1982: Evangelism

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The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.
Title text: The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.


In this comic, Randall presents a line plot where causes are listed, in increasing order, by the intensity of the evangelism of their advocates. Evangelism, in Christianity, is the commitment to or act of publicly preaching of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. “Evangelism” is also defined as any zealous advocacy for a cause, religious or not.

The first punchline is that religious proselytizers are unexpectedly much less intense than advocates for such things as opening bananas from the other end—which is also the subject of the title text. The comic’s release date on April 18th, is likely correlated with this days assignment as the official “Banana Day” in the US. (However, at the time of release of this comic, this day was not mentioned on the Wikipedia list of food days in the US).

As the graph moves from left to right, the issues at stake have less and less impact on the life of someone who “converts”, but the intensity and fervor of those spreading the cause increases. This is counterintuitive, which is the joke.

Below, each of the points on the chart, as well as the title text, is discussed.

Religious proselytizers

Religious proselytizers are the best known evangelists, and the term “evangelism” originally applied only to them. Christian faith remains roughly as popular as ever, but Christian evangelism has become less common and less accepted in the public sphere in recent decades, and often only practiced in specific venues. Randall contrasts them in this strip with four other groups which he finds to be more intense in their “evangelism”.

People who want the US to switch to metric

Unlike most of the world, the US uses US Customary units instead of metric units. The vast majority of the world population (and even some within the US) wish for the US to change, to the point that the US Congress already passed the Metric Conversion Act that U.S. President Gerald Ford signed into law on December 23, 1975. Though the US now uses SI units in many areas, especially professionally, most Americans deal more with US Customary units in their day-to-day lives.

Randall has made a conversion chart for helping US people with the confusing metric units: 526: Converting to Metric.

People who want the US to switch to metric but keep Fahrenheit

Pro-metric people who wish to keep the Fahrenheit scale rather than change to Celsius are ranked as slightly more evangelic. A common argument for keeping the Fahrenheit scale is due to 0°F equating to “really cold” and 100°F to “really hot” when talking about weather. Fahrenheit also has smaller degrees than Celsius, so temperatures can be cited more precisely, if necessary, without the need to include fractional degrees. This also gives Fahrenheit the advantage that “decades” of temperatures are more useful as in saying the weather is in the 40s or the 70s, for instance. Because the Celsius degree is larger, the range of temperatures within any decade is wider and saying the temperature is in the 10s may not be as useful as it is a wider range of temperatures, compared to Fahrenheit.

To many people, making the shift only partially may immediately seem very silly—and yet the people arguing for this are even more ardent than those that wish to shift entirely, perhaps precisely because of this immediate strangeness. Also, if someone is being an SI purist, supporting a full shift to SI units, one could argue they should be advocating a switch to Kelvin as the unit of thermodynamic temperature, even though Celsius has the status of an SI derived unit.

Fahrenheit versus Celsius has been the topic of 1643: Degrees and 1923: Felsius.

People who threw away their socks and bought all one kind

The reason to do such a thing would be that any two socks in your drawer will match, saving time since they don't need to be matched or rolled/folded. It also reduces the likelihood of ending up with an unmatched sock—or a whole stack of them—in your drawer. This is a problem that scientists have researched.

To ordinary people, it immediately seems quite aesthetically boring to always wear the same color of socks or other clothing. But it will be easier to find matching socks, so time is saved and there will be reduction in cost as no unmatched socks will have to be discarded. For those reasons, people that do this will recommend it quite ardently to all their friends, and, at least according to the comic, even more so than the pro-metric advocates.

Randall previously referenced this idea in the xkcd survey (see 1572: xkcd Survey) from September 2015. It included this question:

Have you ever thrown out all your different pairs of socks/underwear, bought a bunch of replacements that were all one kind, and then told all your friends how great it was and how they should do it too?

People who open bananas from the other end

The most evangelic people Randall includes are the people who open bananas from the "other" end. Some people prefer to open bananas from the calyx end instead of the stem end. This thought is continued in the title text.

