990: Plastic Bags
Title text: Collaborative editing can quickly become a textual rap battle fought with increasingly convoluted invocations of U+202a to U+202e
U+202e is a unicode control character that changes all subsequent text to right-to-left (RTL, as the title references). In the comic, Black Hat tires of Cueball's complaining and inserts a U+202e character in the middle of Cueball's speech, turning his complaints into gibberish - sentences that must be read from right-to-left.
The title of the comic builds on this theme, with the title of the webpage it is hosted on being LTR in some browsers (see trivia), the reverse of the comic name.
What Cueball actually tries to say after Black Hats change is:
- — They didn't even...
- ...What the hell?
- How did you...
When multiple writers work on the same text, arguments can often arise with some writers resorting to vandalizing the works of other writers. The title text takes this up a level, suggesting the use of U+202e and other direction control characters in editor wars to disrupt other people's work. For reference for future wars U+202c returns text back to its normal direction.
- [Cueball is standing behind Black Hat who is sitting down with a laptop on his lap.]
- Cueball: And that's not even the worst part! The worst part is that—
- Black Hat types a command on the PC: U+202e
- Cueball: —They didn't even...
- Cueball: ...What the hell?
- Cueball: How did you...
- Cueball: ...Asshole.
- In the version originally published there was a typo in the reverse text ("ETH" instead of "EHT" for "THE"). This mistake was corrected within a couple of hours.
- The title given in the web browser, (for instance seen on the icon for the browser bar at the bottom of the screen), for the comic on the xkcd website actually has a U+202e character preceding it;
- The page title is "xkcd: [U+202e]LTR", which for instance causes Firefox to write the page title as "xkcd: xoferiF allizoM - RTL" as the window title. So xkcd and the comics title is correct (The LTR turns to RTL). But the browsers name is reversed.
- This may only affect some browsers but it also occurs in Internet Explorer,Google Chrome, Chromium and Opera.
- In some browsers (for instance Internet Explorer), this page's title damages the appearance of all older entries in the archive page on xkcd.
- Here is a picture example for people without access to explorer: Reverse archive.
- This is the second comic in a row with Cueball and Black Hat discussing. Both with Black Hat with his back turned to Cueball.
- In the previous comic Black Hat broke a mirror, and in this comic he then reverses Cueballs speak
- Not exactly a mirroring of his speak, but still related.
- In the broken archive mentioned above, 1136: Broken Mirror is the first (or last) entry to be broken!
Unicode Control Characters
|U+202a||LEFT-TO-RIGHT EMBEDDING||The following text will be left-to-right. This will not change directionality of characters, so for example Arabic letters will stay right-to-left. This character alone does nothing in an English text, since the text direction is left-to-right by default.|
|U+202b||RIGHT-TO-LEFT EMBEDDING||The following text will be right-to-left. This will not change directionality of characters, so Latin letters will stay left-to-right. Full stops, which don't have a directionality on their own, will be left of the sentence. Use this character for some little misplacings that cause big confusion.|
|U+202c||POP DIRECTIONAL FORMATTING||The following text is formatted like the text before the last U+202a, U+202b, U+202d or U+202e character.|
|U+202d||LEFT-TO-RIGHT OVERRIDE||The following text will be left-to-right. Additionally, the directionality of characters is changed to left-to-right. Used alone in an English text, this will only affect characters that are right-to-left by default, like Arabic letters.|
|U+202e||RIGHT-TO-LEFT OVERRIDE||The following text will be right-to-left. Additionally, the directionality of characters is changed to right-to-left. Use this character to completely screw up an English text.|
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