1679: Substitutions 3

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Substitutions 3
BREAKING: Channing Tatum and his friends explore haunted city
Title text: BREAKING: Channing Tatum and his friends explore haunted city


This is the third comic in the Substitution series where Randall has suggested substitutions that will make reading the news more fun. This time it will be even more fun! But there have been several comics using substitutions both before and after these ones.

The series as of 2023:

The title text in original form would be "Scientists explore ancient city", which most would consider a fairly bland headline. Two days before this comic came out, there was news that a potential ancient Mayan city had been found by a 15 year old boy through satellite imagery, which may be what Randall was referencing. The Mayan city has now been proven nonexistent. Imagining Channing Tatum and his "friends", and pretending that the city is haunted, provides a much more dramatic setting mirroring many episodes (and later films) of Scooby Doo featuring a gang of friends (Mysteries, Inc.).

Table of Substitutions[edit]

Original word/phrase Meaning Substitution New meaning
Gaffe A social mistake, faux pas Magic spell A form of sorcery
Ancient Very old Haunted Occupied by ghosts, spirits, etc. Old structures and objects in genre fiction are frequently haunted.
Star-studded Featuring a lot of popular celebrities Blood-soaked Full of blood, or a place where a lot of violent deaths occurred
Remains to be seen Unknown as of yet, speculative Will never be known Can never be determined, final statement indicating we've given up trying to understand, etc.
Silver bullet Perfect solution Way to kill werewolves In werewolf folklore, a silver bullet was usually the only way to actually kill a werewolf. The phrase "silver bullet" is usually used to mean something like "perfect solution" — this substitution suggests the more literal meaning of the phrase.
Subway system A network of underground tunnels for commuter trains Tunnels I found A more personal and colloquial way to refer to underground tunnels, as though they had just been discovered for the first time.
Surprising Unexpected Surprising (but not to me) The speaker/writer claims that everyone else is surprised by something, but they had anticipated it all along.
War of words Public arguments, smear campaigns, etc. Interplanetary war A major conflict involving the civilizations of multiple planets (as seen in e.g. War of the Worlds). ("Well, that escalated quickly.")
Tension Anxiety, conflict between people or groups Sexual tension Situation in which two or more people attempt to avoid acknowledging being sexually attracted to each other.
Cautiously optimistic A guarded statement of optimism about a situation Delusional Firmly believing something in spite of clear evidence to the contrary
Doctor Who Longrunning popular sci-fi TV series often combining history and aliens The Big Bang Theory A popular comedy TV series about a friendship-group of stereotypical nerds and their acquaintences.
Win votes To make a politician more popular and more likely to win an election Find Pokémon To collect virtual creatures in a popular video game series
Behind the headlines Usually, to go into greater depth on a news story Beyond the grave To communicate with (or experience) life after death
Email / Facebook post / Tweet Forms of electronic communication, usually shortform and either serious or casual. Poem An artistic form of writing that usually involves rhyming and meter.
Facebook CEO At time of writing, Mark Zuckerberg This guy Any generic person, sometimes used in a derogatory fashion by suggesting the person isn't special or important, or used to refer to oneself.
Latest The most recent in a series Final The last entry in a series (as in, there won't be any more).
Disrupt Interrupt, temporarily hinder Destroy Make completely inoperable, remove all trace of, etc.
Meeting A gathering of people to discuss a topic, as in business Ménage à trois One or more sex acts performed among three people.
Scientists A group of people considered authorities in various scientific realms of study Channing Tatum and his friends A famous actor and a group of people closely associated with him. The name was likely chosen at random.
You won't believe A catchphrase used in "click-bait" headlines to attract attention and traffic I'm really sad about A different phrase expressing genuine disappointment in the topic

Real life examples[edit]


[Caption above the panel:]
Even More
That make reading the news more fun
[A table of words/sentences on the left that change in to those on the left. Between each set of words there is an arrow pointing from right.]
Gaffe Magic spell
Ancient Haunted
Star-Studded Blood-soaked
Remains to be seen Will never be known
Silver bullet Way to kill werewolves
Subway system Tunnels I found
Surprising Surprising (but not to me)
War of words Interplanetary war
Tension Sexual tension
Cautiously optimistic Delusional
Doctor Who The Big Bang Theory
Win votes Find Pokémon
Behind the headlines Beyond the grave
Email \
Facebook Post Poem
Tweet /
Facebook CEO This guy
Latest Final
Disrupt Destroy
Meeting Ménage à trois
Scientists Channing Tatum
and his friends
You won't believe I'm really sad about

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


The title text may be a reference to the Mayan city discovered by a 15 year old, but that city hasn't yet been visited by scientists or Mr Tatum. https://translate.google.com/translate?tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.journaldemontreal.com%2F2016%2F05%2F07%2Fun-ado-decouvre-une-cite-maya 13:32, 11 May 2016 (UTC)

Here's the code for the full set of substitutions from all three comics, to be inserted in the Chrome extension the page listed, which can be found here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/replacerator/gaajhenbcclienfnniphiiambbbninnp?hl=en

