450: The Sea

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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The Sea
And then a second one, to drain the sea.
Title text: And then a second one, to drain the sea.


Cueball becomes introspective when contemplating the sea. The straightforward reading of "how small I really am" means he feels humbled by the sea and recognizes his insignificance on this planet. This is a common sentiment expressed in poetry, literature, and blogs.

The final line I should get one of those pumps is most likely to, at first, be understood as getting a pump to drain the ocean. The reflection on the joke would run along the line that Cueball is so unsatisfied with the way the ocean makes him feel, the size of the sea intimidating him, that he intends to drain the sea to make him feel better about himself. (This is of course impossible as the size of the sea is many billions if not trillions of times bigger than the biggest storage tanks on Earth today.)

However, in English, the sentences I'm small and I'm big can also be a euphemism for my penis is small and my penis is big.

Even if Cueball is not literally saying that he has a small penis, men very commonly associate their own self-image with the size of their organ. Therefore, enlarging it would improve their self-image and make them feel less small.

The final line in the comic: I should get one of those pumps, could thus be understood to reference a penis pump, a device that is alleged to permanently increase the size of the male member.

The title text is referencing that Cueball would also like another pump - and this one should be the one for draining the sea. But by specifying in the title text that the first pump is not for the sea, Randall is ensuring that it is possible to understand the full joke.


[Cueball stands on a beach at night, staring out across the moonlit ocean. The three lines of text stand above the moon, above Cueball (white on black), and on the beach (black on white).]
Cueball: The sea always makes me realize
Cueball: how small I really am.
Cueball: I should get one of those pumps.

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Umm...before changing the page shouldn't there be some discussion here? There was a bunch of other stuff that got deleted. 03:22, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Justification of "male enhancement" theory

DGBert wrote that there's no justification for the idea of the first pump being a penis-enlarging pump. What other theory do you have about (a) a pump, that (b) makes someone larger and (c) improves their self-image?

If you have any hints not only coming from your own brain you are welcome. This wiki is "Explain" and not "Speculate". --Dgbrt (talk) 17:59, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

(Do we have Word Of God about this or many other 'Explanations'? An awful lot of this Wiki is speculation, without it.) Personally, while the first pump could be either kind of pump, the title text asking for another in order to drain the sea means that the first (regardless of which way one's mind snaps, on reading) was not intended to be a sea-draining pump. Randall also often does something akin to "one-lead-element Markov Chaining", and "how small I am" leading to a penis pump fits his sense of absurdist humour. Even if it isn't initially that, it's still akin to being a Garden path sentence (only more of a disfluent paragraph version) when parsing. All IMO. YMMV. HTH. HAND. 13:40, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

Totally agree with "male enhancement" explanation

The previous explanation (last edited by Dgbrt) was:

In this comic, Cueball compares himself to a very large sea and realizes how small he is. The initial implication is that this causes him to be humble and realize his small place on the planet -- a common sentiment expressed in poetry and blogs.

The punchline "I should get one of those pumps" induces humor by reversing the expectation: as he thinks about how small he is compared to the sea, he starts wanting to buy a pump, presumably take out the sea water so the sea could be smaller and not so much a threat to his self-image anymore. It shows that he really hasn't learned anything and is still egotistical.

The title text creates additional humor by reversing the expectation yet again, by saying that he wanted another pump to drain the sea, meaning that the purpose of the first pump was not to drain the sea. This leads the reader to ponder what possible use the first pump was to have, and how it was going to make him bigger.

This, to me, felt weak, was overly complex, and ignored what seems a painfully obvious point. The number of "male enhancement" products being marketed by junk-mail at the time was a frequent source of humour, and something that anyone with an e-mail account (and a poor junk-mail filter) dealt with on a frequent basis. Ref: Trends on Male Enhancement

Note, the line is: "... one of those pumps." This wording indicates that Randall is referring to something that he expects the reader to realize is topical. If he meant a generic pump, he would NOT have used the keyword "those". People ignorant of the junk mail of the day, and the function of penis pumps, would understandably not get the joke. MisterSpike (talk) 10:16, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Totally agree with previous explanation. Undee (talk) 12:01, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
A question for Dgbrt

Did you know that in English the sentences I'm small and I'm big sometimes mean my penis is small[1] and my penis is big?[2][3] 13:44, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

I seriously take issue with that statement as well - I suggest using "can also mean" rather than "mean" or "sometimes mean" Brettpeirce (talk) 13:55, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
A question to me (Dgbrt)

This explain should be discussed with Randall. This comic doesn't belong to SEX, most man don't use a "Penis Pump" because it's nonsense. If Randall did joke about this item we would get a better claim on this. This explain still does not cover the meanings by the author. --Dgbrt (talk) 23:29, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

I was asking because if you didn't know the meaning of "I'm small" then you obviously didn't think about a penis pump until you came here. People who knew in advance the meaning of "I'm small"" immediately thought of a penis pump. 13:05, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

First, I agree that without the tagline, the first thought is about the ocean. I am reminded of the Norse myth about Thor being tricked by the giants to "drink the ocean" in what he thought was a beer (or mead or ale) drinking contest. The phrase to drink the ocean does appear in colloquial english (american).

