1052: Every Major's Terrible
|Every Major's Terrible|
Title text: Someday I'll be the first to get a Ph. D in 'Undeclared'.
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The header refers to an satiric opera from the 19th century. Modern Major-General's Song is a patter song from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. The song satirises the idea of the "modern" educated British Army officer of the latter 19th century. It is one of the most difficult patter songs to perform, due to the fast pace and tongue-twisting nature of the lyrics. Here's a YouTube video of "I Am the Very Model of A Modern Major's General"  for those who need to get the tune.
The panels are showing a song, some sentences are going over two or more panels. The refrain is like this: "put me down as "undecided" - Every Major's Terrible".
In panel 4, Methyl acetate is the solvent used to remove stamps from their envelope.
In panel 8, underwater basket weaving is a commonly used metaphor for any college major that is easy or worthless.
In panel 14, the formal logic proposition "X ∴ ∃X" says "I say there's this thing called X, therefore, there exists this thing called X".
In panel 15, programming languages, like Lisp, use parenthesis as part of their syntax. Typically, a open parenthesis will be closed with a closing parenthesis. If not the code is not properly formatted for presentation, it can make it difficult for a programmer to determine where the unbalanced parenthesis begins or ends.
In panel 16, virology is the study of infectious diseases. The symbol above the central figure is the biohazard symbol.
In panel 19, Richard Feynman was a 20th-century physicist known for his sense of fun, including being photographed for one of his books while holding a bongo drum.
In panel 20, a redirect on Wikipedia is a page which immediately sends the visitor to a different page. This implies that the title of the first is either a synonym or a sub-topic of the second. Physics majors usually learn to code, and the standard joke is that they invariably get hired as computer programmers after graduation. The Wikipedia page physics major didn't actually exist when this comic was published. It was created the same day, but as a redirect to physics education. In the subsequent days, there were dozens of instances of people changing it to redirect to engineer, usually reverted within minutes.
In panel 27, herpetology is the study of reptiles, while ophiophobia is the fear of snakes.
In panel 28, as the pun sugests, gastroenterology is the study of the human digestive system.
In panel 29, pre-med is a major chosen by students hoping to go on to medical school and eventually become doctors. Medical school is extremely competitive and usually requires a very high undergraduate GPA for prospective students.
In panel 30, the text is in all lower-case and strangely laid out compared to text in other panels. All lower case and "free" layout are both associated with 20th century "Modernist" poetry, especially the works of e.e.cummings.
In panel 33 and 34, the singer refers to economics. Economists claim that economics is a science like any other; scientists in other fields sometimes disagree.
And Sophie's Choice is any dilemma where choosing one cherished person or thing over the other will result in the death or destruction of the other, derived from the theme of the novel, and has also been turned into a romantic drama film.
From the title text 'Undeclared' is sometimes called "General Studies".
People of the SFU Choir have done renditions to this xkcd song. See SFU Choir - Every Major's Terrible. The transcription is also shown at the scenes, so it is more easy to understand the text.
- Every Major's Terrible
- to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's
- Modern Major-General Song
- (Which you may know from Tom Lehrer's Elements. If not, just hum Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.)
- Philosophy's just math sans rigor, sense, and practicality
- [Cueball thinking, chin on fist, à la Rodin's sculpture; in the air is a pseudo-mathematical expression "2 + <picture of light bulb> = <picture of sailboat>"]
- and Math's just physics unconstrained by precepts of reality.
- [a cannon firing: a dashed line indicates the cannonball's trajectory, which bifurcates twice, although the sum of the momentums of the four resulting 1/4 sized cannonballs is presumably mathematically identical to the original]
- A Business Major's just a thing you get so you can graduate
- [a student receives a diploma from a dean on a podium, while a second student, diploma in hand, runs gleefully away, shedding robe and mortarboard]
- and Chemistry's for stamp collectors high on methylacetate.
- [a ponytailed student wearing goggles and holding an Erlenmeyer flask dances wildly to a light show -- or is it the Periodic Table? -- in the background]
- Why anyone who wants a job would study Lit's a mystery
- [Cueball, saying this, holds up hands questioningly]
- unless their only other choice were something like Art History.
