Talk:2421: Tower of Babel

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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So is Gretchen McCulloch xkcd's resident linguist now? Is there going to be character page for her like Cory Doctorow? 172.68.129.136 23:00, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

I'm hoping so! We could call it "Gretchen McComics." 172.69.34.74 23:24, 5 February 2021 (UTC)
That's probably not in compliance with whatever stylebook we have here but I love it. Captain Video (talk) 04:24, 6 February 2021 (UTC)
Could it really be the same Gretchen? The time periods of the two comics are thousands of years apart. And the title text of "True Name of the Bear" says she was devoured. Barmar (talk) 06:31, 7 February 2021 (UTC)
Maybe it is meant to remind us of her from the other comic, but given the settings and no mention of her name, it cannot be determined that it is her. Great to include mention of the other comic in the explanation, but not in the transcript. Also it cannot be said that there is a real person in this comic (unless of course you think of God as a real person? But even if you consider him a person, then people may debate you on how real he is ;-) Have updated the transcript and categories. And no we should not make a category on her based on two comics, especially not when it is not clear it is her in this one. --Kynde (talk) 09:10, 8 February 2021 (UTC)
If there's a third comic with a linguist drawn like that, I'd suggest calling the character "Gretchen" as a convenient handle regardless of whether it is or isn't Gretchen McCulloch. --Pi one (talk) 02:32, 9 February 2021 (UTC)


Wait, how could a linguist exist before there were languages to study and compare? Is this the omphalos hypothesis popping up again? GreatWyrmGold (talk) 02:36, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

They have one language. Presumably, she attempts to thoroughly study that one. This would technically make her a grammarian, but since they don't have contact with any other language, this proto-language wouldn't need make any distinction between grammarians and linguists, so "linguist" would be an appropriate translation. --162.158.79.49 05:55, 6 February 2021 (UTC)
I think it is worth mentioning the paradox in the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 09:10, 8 February 2021 (UTC)
There's also the possibility that the word "linguist" didn't exist before that moment. "What the hell's a linguist?" "Who is hells?"
Very astute observation - I take it you are a cunning linguist? 141.101.104.35 20:51, 8 February 2021 (UTC)

Defining "colorless green ideas sleep furiously" {

   "colorless green ideas" existing is 0 .
   List of all existing "colorless green ideas"  that don't "dream furiously" contains 0 elements.
   True.

} 141.101.77.60 06:24, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

Defining "more people have been to Russia than I have" {

   if(Have "I" ever been to Russia?){
       "More than 1 people have been to Russia.".
   } else {
       "More than 0 people have been to Russia.".
   }

}, so something like {

   "At least 1 person that is not me has been to Russia.".

}. 141.101.77.60 06:24, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

"I possess a number of people as chattel", i.e. servants and/or slaves. (That number could be zero?) "The number of people who have gone to Russia exceeds this value." 141.101.77.168 10:29, 6 February 2021 (UTC)


What colour is invisible ink? --172.69.55.140 10:24, 9 February 2021 (UTC)

Any colour you wish, so long as its alpha is zero! Davidhbrown (talk)