1587: Food Rule

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Food Rule
I won't eat invertebrates, because I can fight a skeleton, but I have no idea what kind of spooky warrior a squid leaves behind.
Title text: I won't eat invertebrates, because I can fight a skeleton, but I have no idea what kind of spooky warrior a squid leaves behind.


There are various vegetarian diets which restrict certain foods for ethical or personal concerns. The traditional standard for vegetarianism is not eating any kind of meat, but some people consider themselves to follow a form of vegetarianism, while still eating specific meats, such as poultry or fish, or meat from specific sources (such as roadkill). On the other hand, vegans typically go further, and refuse to use animal byproducts, such as eggs and milk, and even honey.

Some vegetarians follow a more capricious rule: don't eat anything with a face. This is likely, at least in part, a facetious response to demands over where the line should be drawn: if cows and pigs deserve life, what about mosquitoes, and worms, and bacteria. This standard sidesteps the whole argument by declaring that anything that looks vaguely similar to people (since faces are the main way we identify people) are enough like us that they deserve at least some protection.

Randall presents an alternative rule: I won't eat something if I have to Google to figure out whether or not it has a face, and presents a list (see details below) of allowed and forbidden food in his diet. For the most part, this consists of a typical omnivorous diet. He'll eat things that obviously aren't animals, like fruits, vegetables and grains, and he'll eat meat from typical livestock, like cows, pigs and chickens, but the section in the middle, consisting of ocean-dwelling invertebrates, is off-limits him. The implication is that animals without an obvious face are strange enough to be off-putting. Rather than basic dietary restrictions on ethical or health considerations, this bases them on familiarity and perceived weirdness.

The title text gives another rule that also would make these same three omissions. This rule is about not eating invertebrates (animals without a vertebral column, i.e. spineless creatures). All of the foods he's willing to eat are either vertebrate animals or plants. His reason for avoiding invertebrates is somewhat outlandish: he fears that the spirits from creatures he has eaten will come back to haunt him. In horror stories, undead creatures often appear as spooky skeletons. Randall apparently doesn't find such skeletons overly concerning (insisting that he can fight them), but being haunted by something unknown is too much. Restricting your diet based on fear of being haunted is an even more unusual strategy.

The comic may also be a joke on the modern paleo diet trend, which emphasizes eating fruit, vegetables, and meat ("anything with a face").

Randall has previously depicted cuttlefish as spooky in 520: Cuttlefish, and he's also mentioned his dislike of certain foods (namely lobster - another invertebrate) in 1268: Alternate Universe.

Items on the list[edit]

Most fish have distinct facial features.
Squids may have very prominent eyes, but their beak is obscured by long grabbing tentacles, resulting in an alien-looking face for us vertebrates.
Grain does not have a face.

Here is a list with explanation for each item on Randalls food list:

  • Red meat, includes meat from most adult mammals, but many people will probably think of beefsteak from cattle.
  • Pork, is meat from pigs. While technically a "red meat" (according to the US Department of Agriculture) it is popularly considered "the other white meat", hence its own bullet point.
  • Poultry are domesticated birds; most people will think of chicken.
  • Fish covers a very large group of animals, most of them are not eaten on a regular basis, but a large group of fish are used as food.
  • Shrimp is used to refer to ten-footed crustacean and some of these are used for food. In the UK they often go under the name prawns. Shrimps can have quite prominent eyes, but their visage is otherwise difficult to describe, with multiple organs and antennae not present in vertebrates. However, many pictures of cute shrimp faces can be found on Google Images.
  • Oysters refers to a family of mollusca within the class bivalvia (i.e. body enclosed in shells consisting of two hinged parts). Most people will probably think of the true oysters specifically the edible oyster, which are not the only edible oyster!. Note that the pearl oyster is not a true oyster. Oysters do not have eyes, and its mouth is difficult to find, so it is easy to argue it does not have a face.
  • Squid are cephalopods (also of the mollusca family) with eight arms arranged in pairs and two longer tentacles. They are closely related to cuttlefish and octopuses. Although squids have very prominent eyes, their beak tends to be obscured by long tentacles, giving squids an elongated visage with few recognizable facial features.
  • Fruit is a part of a flowering plant. Common fruits are apples, oranges, bananas and pears. But in principle anything that comes from a flower is a fruit, including grains. Although in a culinary sense there is a distinction between vegetables and fruit, any part of a flower is actually a vegetable. See below and also see 388: Fuck Grapefruit.
  • Vegetables are any kind of plant. But in everyday it refers to any part of a plant that is consumed by humans as food as part of a savoury meal, thus excluding fruit, nuts and cereal grains. For instance a tomato would be seen as a vegetable due to its taste and as a fruit botanically – see the Venn diagram here.
  • Grains are small, hard, dry seeds. Usually when mentioning these people will think of breakfast cereal grains. Typical grains are corn, rice and wheat. As mentioned above grains are botanically both a fruit and a vegetable.


