2795: Glass-Topped Table

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Glass-Topped Table
You can pour a drink into it while hosting a party, although it's a real pain to fit in the dishwasher afterward.
Title text: You can pour a drink into it while hosting a party, although it's a real pain to fit in the dishwasher afterward.


This comic is a play on the multiple meanings of the word 'glass'. "Glass-topped table" usually means the table top is made from the material glass, but in this comic the phrase further represents a table with a glass surface where surface has been "topped" with a drinking glass. Notably, the glass is part of the table top, merged with the regular glass surface so that the glass can not be lifted off the table. This would thus require the use of a straw to drink from it, or the lifting of the entire table.

Furthermore, the otherwise normal-looking drinking glass looks like it has been placed over (or has 'walked' to) the edge of the table and is about to fall off. This could make anyone unfamiliar with the table likely to automatically reach out for the glass to prevent what appears to be an imminent disaster. This could have unfortunate consequences, since the glass is not independently movable without shifting the entire table. Assuming the person does not hurt their hand or arm from the unexpected load as they take the strain through sheer reflex or by shattering the glass in the attempt, they may successfully move the glass and entire table to cause other things on/adjacent to the table to be toppled/struck sideways.

It is not certain if the advertisement for this item makes this configuration clear. By its name alone, buyers might expect to get an ordinary table with a glass surface, but few of them would be interested in buying one when they discover the extra glass attached[citation needed] and the caption says this is the least popular item in their furniture store. In a web-page/catalogue picture, the glass would just look like part of the scenic depiction presentation of the table, albeit a weird one. It is not unusual that a table in a commercial or an in-store display would feature glasses or other accessories artfully placed upon it, to give it a sense of scale and contextual use, but the dissonance of the 'carelessly' positioned glass would work against the usual advertising pressures employed. Anyone who still ordered the table, without establishing the true nature of its permanent feature, is also then likely to complain and negotiate a refund/replacement (negating whatever sales were actually made) and write bad reviews (discouraging others from even looking at the product).

The title text adds to this by saying it would be difficult to put the glass in a dishwasher, since you would need to bring the table with it. There are dishwashers big enough to fit tables, but they are not for regular households.[1] And that won't make moving the table any easier. Cleaning the glass after a drink would thus have to be done by hand, and the water in the glass has to be sucked out, mopped up or drained by inverting the whole table (or entire top, if detachable) in a non-damaging way.


[The comic shows a square table with a glass surface. The glass surface is not clear enough to see through and may be located on top of an opaque surface. A drinking glass stands nearly half-way over the right edge of the table, so it looks like it is in 'danger' of falling. Apparently, however, it seems that this glass is merged with the glass surface of table, thus it cannot fall off or be removed. There is a caption below the panel:]
The least popular item at my furniture store is probably the table with a decorative drinking glass built into the edge of the glass top.

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First! 19:01, 28 June 2023 (UTC)

How is "glass-topped" not a term found often online, yet I'm so used to calling it that in verbal conversation (Western Canadian, for reference). Searching for "glass-topped" (with quotes) shows this comic first in results (past ads) :) 19:09, 28 June 2023 (UTC)

Its probiably just your search personalization. My first search result https://www.designtoscano.com/categories/glass-top-accent-tables followed by xkcdexplained, xkcd, walmart, etsi, and commercial-interiorsuk.com (boy talk about a sus URL). Jamcdonald (talk) 09:21, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

It's not "instead of" -- the table has both a glass surface and a drinking glass. Barmar (talk) 19:32, 28 June 2023 (UTC)

…You could always hand-wash the cup. PxP (talk) 19:45, 28 June 2023 (UTC)

Not sure about you, but when I hand-wash something, I'm doing it over sink. Getting the table to sink would be quite hard, although probably easier than fitting it into dishwasher. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:18, 28 June 2023 (UTC)
It would also be difficult to pour out either the drink or the washwater. 23:46, 28 June 2023 (UTC)
Pressurised water... If you have anything hose-like (or it's within range of one of those extensible tap-attachments) then gush water into it and anything not actually stuck to the glass (any really gloopy liquid - like a partly dried old smoothie left there too long that may need a bit of mechanical wiping too) gets diluted and pressured out. (...Onto the floor, unless you are prepared for that.)
A quick rub with a dishcloth can wick up most of what doesn't jump straight back out (you need a quick shut-off to the water supply, ideally, so it doesn't dribble-fill so much, anyway) and if it was hot enough then the last bits of dampness 'self dry'. 01:18, 29 June 2023 (UTC)
You drag all your furniture, tables, chairs, whatnot, to the sink to wash them? I've never heard of people who don't just bring cleansers/water and paper towels/sponges TO their furniture... :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:26, 2 July 2023 (UTC)

Some of the unpopularity probably comes from it being halfway off of the table, giving you the ever-present feeling that it might fall. TheLittlePeace (talk) 19:50, 28 June 2023 (UTC)

Some seemed to have missed the real point; this is a cat torture device. I can just see my moggy lying there kicking at it for hours. 04:34, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

Cat torture device? I could see it being their main entertainment, depending on temprement... 11:24, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

The torture aspect causes me to doubt that this is anywhere close to the least popular. We've seem the style he has in furniture. I bet there is no couch, it's just offered so that people don't get upset.