- [Cueball again, holding his chin speculatively]
- A BA in communications guarantees that you'll achieve
- [close-up of a graduate wearing embroidered robe and tasseled mortarboard]
- a little less than if you'd learned to underwater basket-weave
- [the same graduate, now underwater, surrounded by fish and a wicker basket]
- I'd rather eat a Fowler's toad than major in Biology,
- [Cueball holding a frog at arm's length, which says:]
- Frog: RIBBIT
- and Social Psych is worse than either Psych or Sociology.
- [Megan indicating: a scruffy individual, an individual holding something which might be a chainsaw, and a scruffy individual holding something which might be a chainsaw]
- The thought of picking any one of these is too unbearable.
- [Cueball at his adviser's desk holding a course catalog]
- Just put me down as "Undecided" - Every Major's Terrible.
- [he tosses the course catalog over his shoulder]
- Now, if you can't prognosticate, that's ok in Seismology,
- [seismograph chart; about halfway across one trace begins oscillating vigorously]
- but if your hindsight's weak as well, you'd best stick to Theology.
- [a bearded individual pontificates]
- Bearded individual: X ∴ ∃X
- CS will make each day a quest to find a missing close-paren.
- [a code fragment]
- Virology will guarantee you'll never get a hug again.
- [a girl with a green Biohazard symbol floating above her head stands alone; to the left and right several people shun her]
- I.T. prepares you for a life of fighting with PCs nonstop.
- [Megan running at a PC with an axe raised over her head]
- As Pratchett said, "Geography's just physics slowed with trees on top."
- [image of Pratchett, speaking this line]
- Though physics seems to promise you a Richard Feynman-like career,
- [Richard Feynman plays the bongo drums while Megan and Ponytail look on admiringly]
- the wiki page for "Physics Major" redirects to "Engineer."
- [screenshot of so-mentioned redirect]
- They say to study history or find yourself repeating it,
- [flowchart: a grey box with a sad face chains to a decision diamond reading simply "?"; the "yes" branch leads to a yellow happy-face box while the "no" branch loops back to the initial sad face]
- but all that it prepares you for is forty years of teaching it.
- [teacher with boxy spectacles and a bun at a chalkboard indicating dates: 1935, 1969, 1991]
- I recognize my four-year plan's at this point not repairable,
- [Cueball at his adviser's desk again]
- but put me down as "Undecided" - Every Major's Terrible.
- [adviser has his hand to his mouth as if gasping]
- Astronomers all cringe when they hear "Supermoon" or "Zodiac".
- [image of an astrologer espousing theories]
- Agronomy's a no-go; I'm a huge agorophobiac.
- [silhouette of Cueball, agitated, in an open field near a fence and a tractor]
- I'm too ophiophobic to consider Herpetology,
- [Cueball looking aghast at a snake on the ground; the snake may have other ideas]
- snake: ♥?
- and I can't stomach any part of Gastroenterology.
- [anatomical image of a stomach]
- While Pre-Med gives you twitchy-eyed obsession with your GPA,
- [a badly disheveled individual, glasses askew, clutching folders and papers and dropping several]
- a poetry degree bespeaks bewildering naivete.
- [Ponytail reciting poetry; her poem is this panel's line, in a lighter, lower-case font]
- TV's behind the rush into Forensic Criminology
- ["CSI: Miami" logo]
- (or so claims Meta-academic Epidemiology).
- [Ponytail holding notebook, and balding individual wearing glasses and holding pipe, watch a wall-mounted flatscreen TV on which "CSI: Miami" logo is showing]
- By dubbing Econ "Dismal science" adherents exaggerate;
- [Cueball discoursing on his opinion here]
- the "Dismal"'s fine - it's "science" where they patently prevaricate.
- [close-up on Cueball]
- In terms of choices, I'd say only Sophie's was comparable.
- [Cueball at his adviser's desk once more]
- Just put me down as "Undecided" - Every Major's Terrible!
- [Cueball makes a final dramatic flair]