There are at least two popular cultural allusions here that north american readers would be familiar with. One is the Austin Powers movies. When Austin is unfrozen there is an elaborate scene where they are returning his personal effects and one of them is a swedish penis pump. The scene goes on and on as he tries to deny it. The second thought is an episode from Seinfeld where George goes into the ocean, his bathing trunks fall off and his male member is reduced to the point that his date laughs. The rest of the episode goes includes George trying to convince everyone that he is actually reasonably endowed. His explanation is "shrinkage". I think this second argument might be more compelling if cueball were walking out of the ocean where it is obvious that he is a victim of shrinkage. Without that visual we would have to imagine he is thinking back to a past event. For those readers unfamiliar with the ocean, or male member(s), the effect, I believe is based on cold so would last until core body temperature returned to normal. Your mileage may vary. -- Mcjoker (talk) 01:13, 19 February 2014 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The links that direct to tumblr should be labelled NSFW. I do regularly follow the wiki and a select discussions, even at work during breaks(or while the code compiles). They do carry no warning as of now. 21:48, 5 March 2014 (UTC)BK201

No good reason to link to a generic porn tumblr, even if it's below-average-penis-size-themed. The Urban Dictionary link, I think, suffices. --Alex (talk) 10:28, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
Some statements
  • Thanks for removing tumblr links.
  • This explain is still the worst here, the urbandictionary link doesn't explain a penis relationship as well
  • The urbandictionary page links to penis but the hell there a millions of other objects could be small and big

When I'm standing at night alone at a shore of a sea I'm thinking about the vastness of all beyond me, but not about pumping up my penis. Furthermore I'm pretty sure most people all over the world think the same. So, if US or American male citizens have a major problem with their own pee-pee it has to be explained in a much better way. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:28, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

I came here without thinking about penis pumps. But after reading the explain it was so obvious to me that it is about a penis pump. It would only be a funny comic becuase of this. And Randall use infantile humor all the time. I think the only reason Dgbrt is against this is that he hoped it was one of the beautiful comics that Randall also does from time to time and then also that he did not get the joke himsefl :-) Explain is perfect, although I have now changed layot to explain in the order that you could get the joke before reading title text and after. Kynde (talk) 05:31, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
See also the discussion page of this penis joke comic: 532: Piano :-) -- Kynde (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This explanation is ridiculous - I'm quite sure that the "pumps" reference shoes of the same name (just do an image search for pumps) which are high heeled and therefore adressing directly the problem of being too small. No penis needed for the joke IMO. 08:07, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

Why do you believe it is ridiculous? As has been stated before, Randall makes use of penis jokes fairly frequently (see Category:Penis) The usage of the word pump for shoes may be different in different places (backed up as you say by a google image search showing high heeled shoes), but I have always known pumps as being flat shoes. Regardless, why would Cueball only want 'one' pump, to stand slightly taller but a bit wobbly?! As a native english speaker, I have no doubt in my mind that 'one of those pumps' refers to a penis pump. To answer some of the non-penis-pump statements:
  • most man don't use a "Penis Pump" because it's nonsense - I agree most men don't actually use them, and the actual long-term results of use are supposedly dubious, but it only matters that a penis pump is supposed to make a man 'bigger' (penis size, ego, self-worth, etc)
  • When I'm standing at night alone at a shore of a sea I'm thinking about the vastness of all beyond me, but not about pumping up my penis. Furthermore I'm pretty sure most people all over the world think the same. - Again, I agree with you, but thats what this joke is, it sets you up to think its going to be one thing (maybe a beatuiful philospohical statement or something), then suddenly pulls an unexected crude twist.
  • if US or American male citizens have a major problem with their own pee-pee it has to be explained in a much better way - Across many (most?) cultures, male penis size is linked to manliness. Some cultures regard bigger as better, others smaller as better. In the US (Randall's background), there is the implication that bigger is better, which leads on to the joke. -- Pudder (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

If you just read the panels, you will think of a water pump to drain the ocean which taunts Cueball so. The actual punchline comes from the title text; you realize the first pump must be something other than a water pump. This is when "how small I really am" takes on a whole new meaning. The explanation is correct... however, it is poorly worded and convoluted. flewk (talk) 18:33, 28 December 2015 (UTC)