.40.206 12:10, 21 December 2022 (UTC)