2919: Sitting in a Tree

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Revision as of 09:07, 14 May 2024 by (talk) (Reference to “gerunds” corrected to “present participles” - they’re functioning as verbs, not nouns.)
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Sitting in a Tree
First comes blood / Then we perish / Then comes Death in his Eternity Carriage.
Title text: First comes blood / Then we perish / Then comes Death in his Eternity Carriage.


“[Name] and [name], sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” (pronounced as the names of the letters, e.g. "kay eye ess ess eye en gee") is the start of a common US schoolyard taunt to tease others about their alleged romance. As the comic notes, the rhyme can use a range of normal seven-letter present participles of verbs.

Like other schoolyard taunts, the goal may be to elicit a reaction of frustration, anger or embarrassment. It may also just be chanted at a random set of two kids, such as part of a counting-out game.

This comic lists a diverse group of eighteen seven-letter gerunds which Cueball and Megan could be accused of performing in a tree, and organizes them into three categories: Normal, Slightly Worrying and Very Alarming. Each list of gerunds has an illustration of its last one: kissing, ironing and smiting, respectively.


Reading is an activity usually encouraged, which can be performed in a tree without any additional danger.
Singing is similar to reading in that it is a good thing that does not become dangerous by doing it in a tree.
Playing is what most children are doing when they climb trees.
Sharing is a good thing. Though it could potentially be hazardous in a tree, due to slightly increased risk of falling while trying to share, it is not a major concern.
Hugging is a physical sign of affection (romantic or otherwise), which doesn't change much due to the treetop locale.
Kissing is the activity illustrated in the panel. It is the most normal thing to be sung in the song, as it is the traditional taunt.

Slightly worrying:

Sobbing is an act of weeping heavily, e.g. due to a setback in one's relationship, or perhaps due to being stuck up a tree.
Itching is feeling a sensation on one's skin that makes one want to scratch or rub it, and may happen due to mosquito bites or other bugs, or perhaps an allergic reaction to tree bark.
Pruning is cutting off the branches of a tree, which is very dangerous if one is sitting on said branch.[citation needed]
Banking is conducting financial business with a bank, or if one works for the financial institution, conducting financial business with a customer cohort. Most banks do not have branches in trees[citation needed] but with suitable equipment, online banking in a tree is quite possible if a little unusual.
Posting is to publish posts on social media. An antiquated definition is to send mail using a postal service. This may be worrying due to a perceived addiction to technology.
Ironing is smoothing clothes with an iron and a flat surface, like an ironing board. This is the activity illustrated in the panel. It should not be performed in a tree, due to safety concerns.

Very alarming:

Molting is shedding one's skin. Many insects molt in trees, such as cicadas, grasshoppers, and termites. For humans to molt, something would have to be very wrong indeed.
Whaling is hunting whales, which has been outlawed in the US since the 1980s. Whales aren't usually found in trees.[cetacean needed] And since the letter 'W' is three syllables when sung aloud, this is the only gerund in the comic that doesn't have the standard seven syllables of the traditional taunt.
E-filing is submitting one's tax returns online, common in the US. This comic was published a few days before the US tax deadline. E-filing could quite reasonably be done from a tree using a laptop or other portable computing device, but is not typically performed by schoolchildren.
Melting is turning from a solid state to a liquid state, which is usually fatal.
X-raying is using X-ray radiation to image someone or something for medical or security purposes, not normally conducted in trees. With enough radiation, the X-rays could be fatal.
Smiting is striking down, destroying or killing, often with divine power called from a god. This is the activity illustrated in the panel.

The title text continues the S-M-I-T-I-N-G version of the chant with a parody of the traditional next verses, "...first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage" (which reflects the common social expectations that any kissers might follow the path of). Instead, the parody appears to be a dark prophecy about the grim ramifications of smiting directed by the tree-ensconced kids:

  1. blood
  2. the mass fatality of the taunt singers
  3. the vehicular arrival of a personified Death.

It might indeed be alarming to hear schoolkids singing about their own bloody death from divine judgment, channeled by their tree-ensconced peers. It might not be out of place if the kids are all part of a death cult, and the children in the tree are believed to have the power to direct divine punishment.

The last line may be an allusion to the Emily Dickinson poem "Because I Could Not Stop For Death", which refers both to Death riding in a carriage and eternity. The comic was posted in April, National Poetry Month. Munroe also referenced "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" in 788: The Carriage.

The combination of "Death" from the title text and "E-Filing" is similar to the "Death and Taxes" idiom.