[There is a caption above a list of food with indication whether it is OK or not to eat. Below is another caption.]
My food rule:
Red meat
Shrimp X
Oysters X
Squid X
I won't eat something if I have to Google to figure out whether or not it has a face.

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


But some fish don't have faces. Or have some really ambiguous faces. What constitutes as a "face" anyway, from an overall standpoint? A set of eyes eyes, a mouth, and a nose, with the nose generically at or below eye level, and the mouth below the nose? (also do I need to include my name after the tildes or does it add it automatically?) International Space Station (talk) 04:30, 7 October 2015 (UTC) ISS

You type the four tildes and nothing else. The server software modifies your post before logging it, replacing your four tildes by your username and date/time. 10:15, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
Reckon the nose rule cant be sustained, dolphins and whales have faces and their 'nose' is well above eye level.Plm-qaz snr (talk) 05:29, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
Randall does not care if anything he eats have a face. He just wish to know if it does or not before he eats it. The plants that he eats do not have faces for sure, but he eats those. The reason he does not eat Squids or Oysters has nothing to do with faces. It is the invertebrate = missing skeleton - that is the reason as explained in the title text. The caption below the comic is an extra rule that has nothing to do with the things mentioned above, which he does not have to google! Have corrected explanation accordingly. --Kynde (talk) 10:28, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
No way! The items in the list are classified according to whether their facefulness of facelessness is known without googling (things clearly with or without face are OK, things unclearly with or without face are not OK). The title text is the extra, unrelated rule, having nothing to do with the list. Explanation should be re-corrected again (not doing that myself as I guess some more arguing is due before doing). 11:26, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
OK, modified it so that they are alternative explanations now. 11:56, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
I disagree with some part of this improved explanation. Because there can be no doubt (without using goole) that an oyster has no face. So the rule about faces do not apply for Oysters! I will correct.--Kynde (talk) 13:26, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
How can you say what somebody else must obviously know without using google? From reading the comic, it seems like Randal is unsure whether or not an oyster has a face. From previous comics with a similar format, the printed caption is directly related to the comic, then the title text is an alternate caption that could also work with the comic. Both rules fit the list of allowed food. Phipoli (talk) 17:38, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
I completely agree. It briefly crossed my mind that a shrimp might have some kind of a face- it's entirely plausible that Randall needs to Google the face-ness of all three items. Really, it's the only conclusion that makes sense considering that this is how he set up the comic. Somebody should change the explanation back. Bbruzzo (talk) 15:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)
I disagree. There's a first time for everyone, so it's perfectly possible that right now there is a person that uses a food rule and doesn't know what an oyster even is (specially with over 7 billion people around). 03:57, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

the most famous and vocal proponent of the "no food with a face" rule is sir paul mccartney. to which one wag replied that anyone would follow that rule if they'd done as much LSD as he had. -- 12:25, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

It should be noted that the three forbidden foods can be classified as shellfish, which is typically banned in Jewish dietary law (and also generally banned in certain schools of Islamic jurisprudence). Rawmustard (talk) 12:36, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

I will include this in the explanation. But then pork is OK on this list, which it definitely is not for the Jews. --Kynde (talk) 13:26, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
Is a squid a shellfish? I don't think it has a shell. Djbrasier (talk) 19:53, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
According to the list here: Shellfish#Nutritional_Values all kinds of Cephalopod molluscs, i.e. squid, cuttlefish and octopus are shellfish. So they are indeed shellfish. They do have some inner shells. You can find part of these petrified on beaches all over the world. I had a lot of those when I was kid. --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

Oysters arguably have a 'mouth' (maw/jaw/etc), with plenty of opportunity for pareidolia or at least marginal (head-only) anthropomorphising, depending on shell markings/adornments or perhaps the psychological willingness of the observer to read the rest of the face in the fleshy creature within the 'mouth'. Hence a need to actually check, to be sure? 14:06, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

