1045: Constraints

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from Constraints)
Jump to: navigation, search
Constraints
[title-text similarly alphabetized]
Title text: [title-text similarly alphabetized]

Explanation[edit]

An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. Constrained writing is an age-old literary phenomenon, where writers impose rules or patterns in their works. Haiku is a well known example of this.

Twitter is a short message social network and communication service. At the time this comic was published, all messages (known as tweets) on the service needed to be under 140 characters. Until August 2015 even private messages had that restriction. Twitter is frequently used by well-known comedians as a place to make interesting jokes and observations. It should be noted that the limit is now 280 characters.

All the words spoken by Megan, from "Yeah" to "alphabetization", are in reverse alphabetical order. Here are the starting letters (with extra letter when more than one word in a row begins with the same letter):

Y, Wr, Wo, U, T, R, P, N, M, L, F, Ex, Ep, Em, B, A.

It both answers Cueball's question and exemplifies with an ingenious self-reference, while being short enough (133 characters) to be a valid tweet — hence the "whoa."

The title text, "title-text similarly alphabetized", is also backwards-alphabetized and self-referential. Starting letters:

Ti, Te, S, A.

Transcript[edit]

[Cueball sits in an office chair at his computer desk, motioning toward the screen with a hand as Megan stands behind him.]
Cueball: I don't get why authors and comedians spend so much energy trying to be clever on Twitter. Couldn't they put that creativity into more books and scripts?
Cueball: Is there something they like about the 140-character format?
[Same picture but in a frame-less panel, except Cueball has taken his arm down.]
Megan: Yeah. Writers working under tight restrictions produce novel material—like, for example, epigrams employing backward alphabetization.
[A slim panel with only Cueball at his computer desk shown.]
Cueball: ...Whoa.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

Sometimes, seventeen

Syllables are not enough

To just express a Davidy22[talk] 08:25, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

But sometimes they are!

I rewrote your third line as

"To express a thought." --108.162.216.45 21:35, 1 November 2013 (UTC)


"Whoa." is also an example, but one word examples are particularly easy! --DrMath 06:17, 7 September 2013 (UTC)


I can't see the image... what's wrong with it ? --KoundelitchNico (talk) 14:26, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I just don't find the alphabetization thing to be all that impressive. Everything is written like that. Am I missing something about the very concept? (C comes before O, then jump back to the start, N, back to the start, C, E, P and T.) (I just don't find: I J U back to start S T back to start D O back to start N T back to start F I N back to start D) (Epigrams employing: G N back to start I Y back to start O back to start L P back to start M back to start E back to start S back to start M back to start A R back to start G I P back to start E) 108.162.242.5 02:00, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

Words wholly taken (not letters individually) do come backward alphabetized. --173.245.62.74 12:56, 28 October 2014 (UTC)

Twitter allows up to 280 characters now. The explanation needs some updating. 172.68.253.5 10:28, 12 January 2018 (UTC)

Done. Herobrine (talk) 07:41, 5 May 2018 (UTC)