1079: United Shapes

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United Shapes
That eggplant is in something of a flaccid state.
Title text: That eggplant is in something of a flaccid state.

A large version is here.


In this comic, each state of the United States of America has been filled-in with an object of similar shape. Several years later Randall made a new map of the US mainland 1653: United States Map, where he shuffled the positions of the states but filled out the outline. Also in this map Michigan has been split into two separate parts. (Here it is the mitten and the eagle). This comic could also be a reference to Giuseppe Arcimboldo's portraits, which were comprised of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, books, and fish.

Very few, if any, of the shapes used are stereotypes of the state; they are merely objects that look like the state. Some of the objects are those which the states are widely known to resemble. For example, Michigan is represented by a mitten and an Eagle, and a pot with handle takes the place of Oklahoma (with the panhandle region of the state filled with a literal handle). Others, however, are more creative. Few would have likely pictured Texas as a dog or Alaska as a bear with a jet pack and laser gun. There are several incredibly simple objects filling some states. Kentucky is filled by a cloud, which conceivably could have been used for any state, and Wyoming, one of the nearly rectangular states, is simply an envelope. There are three pairs of states that are related. Georgia and Missouri each contain an image of the other, drawing attention to their similar shapes, North and South Dakota are the top and bottom halves of a guitar amplifier speaker cabinet, and Alabama and Mississippi are moai facing in opposite directions.

Colorado contains what looks like a Wikipedia article. A close-up of the fake article is provided. The following references are made in the Colorado article:

New Mexico, according to official transcript, is "A liquid container labeled for something of unusual and silly danger". The labeling is upside down and it refers to the nuclear testing facility White Sands Missile Range located in New Mexico for the nuclear bomb. The joke is that it presents the white sand itself as extremely hazardous. The phrase "contains chemicals known only to the state of Nevada" may be a reference to the nuclear weapons testing that occurred in Nevada (although in that case, it's not really the state of Nevada that knows those chemicals, but rather the Nevada Test Site, home of Area 51 et al.), and is also a reference to California's Proposition 65 warning label, "WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm."

This end up
Property of White Sands Missile Range
??? [Followed by a NFPA 704 Diamond with all divisions at severe risk, and a radiation symbol in the special notice division]
Contains White Sand
This product contains chemicals known
only to the state of Nevada.
Contents under pressure from parents
If swallowed, induce labor
56 fluid ounces
and 14 other ounces

The title text makes fun of Florida which is sometimes called "The penis of America". Obviously, this penis is somewhat flaccid (not erect). The use of the word "state" is a pun, as it means some particular condition (flaccid state) as well as a political entity (The State of Florida).


