707: Joshing

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You'd be moved up from 49 of ~7 billion to 31 of ~7 billion.
Title text: You'd be moved up from 49 of ~7 billion to 31 of ~7 billion.


"I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" is a flippant response to a question that's been around at least since the movie Top Gun, and has entered regular use in the English speaking world. The implication is that the question being asked is part of a secret so fiercely guarded that anyone who learned about it without authorization would be killed to prevent the information from spreading. This is generally understood to be such a comically exaggerated level of secrecy that no one would take it as anything but a joke.

The Cueball who uses the line here follows it up with "I mean, kill you even sooner". This doubles down on the premise, implying that whatever he's working on will result in the other person's death. Hence, he's going to die either way, but if he learns any details of this mysterious project, he'll be killed earlier than he would have otherwise.

According to the title text, he'd go from #49 on his hit list (which apparently includes an approximation of the entire world population) to #31. This implies that a) the project is so deadly that it's expected to result in the deaths of most of the people on earth and b) he's expected to be among the first casualties of the project in any case.

The title 'Joshing' refers to the colloquial American verb 'to josh', meaning to joke with.


Cueball: So, is the new project going forward?
Friend: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you!
[The men laugh cautiously.]
[The men resume conversation.]
Friend: I mean, kill you even sooner.

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And what is "Joshing"? ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"Joshing" is the present participle of the verb "to josh" -- which in colloquial American English means to joke or to tease. 05:26, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Is there any special meaning in the numbers 49 and 31 here? --YMS (talk) 20:10, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

I really don't think so. Not every single thing in xkcd is a reference. I bet Randall just pulled those numbers out of thin air. NealCruco (talk) 23:15, 27 January 2015 (UTC)