[Three children are singing. A kid with a bowl cut and a young Hairy are pointing with their fingers, while Jill stands in the middle. A pair of connected eighth notes and a detached eighth note are shown.]
Kid with a bowl cut, Jill and Hairy: [Name] and [Name], sitting in a tree...
[Label above the panel:]
[Cueball and Megan are sitting on a tree branch holding hands and kissing, with a heart above them.]
[Label above the panel:]
Slightly worrying
[Cueball and Megan are sitting on a tree branch each ironing a cloth on an ironing board, with steam arising from the irons.]
[Label above the panel:]
Very alarming
[Cueball and Megan, her hair being uncharacteristically wild, sitting on a tree branch smiting with glowing hands, with two falling fireballs and fire below them. Cueball's hands are raised up, while Megan has her left hand up and her right hand pointing to her right.]

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Could posting refer to attending one's post? 23:29, 24 April 2024 (UTC)

Meh, they're just dropping burning pine cones on the wargs. BunsenH (talk) 04:06, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

I hope I did this right, seeing as this was my first ever edit! Name of User (talk) 04:15, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

Did Randall mean e-filing as in submitting your tax return on the web, and how is that more alarming than ironing sitting on a branch? Or is there some other meaning to efiling? 06:46, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

Could be that they're sitting in a data tree, selectively traversing it to find a fraudulent subset of transactional records to 'declare'... 10:18, 13 April 2024 (UTC)
To me it seems "efiling" could be supporting/enacting efilism? Definitely more disturbing. (talk) 12:38, 13 April 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I assumed it was a reference to the tax filing deadline in the USA. 14:15, 13 April 2024 (UTC)
I don't think "efiling" (electronically filing tax returns) should be considered any more alarming than "banking". -- 20:55, 13 April 2024 (UTC)
Yeah - I can't see why banking, e-filing, or posting while in a tree would really be of any concern, in and of themselves. You might have some concern over the security of your connection, particularly if you're using a random wifi hotspot to do it, but that doesn't really have anything to do with the tree per se. 09:04, 15 April 2024 (UTC)
When dealing with my bank, I still do prefer to go to my nearest branch... 12:09, 15 April 2024 (UTC)
Chapeau. :o) (Preferably a hard hat.) 08:03, 16 April 2024 (UTC)

So, "whaling" can mean hitting (usually in the form "whaling on"), but "whaling" also means spending a lot of money, such as when gambling or in a video game. (talk) 11:05, 13 April 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Personally, I just automatically thought they would be actually hunting marine mammals![cetacean needed] 11:30, 13 April 2024 (UTC)
Absolutely - in the hierarchy "what words mean", I'd say "what the word literally means" has a good argument for being at the top. "Whaling" also means "hitting", and even then, only phrasally: it's surely only ever "whaling on + object". "Whaling", in isolation, is hunting whales.Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 11:54, 13 April 2024 (UTC)
I believe it only applies to Ishmael and Queequeg, I guess. They're quite homosexual. 20:04, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

Do "perish/carriage" actually rhyme in (perhaps) the Bostonian accent? I'm drawn back to the state of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrical rhyming scheme. It might work better using something like "pillage/carriage", with only the vowel-problem. At which point I could imagine it sort of working in a (bad) Kiwi or Africaans 'iccint'. 11:42, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

I think they come quite close in a "general" North American accent. The "pairish" and "cairidge" sounds, stretched out a little to fit the tune, sit well enough together.Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 11:48, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

I came here looking for explanations of "efiling", and I have to say "efilism", which I'd never heard of before, certainly sounds more in keeping with that frame than "e-filing", which just sounds tedious, even if the first result DuckDuckGo offers me is for something called SARS which seems an unfortunate name. - IMSoP (talk) 13:31, 13 April 2024 (UTC)

How do Cueball and Megan iron without a power cord? --1234231587678 (talk) 03:03, 14 April 2024 (UTC)

Presumably they’re using Apple iPhones with handles attached so they can be safely handled even though they get hot enough to iron clothes. 05:52, 14 April 2024 (UTC)
They could be using a flat iron, which is simply a solid piece of metal that is heated over a fire before use. (It does look like they may be using steam irons, though.) 14:20, 14 April 2024 (UTC)
See also "box irons". You put hot embers (or fire-heated stones, or whatever is handy or the 'box' is best designed for) into them as the 'heat powerpack'. It'll cool, much like the 'solid iron' iron, but then you empty it and put another 'heat battery' in that you've had waiting in the actual fire. May be trickier than just sitting the 'solid state' version on/over the fire every now and then, but removes a lot of the enforced pause between subsequent applications if you need more than one 'heatings-worth' of iron, per laundry job.
Obviously, for any actual super-arborial applicationem caloris, one would expect something like a bucket (or heat-safe basket) on a rope, to facilitate some ground-based assistance (beyond the fairly trivial initial porting of the ironing board up there, which they relatively easily do themselves... 19:04, 14 April 2024 (UTC)