State Contained Picture Comments
Alabama A moai head facing east. Moai are Easter Island stone statues.
Alaska A bear with a jet pack and a ray gun. The ray gun and jet pack are fixtures of science fiction during the Cold War era, and the Russian Bear is an often-used personification of the country Russia in political cartoonage; the "teddy bear" image may be related to Alaska's former Russian heritage. The USA acquired Alaska from Russia in the Alaska Purchase of 1867 and it became a state in 1959, during the Cold War. The Cold War often featured baseless worries of a potential Russian invasion of Alaska due to their geographical proximity across the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, which persisted through the 1980s; Alaska was the location of a large number of interceptor missiles as part of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars Defense Initiative" intended to shoot down missiles that might be launched from the USSR. The ray gun is pointed across the Bering Strait at Russia, consistent with Alaska's often being described as the "first line of defense" against Russian aggression. The teddy bear is similar in appearance to Winnie the Pooh.
Arizona A refrigerated shelf containing milk, bread, and pastries.
Arkansas A measuring cup.
California A vacuum. An old-fashioned upright vacuum cleaner (lying down to the right), green with a yellow bag.
Colorado The Wikipedia article on Colorado. A fake Wikipedia article on Colorado. Below the text as seen in the provided close up:
[web address:]
Article Talk
[Main article {note that Randall forgot the closing parentheses ')' after the pronunciation}]
Colorado (Pronounced [ˈeːijaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥] is a US State encompassing portions of the Rocky
Mountains and the Great Plains. The region has been inhabited since at least 11,000 BCE, and
some archaeological evidence suggest the state – with roughly its current borders – has literally
always existed. Colorado is separated from Wyoming by a 28-mile demilitarized zone, and
has at times exercised substantial regional
power via the installation of puppet governments
in neighboring states
Geographically, Colorado is eleven-dimensional,
though seven of those dimensions are tightly
compacted and difficult to detect in most areas
of the state. Colorado is home to the nation's
oldest continually-operated wormhole and two
of President Lincoln's horcruxes.
The wildlife in Colorado is commonly characterized
as "erratic", particularly in the radiation zones
around Longmont. The State's timber wolf
population is largely bipedal; the Park Service
has expressed "concern" at their attempts to enroll in
[Fact box with correct (though black instead of blue) State flag and emblem and fake motto:]
State of Colorado
"Si parare possis, vivere septem."
(With preparation, survival is
possible for over a week.)
Connecticut A train conductor's hat.
Delaware A meerkat.
Florida An eggplant. The title text mentions the eggplant being in a flaccid state, which might be a reference to the sexual use of the eggplant emoji.
Georgia Missouri. The outline of the state of Missouri, with the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Hawaii The island of Hawaii is a snowball. The smaller islands are small bits of snow.
Idaho A garden gnome, sitting down.
Illinois A gangster with a guitar case, upside down.
Indiana The brush of a paintbrush.
Iowa A tomato, lettuce, cold cut and cheese sandwich.
Kansas A spinet piano.
Kentucky A cloud.
Louisiana A boot with some gum stuck to the bottom of it.
Maine A Vulcan salute. Maine's camp sunshine has had Star Trek related events in the past, including the opportunity to appear in a film.
Maryland A wolf howling to the moon, upside down.
Massachusetts An elephant, being ridden by a man, carrying tea. Might be a reference to the Boston Tea Party, which occurred in Massachusetts, and the Republican political party. The man seems to be wearing a tricorn hat.
Michigan A mitten for the lower portion, an eagle for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Minnesota $160 in $20 USD bills, tied together.
Mississippi A moai head facing west.
Missouri Georgia. The outline of the state of Georgia, with a pair of Georgia peaches.
Montana One half of a muffin, sideways.
Nebraska A blue VW type 2 with mattresses sticking out the back.
Nevada A clothes iron.
New Hampshire A tall brick factory building. There are many brick mill buildings in Manchester, the largest city in the state.
New Jersey A bent-over old person. He is carrying a cane.
New Mexico A liquid container labeled for something of unusual and silly danger. A yellow liquid container with upside-down labeling.
This end up!!
Property of White Sands Missile Range
Contains White Sand
[Written inside a hazardous-materials NFPA diamond with the ? very large, and the three '4' in the three top part of a diamond shape divided in four these three sections being blue(health), red(flammability), and yellow(instability). The lower part has a radioactive sign on the same grey background as the large rectangle.]
??? 4 4 4
This product contains chemicals known
Only to the State of Nevada.
Contents under pressure from parents
If swallowed, induce labor
56 fluid ounces
and 14 other ounces
NB - There are several chemicals such as Pentaborane(9)(reacts with water) and tert-Butyl hydroperoxide(explosive) which have a 4-4-4 rating, however, a substance that is both 4-4-4 and radioactive is unlikely to be handled in bulk
New York A hybrid transmission with standard manual-style gears and a torque converter sliced in half.
North Carolina A bouquet of flowers. They appear similar to marsh bedstraws.
North Dakota The top half of a guitar amplifier speaker cabinet. Possibly a Randall RD412A angled 4x12" cabinet, which is similar in appearance and bears Randall's name.
Ohio Underwear (Briefs). Possibly a reference to Captain Underpants, which takes place in Ohio.
Oklahoma A covered pot, dripping with boil-over. Western Oklahoma is often called "the panhandle"; sure enough, this is where the boiling pot's handle fits.
Oregon A locomotive.
Pennsylvania A very thick book with a bookmark.
Rhode Island The bow half of a boat's hull.
South Carolina A slice of pizza.
South Dakota The bottom half of guitar amplifier speaker cabinet. Possibly a Randall RD412A angled 4x12" cabinet, which is similar in appearance and bears Randall's name.
Tennessee A number of children's books, placed in a slightly askew pile. Possibly a reference to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The books are Where's Waldo?, The Wreck of the Zephyr, The Way Things Work, Free Fall, Paddle-to-the-Sea, What It Feels Like to Be a Building, and The Crab with the Golden Claws.
Texas A dog sitting in a bowl.
Utah An oven.
Vermont A microscope, upside down.
Virginia A stegosaurus.
Washington A whale. The Puget Sound is well known for whale watching
Washington DC A star. On most maps, capitals are shown as stars. Washington DC is the capital of the United States.
West Virginia A frog.
Wisconsin A skull.
Wyoming An envelope. The back side of a white envelope, sealed with red wax, with a black heart next to a signature (lower left corner).