Are there really dishwashers large enough to fit an average dining table? The link in the explanation refers to an advertising installation that specifically does not work as a dishwasher. It was designed to keep objects inside it dry. Bischoff (talk) 07:01, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

There are, this one should do the trick https://www.webstaurantstore.com/champion-pp-20-split-door-pot-and-pan-washer-208v-3-phase/253PP20SDC.html Jamcdonald (talk) 09:25, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

This has to be a cat's worst nightmare... 08:46, 29 June 2023‎ (UTC)

(Doom music starts playing) Fephisto (talk) 19:58, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

This is my first ever edit, so forgive me if I don't sign it correctly, but I felt compelled to create an account in order to share that this comic very much reminded me of The Uncomfortable (https://www.theuncomfortable.com/). Don't know if this belongs in the main explain page, but thought I'd share it here and let someone else decide. dominiclipari 12:55, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

"...so forgive me if I don't sign it correctly" - close enough, but I suspect you wrote (most of?) it manually. Just put the ~~~~ in (or press the penultimate button in the line of buttons immediately above the textediting area) and you should get it correctly.
For me, it'll give something like [[Special:Contributions/<<IP Address>>|<<IP Address>>]] <<Time>>, <<Date>>‎ (UTC). For someone with a user account active, it'll be [[User:<<Username>>|<<Username>>]] ([[User talk:<<Username>>|talk]]) <<Time>>, <<Date>>‎ (UTC) unless you've messed with your personal profile settings.
It doesn't matter much. Best to still have Time and Date. And some form of your Username-related links... But just FYI. 19:44, 29 June 2023 (UTC)
I always just sign with ~~~~. 19:02, 3 July 2023 (UTC)

Am I the only one who interpreted the glass being part of the edge of the table to mean that there is not actually a bottom to the glass? The tooltip text seems to suggest otherwise, but it is a humorous interpretation. 19:35, 29 June 2023 (UTC)

The tabletop is not glass

Just FYI, the tabletop itself is definitely not glass. That's why you can't see the rear legs through the surface of tabletop.

What makes this comic funnier is the very fact that they have attached a glass (as in glass of liquid) to the surface of a regular table on which the tabletop is not itself made of glass.

If the tabletop were made of glass, then the humour around 'glass-topped table' would be lessened, because it would be combining two different and therefore ambiguous senses of that phrase. -- Lheydon (talk) 02:25, 30 June 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Actually, it just looks more like a glass-topped table (a table with a glass pane on top of its wooden/whatever surface; acting to be more wipe-clean/protective, as well as aesthetic) than a table with a glass top (a glass pane as the entire surface span, held inside the legs-and-edges frame). That, or it is the latter but the angle of view and background makes the reflection off the surfaces overwhelmingly more dominant than the refracted view through both surfaces and towards(/from) the underside. 03:46, 30 June 2023 (UTC)
It most definitely is a glass table, or at least has glass as a top. The diagonal lines on it denote the shine off of the glass. We don't see the leg to help make it evident there IS a top, that the tabletop isn't missing entirely. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:26, 2 July 2023 (UTC)
True, I suppose that is also another possibility. 04:25, 30 June 2023 (UTC)

The caption states "glass top", so the pun on "table covered with a sheet of glass" and "table with a drinking glass on top" is explicit. Any non-transparent glass would satisfy the first condition (as would the case of a glass insert atop a non-glass surface, mentioned above), and spare Randall the effort of trying to draw in that fourth table leg. 06:28, 30 June 2023 (UTC)

It's also clear (no pun intended... but I'll also happily claim it if nobody else wants it!) that we can see the thickness of the 'top' both at the front (where we're obliquely edge on) and at the rear (where we're seeing the internal 'edge-away'), indicating that it is certainly a transparent(-enough) pane of material of a number of millimetres thickness above whatever opaque material might lie immediately beneath. (And saving complexity of drawing not just thr upper rear bit of leg, but also the rear/second-side frame support and/or any attachment method that isn't just gravity+friction, or maybe adhesive, in action.) 07:58, 30 June 2023 (UTC) - PS: I am a little worried, though, that (by sight alone) the upwards trajectory of the mostly hidden leg seems to not project up to hit the corner of the table as you'd expect. Not much visible length, so might actually be some wriggle-room available to end up where it ought to by assuming a slight amount of skew away from the apparent direction due purely to drawing vaguenesss or an optical illusion, but it does seem that little bit off.
This earnest discussion of the draftsmanship of this cartoon calls to mind a statement by no less an authority than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "... so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little. I have never striven for it and have made some bad mistakes in consequence. What matter If I can hold my readers?" 21:38, 30 June 2023 (UTC)
It is as well that a gentleman holding that attitude towards "accuracy of detail" went into fiction writing and not his original intended career: medicine. 21:48, 30 June 2023 (UTC)
Sir Arthur was always away with the fairies, anyway... 22:45, 30 June 2023 (UTC)

All this discussion is rendered a bit moot by the fact that the text underneath the comic says that the glass is "built in to the glass top". 09:18, 3 July 2023 (UTC)