I would disagree that a mouth would constitute a face. When looking at Wikipedia's page for face, it is only about humans, although it does mention that other animals could have faces. Guess it could be discussed if any animal that cannot make facial expressions (like humans and monkey) have a face at all. But yes I have seen by using Google that people do ask if squid and oysters have faces. But maybe that is just like Randall an attempt to make a joke on the vegetarians with this catch fraise of not eating anything with a face. --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

More shrimp for me Mikemk (talk) 14:14, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

The current explanation is very rambly. Also, it shouldn't presume what Randall knows or doesn't about shrimp, oysters, and squid and therefore shouldn't presume about what he needs to google. 14:49, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

I do think he knows how they look. He is quite knowledgeable. Of course he may not know if other people think they have a face, and thus he could Google that. But the same could be said for a fish (and there are very many different types of fish with strange "faces" or no face). And I could easily argue that a cow cannot make any facial expressions and thus it does not have a face. And then Randall cold be confused and thus stop eating beef steak... --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

I don't think this has anything to do with whether an item actually has a face or not. I think that is a red herring brought on by the fact that the comic caption sounds very similar to the rule about not eating anything with a face. Randall's list of approved food items clearly are in the "face" and "no face" category alike. Thus we can conclude that Randall is ok with eating things that have a face, eating things without a face, eating things considered non-Kosher, eating carnivorous, eating vegetables, eating fruits, etc... In fact, we derive from this list that Randall has a very large array of food that is considered ok to eat. Thus his caption makes sense only when paired with the title text. Essentially, Randall doesn't eat food that creeps him out. Notice the caption states, "if I have to Google to figure out" which leads me to believe he considers that food to be other-worldly or creepy. This coincides with the title text about being creeped out by the specter of such a being.--R0hrshach (talk) 15:34, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

The explanation says quite clearly what you wrote in the first lines. I agree with it of course as I have been part of writing just that already... --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)
Except that your comment to me is almost a day after my comment to the board. At the time of my comment the explanation was haphazard and rambling and was different than when you saw it. Reading the explanation today I still think it is missing the point. Too much focus on Randall contemplating what makes a face. I think it comes down to food that is recognizable. Just my opinion.--R0hrshach (talk) 16:17, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

I think the currently explanation misses the point entirely. Two common 'food rules' are "Don't eat anything with a face" and "Don't eat anything you have to Google" (which would rule out, for example, pork and azodicarbonamide, respectively). The comic is funny because it mixes the two, which is ridiculous. The title-text is funny because it does this again with two more food rules ("Don't eat anything you would have to fight" and "Don't eat anything with a skeleton"). Jtg007 (talk) 19:20, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

You should update it, I agree. Djbrasier (talk) 19:53, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
Thanks! You explanation makes so much more sense. 11:14, 8 October 2015 (UTC)
Yes that is actually much better. Please update. --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

This current explanation is really incoherent and rambly, and it goes off on so many irrelevant tangents that just confuse it even further (Why is the stuff about kosher even up there?). The many grammar and spelling errors, as well as the Danish Google link, suggests this explanation was written by someone who's not very familiar with English. Recommend that this article be overhauled and rewritten, preferably by a native English speaker.
Also, the title text may be a reference to the spooky skeleton Internet meme. 00:35, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

Please feel free to correct my spelling errors etc. That is why this is a wiki. If you write stuff like that you will scare away people who is not native English. Maybe this is your intention? --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

The standard plural in English of octopus is octopuses. However, the word octopus comes from Greek and the Greek plural form octopodes is still occasionally used. The plural form octopi, formed according to rules for some Latin plurals, is incorrect because the word is Greek, not Latin. Just sayin'. 08:13, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

I vote YES to the overhauling and rewriting. However, (1) I'm not a native English speaker and (2) I think we should agree first on what should and what shouldn't be there, to avoid repeating the situation. Here's my checklist:

  • This has nothing to do with Kosher, that should be completely removed.
  • Oysters may require googling to check whether they have anything face-like.
  • Google links shouldn't be here, Danish or otherwise.
  • I didn't know about the "nothing requiring Google", "nothing you have to fight" and "nothing with a skeleton" rules; if these are indeed common, they really are relevant and the comic should be described simply as a mashup of these. Also, references to webpages describing these would be nice (NOT google searches).
  • While I strongly support the idea that the item list is about the caption rule and has nothing to do with the title text rule, it is clear that other people strongly support the exact opposite, so both should be given as alternative explanations. 08:25, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