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
The United Shapes
A map of things states are shaped like
[Each state has some item wedged to stay inside its borders]
State Official Transcript Text
WA whale
MT half muffin
ND and SD top and bottom halves of an amp
MN $160 in $20 USD bills
WI skull
MI mitten for the lower portion, eagle for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
NY hybrid transmission with standard manual-style gears and a torque converter sliced in half
VT microscope, upside down
NH tall brick factory building
ME Vulcan salute
MA elephant, being ridden by a man, carrying tea
CT train conductor's hat
RI bow half of a boat's hull
OR locomotive
ID garden gnome, sitting down
WY envelope. The envelope is marked with a signature, possibly Randall's
NE blue VW type 2 with mattresses sticking out the back
IA tomato, lettuce, cold cut and cheese sandwich
IL gangster with a guitar case, upside down
IN brush of a paintbrush
OH underwear (Briefs)
PA very thick book with a bookmark
NJ bent-over old person
NV clothes iron
UT oven
CO Wikipedia article on Colorado See Link Above
KS stand-up piano
MO Georgia Georgia
KY cloud
WV frog
VA stegosaurus
DC star.
MD wolf howling to the moon, upside down
DE meerkat
CA vacuum cleaner
AZ refrigerated shelf containing milk, bread, and pastries
NM liquid container with warning label This end up!!

Property of White Sands Missile Range

Contains White Sand



Warning: This product contains chemicals known Only to the state of Nevada.

Contents under pressure from parents.

If swallowed, induce labor.

56 Fluid Ounces and 14 other ounces.

OK covered pot, dripping with boil-over
AR measuring cup
TN children's books, placed in a slightly askew pile Handford / WHERE'S WALDO / or wally

The Wreck of the Zephyr / Chris Van Allsburg

The Way Things Work / DAVID MACAULRY

Weisner / FREE FALL



TINTIN / The Crab with the Golden Claws / Hergé

NC flower bouquet
AK teddy bear with a jet pack and a ray gun
HI snowball
TX dog sitting in a bowl
LA boot with some gum stuck to the bottom
MS moai head facing west
AL moai head facing east
GA Missouri. Missouri
SC pizza slice
FL eggplant


This comic used to be available as a poster in the xkcd store before it was shut down.

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Hooray, another comic that only Americans will get. Randall, some of us live in *other* parts of the world. Davidy22[talk] 13:47, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Wait, so an American addict with a mostly-American audience is supposed to limit himself to cartoons that everyone can understand? And people say AMERICANS are the arrogant ones. 07:59, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Could someone please explain the stereotypes? I'm American and I don't really see any jokes. As far as I can tell, he just picked images that fit in each state. -- (talk) 07:59, 24 March 2013 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

We still have to fix this thumbnail issue. --Dgbrt (talk) 16:47, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

For the most part I don't think the shapes have anything to do with the states other than what happens to fit. The Louisiana "boot" and Michigan "glove" are commonly used to describe those states shapes. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

People in Michigan actually say things like "I live in the thumb" 05:18, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure how this really constitutes an explanation. The current text seems to amount to "Yeah this comic is all perfectly clear and logical everyone gets all the references alright I gotta go have fun now!" I think this needs an incomplete flag, but I don't know if someone who isn't a moderator can do that? --Mynotoar (talk) 22:32, 26 December 2013 (UTC)

Could the signature in Wyoming be Randalls own one? Compare it to 1005: SOPA. -- 09:06, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

He does lotsa comics the rest of us can undrestand, too. After all, though, he IS American. Texas: that's a cat? 16:26, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

<rant> The bear in the state of Alaska is NOT Winnie the Pooh. The most recognizable version is yellow with a red shirt. The original illustrations didn't have a shirt, but were still yellow. Further more, there ARE other cartoon bears to choose from, or it could just be a non-affiliated one that Randall created for the sake of fitting in the state of Alaska. Add to that the fact that Winnie the Pooh never had a jetpack OR a raygun and there is a pretty solid case for that bear NOT being Winnie the Pooh. </rant> Anonymous 04:51, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

