- The fact that the true author of this comment may never be known is reason enough to despair.220.127.116.11 14:35, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- An unrelated but interesting piece of trivia about Ozymandias: "Ozymandias" is the Greek name of the pharaoh Ramesses II, one of the most famous of the Egyptian pharaohs, who built many monuments that still stand today. So the poem, which has a ruler whose monument has crumbled and who is implied to be nearly forgotten, is in fact completely inaccurate! JoeNotCharles (talk) 15:23, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
The page seems to give a description, but not an explanation of the joke. I still don't get it! Why has Ozymandias been singled out for this treatment? Is there some way in which recursion is particularly appropriate or inappropriate in this case, or has it just been selected arbitrarily? Is the whole joke that recursion is inherently funny? Normally when recursion is used in XKCD it's making a larger point, or cleverly riffing on something in particular. This isn't just Describe XKCD, so I'd love to see an explanation of this comic. 18.104.22.168 09:35, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- The poem Ozymandias, like the statue of the king,can be thought of as a pinnacle of achievement for its civilizarion- in this case, English civilization. So it is entirely possible that one day, after the fall of this civilization, the poem will fill the same role for it that the statue filled for Ozymandias' (fictional) civilization. Bbruzzo (talk) 15:33, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- May it be that Ozymandias is chosen because of Smith’s poem, where at last London has vanished, suggesting that Shelley’s poem is the last remains of British civilization? --22.214.171.124 10:04, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- I think Ozymandias was chosen because its opening is particularly famous. Even people who don't know much about poetry are often passingly familiar with it, and there's something funny about playing with well-known classics. And yes, I do believe the joke is that infinite recursion is inherently funny. There's a long tradition of these recursion-jokes among computer scientists and math people (like the "GNU" acronym, or recursive index references), with precedents in xkcd itself. Leoboiko (talk)
In Germany, we have a childrens’ song „Ein Mops kam in die Küche“, which translates as follows (there are slightly different versions, though):
A pug came into the kitchen / and stole an egg from the chef. / Then the chef took his knife / and mashed the pug. // Then many pugs came / to his grave / and set a memorial for him, / where these words were written: // “A pug came into the kitchen …”
Maybe something similar exists in English? --126.96.36.199 10:04, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- We have:
- This is the song that doesn't end, / Yes, it goes on and on, my friend, / Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, / And they'll continue singing it / Forever, just because [repeat] :— tbc (talk) 12:34, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- There's also:
- In Dutch: "Het was nacht, stikdonkere nacht. Veertig rovers zaten rond een vuur. De roverhoofdman stond op een zei: "Het was nacht, stikdonkere nacht... " "
- Which translates to something along the lines of: "It was night, a pitchblack night. 40 robbers sat round a fire, their leader stood up and said: "It was night, a pitchblack night..." "
- Sometimes the fire is replaced by the shadow of a dandelion. "..Forty robbers sat in the shadow of a Dandelion, their Chief stood up and said: "It was a dark night, forty robbers sat in the shadow of a dandelion", etc. -- 188.8.131.52 13:01, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- I've heard a very long infinitely recursive song in English, which is a variant of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain". The standard lyrics are:
- The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see / And all that he could see, and all that he could see / Was the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain, and that's what he could see.
- Well, the infinite variant goes:
- The bear went over the mountain the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see / And all that he could see, and all that he could see / Was a valley in the mountain, a valley in the mountain, a valley in the mountain, and that's what he could see
- The bear went over the mountain the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see / And all that he could see, and all that he could see / Was a lake in the valley, a lake in the valley, a lake in the valley, and that's what he could see
- ... a sailboat on the lake ...
- ... a man in the sailbot ...
- ... pants on the man ...
- ... a pocket in the pants ...
- ... a nickel in the pocket ...
- ... a beaver on the nickel ... (Note: I just realized this line only works in Canada, where the five cent coin has a picture of a beaver on it.)
- ... a hair on the beaver ...
- ... a flea on the hair ...
- ... cells in the flea ...
- ... a prisoner in the cells ...
- ... pants on the prisoner ...
- ... a pocket in the pants ...
- I prefer a slightly shorter version which goes from "a pocket in the pants" to "a dime in the pocket", then "a sailboat on the dime" (which again only works in Canada), and back to "a man in the sailboat". JoeNotCharles (talk) 15:14, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- There's also 184.108.40.206 20:28, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- Yon Yonson - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yon_Yonson
- Mighty mighty - https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070602235838AA6qSzz
Note that the recursion doesn't necessary be infinite. The list of travelers who met each other can have fixed length, for example 10. Imagining that the list is infinite is the joke. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:06, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- I think that might be the point actually, the idea is that with each time someone tells the poem to someone else, it grows by one, for each traveler from an antique land has been told by by a different traveler from an antique land220.127.116.11 01:08, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
Should we mention quines, which occur when lists like this end after two iterations, as "Yo, I'm MC Quine and I'm here to say/'Yo, I'm MC Quine and I'm here to say'!" -- FourViolas (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- That's not exactly a quine - a quine is a set of instructions which, when followed, recreates the instructions. If you take MC Quine's quote and write it out, you get just, "Yo, I'm MC Quine and I'm here to say", which doesn't contain the second repetition. To be a quine, you need to find some way that taking just the quoted part will automatically expand to the full statement plus the quote.
- A closer example of a quine: "Q: Pete and Re-Pete were sitting on a bridge. Pete fell off. Who was left? A: Repeat." If you take the answer "repeat" as an instruction, you would repeat the joke, recreating it completely. JoeNotCharles (talk) 15:19, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
This reminds me of Theodor Storm's "Schimmelreiter" ("The Rider on the White Horse") which descends through three nested levels of narrators before it comes to the real story. --ulm (talk) 13:56, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
One connection between recursion and Ozymandias is the phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" aka "Who watches the watchmen?" and the character in The Watchmen named Ozymandias. 18.104.22.168 14:42, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
Nested Shelleys? Maybe associaing Shelley with shells could be part of the joke? 22.214.171.124 16:02, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
I keep trying to see 10, but I keep counting 11 syllables in each line with the exception of the last one. 126.96.36.199 16:48, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
- You have to read traveler as trav'ler. Uptonc (talk) 16:57, 29 July 2015 (UTC)