I fully agree. 11:14, 8 October 2015 (UTC)
I also agree. --Kynde (talk) 13:58, 8 October 2015 (UTC)
I tried in vain to find any references to any of the other three rules. Only the one with a face could I find. I found references to not eating anything you cannot pronounce, but I think that is to far from the not eating anything yo have to google to use it as an example. So unless someone can find references to these three other rules I do not think that can be used as an explanation. Although it would be a good story if it was like that... Apart from that I have tried to rewrite the explanation as the above mentioned (but not like below, as I believe this should be described as Randall's list!) As I'm not native English speaker, then please improve my bad wording/grammar. Or write an even better explanation... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 21:25, 10 October 2015 (UTC)

For those of you who want to do a rewrite, here's one more topic: Randall should not be the subject of the actions. He's the author of the comic, yet the comic should be seen as entirely fictional. So the discussion is not about whether "Randall would google this or that" but "One would google this or that" -- it's not specifically about what Randall would do but what would someone do if they followed these rules, it should be turned into a more anonymous/generic subject. Ralfoide (talk) 16:47, 8 October 2015 (UTC)

I have to disagree. Generally on this page it is expected that he talks about him self when he makes a rule or talk about a hobby. Maybe it is not how he behaves in real life, but then again it is a comic. But he tells it as if it is his rule not a generic rule. --Kynde (talk) 09:19, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

Although this won't end up being of Randall's best comics by far, I do like the diversity of the comments from you guys above on the discussion page. There's been some nice different opinions expressed above, all converging towards a potentially better summary, nice work! Sometimes I feel like he's doing his comics just to confuse the various explain-xkcd sites & fan base. Ralfoide (talk)

Because he used the word "spooky" I have to believe that he is referencing spooky scary skeletons/skeleton trumpet/mr skeltal etc -- 03:15, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

I believe that a "vegetarian" diet excludes all animal products, and "vegan" refers to people who also avoid every animal derived product, such as leather on belts or shoes or purses. 12:18, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

Definitions seem to change across time and between people (hence the need for terms such as "ovo-vegetarian" to better explain "Yes, I do still eat eggs!") but the trend I'm most familiar with is that (plain, unqualified) "vegetarians" just do not eat meat, whilst "vegans" avoid all products of animals (whether derived by slaughter or obtained non-fatally) for both eating and (where avoidable) other uses like clothing. But there's plenty of scope betwixt/beyond the two to rule in/out the likes of milk, eggs, wool, leather- according to personal sensibilities and principles. i.e. There's those who just don't want animals to be slaughtered (to provide their own diet, at least), and others who don't even want to support the whole animal husbandry system, if they can at all help it.
It gets a bit unwieldy to say "pisco-ovo-lacto-vegtarian", but I tend to assume (before I can confirm) that someone who says they're a "foo-vegetarian" eats vegetables, grains, fruit and foo, but not meat nor whichever of fish/eggs/milk isn't already covered by the foo-. It generally works out Ok.
However, there are other opinions as to the definition, so it's still good to check. Please feel free to meet me to talk about your own proclivities. You'll find me easy to get on with. I am, of course, a humanitarian... *nom nom nom* 12:45, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

I think the heated discussion about whether or not something might need googling is quite powerful evidence that it might… StealMyCode (talk) 12:56, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

I now agree, and have corrected for this... --Kynde (talk) 21:26, 10 October 2015 (UTC)

"These animals do not have a skeleton". Shrimp and clams have skeletons. Specifically they have exoskeletons. Squid on the other hand do not have a skeleton in any meaningful way. -- 19:47, 9 October 2015 (UTC)

I have corrected this as well. --Kynde (talk) 21:25, 10 October 2015 (UTC)

I wonder if he would have to Google whether or not wasps or cockroaches have faces(?) - they are invertebrates and thus would be excluded by that formation of the rule... but I certainly think of them as having faces, and would not feel the need to Google whether or not they have them...(?) -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:54, 15 October 2015 (UTC)

I'm, finally created an account. I've restructured everything one more time and I feel the order now is just about what it should be. I'm not sure everyone (or anyone, for that matter) will agree with my editing, but that's what "be bold" is about, right? Please, someone else reads it to check it's clear and correct and, if so, remove the incomplete tag. Jojonete (talk) 02:20, 18 October 2015 (UTC)