{"Google Glass":"virtual boy","a unknown number":"like hundreds","allegedly":"kinda probably","ancient":"haunted","at large":"very large","behind the headlines":"beyond the grave","candidate":"airbender","car":"cat","cautiously optimistic":"delusional","congressional leaders":"river spirits","could not be reached for comment":"is guilty and everyone knows it","debate":"dance-off","disrupt":"destroy","doctor who":"the big bang theory","drone":"dog","election":"eating contest","electric":"atomic","email":"poem","expands":"physically expands","facebook ceo":"this guy","facebook post":"poem","first-degree":"friggin' awful","front runner":"blade runner","gaffe":"magic spell","global":"spherical","homeland security":"homestar runner","horsepower":"tons of horsemeat","latest":"final","meeting":"ménage à trois","minutes":"years","new study":"Tumblr post","no indication":"lots of signs","poll":"psychic reading","rebuild":"avenge","remains to be seen":"will never be known","scientists":"Channing Tatum and his friends","second-degree":"friggin' awful","selfdriving":"uncontrollably swerving","senator":"elf-lord","silver bullet":"way to kill werewolves","smartphone":"Pokédex","space":"spaaace","star-studded":"blood-soaked","subway system":"tunnels I found","successfully":"suddenly","surprising":"surprising (but not to me)","tension":"sexual tension","third-degree":"frigging' awful","tweet":"poem","urged restraint by":"drunkenly egged on","vows to":"probably won't","war of words":"interplanetary war","win votes":"find pokémon","witnesses":"these dudes I know","years":"minutes","you won't believe":"I'm really sad about"}

I would put it somewhere more convenient if I knew a site for it. 13:46, 11 May 2016 (UTC)

I almost forgot about adding this, but then i randomly saw 40% more spaaace on a website.--Nathanieljay216 (talk) 03:37, 24 July 2019 (UTC)

This reminds me an awful lot of the title text in the previous comic 1678: Recent Searches regarding autoexec code posted by verified twitter users. :-p Kynde (talk) 13:48, 11 May 2016 (UTC)
Is there a way to easily enable/disable the extension?Bmmarti3 (talk)
It appears there isn't... Go to your list of browser extensions, and enable/disable it. 18:59, 11 May 2016 (UTC)
I personally use a different extension than was linked to on xkcd.com, titled xkcd substitutions, which can be turned off by clicking on the icon for it at the top of your Chrome window, and also allows you to set specific sites on which it will never change words (i.e. on Gmail). Here's the shortened link: http://bit.ly/VF8nTw 22:31, 11 May 2016 (UTC)
Hey, what about [Keyboard --> Leopard]? Papayaman1000 (talk) 00:45, 15 May 2016 (UTC)

It would be wonderful if the celebrity injunction was about a ménage à trois and somehow all the hype was Randall's fault. 15:13, 11 May 2016 (UTC) Great. Now I have to update this:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/xkcd-substitutions/jkgogmboalmaijfgfhfepckdgjeopfhk?hl=en&gl=001 -- 18:24, 11 May 2016 (UTC)'s a funny link, but I don't know how to edit it in: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/how-clintons--scandal-took-root/2016/03/27/ee301168-e162-11e5-846c-10191d1fc4ec_story.html, it the substituted version is "How Clinton’s poem scandal took root"

On Doctor Who > Big Bang Theory - the real life example isn't particularly interesting, as it's substituting one TV show for another. The more interesting cases are those where news headlines reference an actual doctor, who (something). For instance, in the criminal trial of amputee Oscar Pistorius, one TV banner referred to someone as "Doctor who cut off [his] legs". "The Big Bang Theory cut off [his] legs" is, to my mind, more bizarre. 16:54, 12 May 2016 (UTC)Andrew Williams; one day I'll make an account. 12/05/2016

I think any article about Doctor Who - e.g. an interview with David Tennant about his leading role on The Big Bang Theory, would come across as funny to Whovians. :) KieferSkunk (talk) 20:08, 16 May 2016 (UTC)

Weird substitution

Isn't 'tension' -> 'sexual tension' weird? It could result in the following texts:

'sexual tension' -> 'sexual sexual tension',

'cable tension' -> 'cable sexual tension'.

In short, whenever there's already something before 'tension' that gets modified, don't substitute (or replace those words (difficult to do automatically)) --Zom-B (talk) 07:43, 12 May 2016 (UTC)

Here's some javascript to run these substitutions (page may be unusable afterwards) - imma
[/Gaffe/ig,"Magic spell"], [/Ancient/ig,"Haunted"], [/Star[- ]Studded/ig,"Blood-soaked"], [/Remains to be seen/ig,"Will never be known"], [/Silver[- ]bullet/ig,"Way to kill werewolves"], [/Subway system/ig,"Tunnels I found"], [/Surprising/ig,"Surprising (but not to me)"], [/War[- ]of[- ]words/ig,"Interplanetary war"], [/Tension/ig,"Sexual tension"], [/Cautiously optimistic/ig,"Delusional"], [/Doctor Who/ig,"The Big Bang Theory"], [/Win votes/ig,"Find Pokémon"], [/Behind (the )?headlines/ig,"Beyond the grave"], [/Email|Facebook Post|Tweet|twitter post/ig,"Poem"], [/Facebook CEO/ig,"This guy"], [/Latest/ig,"Final"], [/Disrupt/ig,"Destroy"], [/Meeting/ig,"Ménage à trois"], [/Scientists?/ig,"Channing Tatum and his friends"], [/You won't believe/ig,"I'm really sad about"]
].reduce((t,s)=>t.replace(s[0],s[1]),document.body.innerHTML) 08:30, 12 May 2016 (UTC)

Could War of words be a mention to The War of Worlds by H.G. Wells? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Breaking news: A The Big Bang Theory Helped A Patient Out Became The Patient's Employee. 2659: Unreliable Connection (talk) 09:00, 29 March 2023 (UTC)

I'm no linguist, but the word "Last" happens to share the meanings of both "Latest" and "Final". 2659: Unreliable Connection (talk) 09:02, 29 March 2023 (UTC)