1368: One Of The

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One Of The
'The world's greatest [whatever]' is subjective, but 'One of the world's greatest [whatever]s' is clearly objective. Anyway, that's why I got you this 'one of the world's greatest moms' mug!
Title text: 'The world's greatest [whatever]' is subjective, but 'One of the world's greatest [whatever]s' is clearly objective. Anyway, that's why I got you this 'one of the world's greatest moms' mug!


Another of Randall's many Pet Peeves, this time on reporters.

Cueball is a news anchor describing the Gateway Arch as one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis. In this case the designer the reporter is likely referring to is Eero Saarinen.

When describing things, reporters try to make only factual statements. If reporters use absolutes (that something is the largest or the smallest thing of its class, or that it is unprecedented, to give several examples) they risk making errors: it is possible that some other example of the thing exists that is even larger or even smaller or that there was some similar incident in the past, and they were not aware of it. If a reader or viewer points out the existence of that thing, even if obscure or trivial, the reporter must issue a correction. As a result, reporters learn to hedge by using formulations such as "one of the biggest" or "a rare example of."

Randall states that it is his pet peeve when reporters avoid absolutes unnecessarily — that is, in cases where there's vanishingly little risk of error. As an absurd example, Randall depicts one such reporter using this language about the Gateway Arch. As one of the most well-known monuments in Missouri and one of the largest free-standing arches in the world, it's indisputable that this would be one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis; in fact, the reporter should be confident enough to say that the Gateway Arch is the most recognizable arch in St. Louis.

In the title text, Randall jokes about what could happen if you misunderstand the practice of avoiding absolutes; he thus appears to think it is an ostentatious display of faux objectivity, as opposed to a correction-avoiding strategy. The title text refers to novelty mugs (and T-shirts, and other printed items) that use superlative descriptions such as "World's Greatest Mom" or "World's Greatest Dad." Obviously, such a statement is an expression of personal affection on the part of the family member who gave such a gift and is not meant to be understood as a literally true fact about the world. Using a parody of reporter-speak (like giving a mug to your mother that says "one of the world's greatest moms") would ruin the compliment by suggesting to her that you thought some other people's moms were as good or better.

The title text also refers to Mother's Day, which in the US was three days before this comic was published.


[Cueball is a news anchor sitting in front of a screen showing the Gateway Arch with some landscape features around it.]
Cueball: ...And he went on to design the Gateway Arch, one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis.
[Caption below the panel:]
Pet peeve:
Reporters unnecessarily hedging with "one of the"


  • This comic is referenced in the what if? article Tungsten Countertop, with the quote "the sun is one of the meltiest things in the solar system."
  • 1261: Shake That features a gift mug with the absolute statement of "world's greatest daughter".
  • This comic is very similar to 2901: Geographic Qualifiers, which deals with another case of strangely specified precision.

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There's a set of golden arches at Jefferson and Russell, Arguably more identifiable. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

If you are talking about the McDonald's arches, then well played, sir, well played. Definitely more identifiable. --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 14:57, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
On the other hand, any specific set of McDonald's arches isn't very identifiable. One tends to look like any other. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 11:12, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
Posting eight years later (is it a necro post if you aren't pinged? And who checks the recent changes page?) but I'd say the light blue McDonalds arches do not look like any other McDonalds arches. I'd link it, but I don't know how to link URLs, unless this is markdown and [this](https://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-arches-bright-blue-2017-12) works. Tsumikiminiwa (talk) 16:34, 20 September 2022 (UTC)

"Reporters on television and in other media try to only make statements they can verify in fact" Seriously??? Maybe once, but not now. The point of this cartoon is largely that reporters are hedging their bets on what's a fact. When you have prominent reporters like Chuck Todd (one of the most prominent reporters on TV) saying "not his job" to report factual information but merely to repeat what politicians have said, or everyone on Fox "News" basically ignoring facts in favor of ideology, claiming reporters try to speak only facts is not supported by demonstrable facts. 16:42, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

Or maybe it's because of the liability reporters face for reporting even errors made by the police. | Keith Todd or Todd Keith. Pallas (talk) 19:16, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
"In the complaint, Todd alleges that Eastpointe Police "incorrectly researched" databases and sent the wrong photo, name and information to the network." Sounds like the blame is really with the police, not the network. 16:37, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
In a lawsuit filed last week in Wayne County Circuit Court, Todd said a snafu incorrectly naming him as the suspect in the “Caught on Camera” program has caused him humiliation, loss of employment and other misery. He’s asking NBC Universal, the Eastpointe Police Department and A One Limousine, to pay an unspecified amount of damages. Pallas (talk) 20:09, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
That's generalising. How about: "Seriously??? Maybe once, but not now. The point of this cartoon is largely that US reporters are hedging their bets on what's a fact. When you have prominent US reporters like Chuck Todd (one of the most prominent reporters on US TV) saying "not his job" to report factual information but merely to repeat what US politicians have said, or everyone on US branch of Fox "News" basically ignoring facts in favor of ideology, claiming US reporters try to speak only facts is not supported by demonstrable facts. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Right. Because it's only in the US that reporters fail to do their jobs well. Why, just look at the UK and Australia, for example. Nope, no reporters covering their asses there. Oh, wait. 16:52, 21 May 2014 (UTC)

