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 the awkward You sure did make that, the plain strange What brand is it?, and interesting musing about science, which has nothing to do with this baby, So do they learn words..., and even rating someone's baby: ★★★★☆ Great baby! Some of the thoughts are quite true, like It doesn't really look like you since you're not a baby.
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 serious, as he also wonders if the child will reach full width before getting taller.
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, 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:
|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 uncomfortable for many people.|
|★★★★☆ Great baby.||It is custom to praise parents for their lovely baby, but do not 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 last two suggestions that they learn alphabetically or in a specific order the parents choose is plain silly.|
|I hope it does a good job.|| A baby actually does nothing that can be described as a job, so this statement is not meaningful.
If it were about the future of the baby, it would be a socially very inadequate comment to care only about the possible usefulness of the baby, than to anticipate the joy of the parents about the child's person. Alternatively, Cueball could mean does a good job of making the parents feel happy/fulfilled/meaningful in other words fulfill the reason the couple decided to have the baby in the first place. If he was talking about the job a baby could have, he might have been thinking about the baby's education,
|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'll 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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