I did correct a former typo done by Randall himself, but Winnie the Pooh is just what he was thinking about. Please start a discussion on such an edit first, maybe we can say Randall's painting is bad, but that's what is on his official transcript. And SO this does only belong to the explain, the transcript is just only a transcript of the ORIGINAL comic. I'm sorry, but please don't change this until you know what you are doing, please ask for help first. You will get kind answers by many people here. --Dgbrt (talk) 22:29, 18 March 2014 (UTC)4

In regards to New Mexico, the hazardous waste container could easily be a reference to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. I think it's also worth noting that, despite the transcript, the entire container appears to be upside-down, rather than just the label. This could be an allusion to concerns about radiation leaks in that facility. MurphysLife (talk) 23:28, 17 July 2018 (UTC)

WRT Massachusetts, yes, the Boston Tea Party occurred there. However, the tea on the elephant implies the tea came from India, when it came from China. Tea was not commercially cultivated in India until the 1820s, well after the American Revolution. I see no relation with the elephant depicted to the Republican Party symbol. Massachusetts politics do not lean towards Republican political party ideals. The conservative Tea Party, aligns with the Republican Party, but their followers do not hold much sway in Massachusetts.TCMits (talk) 20:26, 28 March 2023 (UTC)

Undoing edits

I expanded a bunch of descriptions, especially with an eye for people who may not be able to see the comic. This was the "incomplete explanation of the day" comic the day I started adding to the wiki. For example, Utah was described as "An oven." I changed this to "A white stove" because the entire appliance is called a stove (an oven plus drawer below, cooktop above, and upright piece with controls at the back of the cooktop).

Dgbrt undid all my changes without explanation. Would someone please explain what, if anything, I did wrong? I know I'm new here, but I did look around before making any changes. Is there an "o

Corollary question: Someone also removed the actual text that appears in the various images.

Is there an official-from-Randall transcript somewhere?

Thanks. Karenb (talk) 21:48, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Dgbrt replaced the transcript that was present with the transcript that can be found here, or in the page source of the original comic. It's not always perfectly accurate, but I usually just trust in it since Randall probably knows what he drew. If you feel that there's a typo/stuff-up somewhere, feel free to change it. Accuracy trumps the original transcript. Davidy²²[talk] 00:48, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, David! That makes a lot of sense. Karenb (talk) 01:37, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
I disagree. The transcript here should explain what is in the comic. Randall's transcript (if there even is one) is often not very complete, and he doesn't use the names we have here. If he has drawn something that is clearly not what he writes it is, then it should be corrected in this transcript. --Kynde (talk) 10:14, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Is this ready for the incomplete flag to be removed? Explain section has been updated to explain the shapes that can be explained.Tornadowrangler (talk) 03:35, 3 April 2014 (UTC)Tornadowrangler

A note about Maryland -- the transcript description is incomplete, because the wolf (main part of the state) appears to be howling at a full moon (across the Chesapeake Bay). That bit of land is referred to as the Delmarva peninsula, because it includes nearly all of Delaware, the eastern part of Maryland and (not indicated on this map) the southern tip belongs to Virginia. 04:13, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

I always thought NC & SC look like a bird beak & VA looked like a bird in flight Beastachu (talk) 19:35, 8 November 2015 (UTC)

I halfway fixed the issue addressed by the incomplete box. I have nothing to contribute to the current spotlighted explanation, so I am working here. I will finish the job later if I have time. I also added some more possible explanations to the chart, such as Washington D.C. being a star because that's how capitals are shown and the somewhat weak explanation of Maine's camp sunshine holding an event to appear in a Star Trek film. 16:04, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

I believe the transcript is now complete. 15:08, 22 April 2016 (UTC)

After some more additions to the transcript I removed the incomplete box. The only thing left is the comic explanation, and finding possible explanations for all of the shapes. Despite what the current description says, Randall just picking shapes based on shape is very unlike him. 22:19, 25 April 2016 (UTC)

So what you're saying is it should no longer be flagged as incomplete because only the explanation is incomplete? What an interesting conclusion

Holy crap what's with the transcript? Should we collapse the table? Because it makes the page zoom way out, to the point where it becomes too small to see the words. Herobrine (talk) 06:08, 6 April 2018 (UTC)

I have fixed the table. 06:38, 4 October 2018 (UTC)
I've marked it as incomplete: A table should not be used in general. Check this What is the format of the transcript section ?. --Dgbrt (talk) 18:45, 5 October 2018 (UTC)


What is eːijaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥ actually pronounced as? Why does that show as the pronunciation of Colorado? It's clearly not colorado.