I know it's not really part of the joke, but should the explanation say who the reporter is talking about? Who designed the Gateway arch? I'm curious now. 02:18, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. As stated on the wikipedia page already linked from explanation. -- Hkmaly (talk) 09:15, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Note that the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday on the fourth Sunday in Lent as if it was Mother's Day. -- 10:45, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

The explanation text misses the fact that stating "one of the world's greatest moms" is hardly perceived as an actual compliment by the recipient. Ralfoide (talk) 14:17, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Done - also added an explain and a wiki link to pet peeve - something not explained so far. Kynde (talk) 18:53, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
I don't think Randall misunderstands the practice - he's just pretending that to make a joke. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:16, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
That is for sure true. I did not write it like that and have now corrected it acordingly Kynde (talk) 11:26, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
Interesting. Do you really think "Randall does not misunderstand anything" (from the history-edit explanation) and so any inaccuracy must be understood as a deliberate part of the joke? Even if the inaccuracy is about a matter outside of his field of expertise and is unnecessary to the joke? Maybe you're right in this case, but I doubt Randall himself would claim to be infallible. Cs7 (talk) 20:08, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
My mom wasn't insulted by a card that said "One of the two greatest Moms in the world*" (and, below, "* Sorry, Mom, but I don't want to get killed in my sleep"). She found it funny, and so did my wife, and the fact that you can buy this card in shops implies they aren't the only mothers in the world that can take a joke. 11:06, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

No so much a real discussion item, but this is "One of the most useful Explain XKCDs out there"... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The arch is so large that there are rotating pill-elevators inside the rising legs and a large observation lounge at the top. You can look down at the busy barge traffic on the Mississippi far below. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The title text bothers me here...the comic says: "The world's greatest [whatever]' is subjective, but 'One of the world's greatest [whatever]s' is clearly objective." - but is that really true?

If I say "Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain" - then this is a fact that can be looked up and examined and is clearly either true or false. It happens to be true. So it's clearly an objective fact. But if I say: "Mount Annapurna is one of the world's tallest mountains" then that's a completely subjective statement because Annapurna is only the 10th tallest mountain and whether it's to be considered "one of the tallest" depends entirely on whether you cut off the list of "the tallest mountains" at 9th place or 11th place - which is surely a subjective decision.

It's a tougher call for concepts like "greatest Mom" because "greatest" is a fuzzy term in the case of Mom's - is she "greatest" because she did a better job of teaching you right from wrong - or is she greatest because she bought you more Lego's? In that case, both "greatest" and "one of the greatest" are subjective because there is no universally agreed standard by which we measure greatness in mothers. The reason "world's greatest Mom" mugs work is because they express the sentiment that "My personal definition of the term greatest is what you are to me." - which is more profound than some unrealistic statement about whether there are or are not better mothers. SteveBaker (talk) 16:18, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

Everest being the tallest mountain on earth is actually (slightly) controversial: The peak of the Chimborazo is further from earth's center. Mauna Kea is taller when measured from base to peak. 06:42, 3 November 2018 (UTC)

In this Onion article: https://www.theonion.com/most-notorious-criminals-in-u-s-history-1831099154 it states that John Wilkes Booth was one of the most famous Americans to ever kill Abraham Lincoln.-- 09:01, 16 December 2018 (UTC)

This one has always struck me as unfair. Maybe they simply don't know whether it's the most recognizable arch in St. Louis. So what else are they supposed to say that wouldn't be dishonest (claiming to know something they don't) and possibly inaccurate? Besides, even if they did know whether it's the most recognizable arch — what if it's not? In that case, in order to avoid saying "one of the", they now have to determine its exact ranking, which would probably be even harder. NoriMori (talk) 19:01, 13 July 2021 (UTC)

If they don't know the facts, they shouldn't claim to know the facts. Saying that it's "one of the" most recognisable arches is safer than the alternative, but you have to do at minimum an equal amount of research to find out whether it's actually true. Let's consider the hypothetical that it's not the most recognisable arch. That would be simple to find out. But if you want to know for sure that the claim that it's "one of the" most recognisable arches is false, you'd also have to research what's considered a recognisable arch in St. Louis, which takes more effort to confirm, the opposite of what you suggest.
The gripe I have with this kind of phrasing is that they're trying to disguise the fact that they don't know by saying something that's less likely to be questioned but is a similarly strong claim, which is a manipulative practice that should ideally have no place in reporting. If it's important that you know something, research it. If it's not, don't pretend to know it.
As for what they should say, that's very simple. There are many things they could say that don't have this effect, or have it to a lesser degree. Things like "...and he went on to design the widely recognized Gateway Arch in St. Louis" (which is a more transparently weaker claim, and is implicitly phrased as a matter of opinion), "...almost certainly the most recognizable arch in St. Louis" (explicitly includes a disclaimer that it could be wrong), or perhaps even, "...as far as we're concerned, the most recognizable arch in St. Louis" (explicitly frames it as an opinion).
I think the most important thing to note here is that "one of the most recognizable" is something that hinges on the opinion of what the majority of people find recognisable, whereas "widely recognized" or even "widely considered the most recognizable" hinges primarily on what the speaker classifies as "widely", which inherently comes across as less objective and is therefore more appropriate to the context. The context here doesn't really require the arch to be one of the most recognisable ones, since the topic is linked to the Gateway Arch directly rather than to its recognisability, and so it's understandable not to explicitly research this. Being a bit subjective in your supplementary descriptions is fine, so long as you don't pretend to say something objective when you're not. 02:07, 15 March 2024 (UTC)