"cetacean needed" is absolutely beautiful, well done! 15:06, 14 April 2024 (UTC)

Agreed. A+ handiwork. Laser813 (talk) 14:35, 15 April 2024 (UTC)

Feels like a worthy spiritual successor to one of my favorites, Strip Games. We need more charts about alternative children's activities. Phil Srobeighn (talk) 10:56, 15 April 2024 (UTC)

Cueball and Megan, sitting in a tree, F- wait no W-O-R-K-I-N-G R-U-N-N-I-N-G W-A-L-K-I-N-G C-A-L-L-I-N-G D-R-A-W-I-N-G 16:17, 15 April 2024 (UTC)

Were you about to swear?!?


I was surprised when I moved to the US to find out that they also use the word e-file for submitting taxes online. In Canada, it's efile without a hyphen. It also seems that the IRS dosen't send you a confirmation that it was correctly submitted. Brycemw (talk) 19:38, 15 April 2024 (UTC)

I don't even know what they call it, over here in the UK. Most people (certainly most people like me) do not have to personally submit annual paperwork. PAYE gets dealt with as an intrinsic part of your wages. VAT is included in the price-tags of store items (a business-sales place may quote ex-VAT prices as well, but your £499.99 pricetag for some home-electrical item typically doesn't need any further form of Sales Taxes adding to it before you can take it away).
Big tax-relevent things (selling a house, anything else that might invoke Capital Gains Tax) are generally rare enough and the estate agent/solicitors involved should get you through the one-off declarations without fuss. Unless you're running your own business or have some other kind of self-earned income (e.g. personal share-trading portfolio), there's not the need for the whole industry of "Personal tax declarations" cropping up every year.
Taxes still get collected, of course, and doubtless there's room for making adjustments (need expensive boots particularly for work? - you can claim back some of this necessary expense), but asking every person to do as much work as (from popular media) it looks like everyone from Homer Simpson to Jack Bauer needs to spend a frantic few weeks every year to find time to do (or set aside enough regular time to keep ahead of that so that it isn't quite so onerous) just seems odd to me, who has never had to do anything like this over several decades in various jobs and types of employment. 13:16, 16 April 2024 (UTC)
I definitely have to agree with you there. With my dad being an accountant, I certainly know a lot of situations where you'd need to do special things with your taxes but the vast majority of people work standard jobs that report their income to the government anyway. Even in the case of personal stock trading or special types of accounts like retirement accounts, the broker or bank still has to report that information to the government. My tax return this year was complicated due to moving countries but other than the one year that I did some remote contracting work for a US company, my Canadian tax returns have been opening the tax software, logging into CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency), downloading all of the data from there, then checking that it's correct. I guess I made one decision of whether or not to use my deduction from contributing to an RRSP but overall there's no reason that it has to be that much work.
There are definitely a lot more complicated interactions between things in the US so it's not quite so simple. My understanding is that the main reason why it's so much work is that the companies that make the tax software lobby the government to ensure that it doesn't change. The current system requires you to buy a new copy of the software every year (or pay an accountant) which obviously makes them a ton of money. Brycemw (talk) 15:49, 24 April 2024 (UTC)

I'm gonna miss "PAIR OF BOTS SITTING IN A TREE E-D-I-T-I-N-G - ♫First come comments, ♫Then these made neat, ♫But ONLY when it's accurate, then should you the tag delete!♫" when this page is "complete." May be a bit too Meta, but should we consider adding it to a "Trivia" section of the page? 16:39, 16 April 2024 (UTC)

Go for it! Laser813 (talk) 17:56, 16 April 2024 (UTC)
You've preserved it for posterity here. (talk) 21:57, 19 April 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Cueball and Megan, sitting in a tree, B-R-A-K-I-N-G 18:55, 18 April 2024 (UTC)

I read this as B-A-R-K-I-N-G. Fits more in the alarming section. Tcf (talk) 12:03, 8 May 2024 (UTC)
Why? A healthy tree is almost continually barking! :P 15:33, 8 May 2024 (UTC)