Title text

The title text describes a fictional argument that apparently somehow tore apart Europe between the two factions Other primates open them from the small end and But the little bit of banana at the small end is gross. It continues the most evangelic point in the chart about how bananas are supposed to be opened from the “right” end. It seems absurd that this could have actually happened, over such a trivial issue. However, major schisms in religion, such as that between Catholicism and Protestantism (which did, in fact, split Europe) may seem similarly trivial to the non-religious. The supposed argument stems[pun intended] from a disagreement between those that find it easier to open a banana from the bottom and those that find the small bit at the base of a banana unappetizing.

Though primates do not eat bananas in the wild, in captivity, some have been observed to open bananas from the bottom end away from the stem, as one of the two factions refers to. Less force is required to open a banana at the bottom than at the stem, causing less bruising of the fruit and generally making it easier to open. However, if not done carefully, this can result in the fruit getting squished and making a mess on the person’s fingers. Opening bananas from the stem end appears to be the predominant habit of most banana-eating humans (in Randall’s sample). One explanation is that using the stem as a lever makes for greater ease of opening and thus less damage in practice. (Bananas grow with the stem at the bottom).

The entire "correct banana end" discussion could be a reference to the wars between the Blefuscudians, who opened their eggs at the big end, and the Lilliputians, who broke their eggs at the small end, as told in Jonathan Swift’s epic novel Gulliver’s Travels. This in turn is the origin of the terms "Little Endian" and "Big Endian" which were much debated in circa 1980's computer architectures - which may also have been on Randall's mind.

Randall’s thoughts on the problems with opening bananas could also explain why this fruit, which many find very easy to peel and consume, is listed in the middle of the easy/difficult scale in the 388: Fuck Grapefruit chart.


[A chart is shown with a line drawn from left to right with five markers on it. Each marker has a line going to it from a labeled below the main line. Above this there is a title and right below that a label above an arrow pointing to the right.]
People by intensity of evangelism
More intense
Religious proselytizers
People who want the US to switch to metric
People who want the US to switch to metric but keep Fahrenheit
People who threw away their socks and bought all one kind
People who open bananas from the other end

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I want to know where vi vs. emacs fits on this spectrum. 15:12, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

I use vi by virtue of the fact that it once opened on my computer and I don't know how to close it 15:20, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

When you say people open bananas from the other side, which side is the proper side and which is the other? I open from the proper side, not the side with the stem (just like the monkeys taught us) 15:20, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

Why are you being taught by monkeys? 22:43, 18 April 2018 (UTC)
Since the stem makes for a natural handle to peel from, it's the intuitive side from which to peel. Which makes it the "proper" side for that part of the discussion here. :) At one point I saw a thing say "Just check out videos of monkeys eating bananas", only videos I found showed monkeys mashing the banana out of the peel, LOL! (for reference though, I've been opening bananas from the non-stem end for months, it feels like the peel breaks apart easier). NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:36, 20 April 2018 (UTC)
Also, by opening it away from the stem you can hold the banana from the stem while eating it 12:16, 20 April 2018 (UTC)
Also (the selling point for me) is that you end up with a banana peel that looks like ones in cartoons, with the stem in the middle. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:06, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
Also you can remove the not tasty bit first and dump it into the bin. Plus you don't have to finish by seeing the black bit. Eat from the other way round and you will start good but end bad. I personally want it start bad but end good. 12:49, 29 December 2021 (UTC)

The title text seems to be a reference to the big-endian/little-endian war in "Gulliver's Travels".Barmar (talk) 16:04, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

And 3 miles to the right of the banana conflict is "iPhone vs. Android" Smperron (talk) 17:07, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

What about tabs vs spaces? It somehow feels like a lot of popular and appropriate conflicts and opinions were left out. Another example of high evangelism intensity is people who eat kiwis whole. 09:00, 19 April 2018 (UTC)

I LOVE the "Pun Intended" tag. 22:43, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

I suggest we use the metric system, and keep Fahrenheit, but modify it so "0" is room temperature. So a positive temp is usually warm, and vice versa. Linker (talk) 02:11, 19 April 2018 (UTC)

The day this comic was posted was Banana day (https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/banana-day/). I noticed because a popular radio station in my area has a recurring segment talking about "What day" it is, obviously they also talked about the "other end" factoid yesterday. I'm not sure who came up with this "day", but daysoftheyear.com may have been an inspiration for the comic.

The following paragraph was in the article: “Due to the fact that these issues have a more trivial impact on life, evangelists may become more frustrated when people refuse to adopt these ‘simple’ changes and therefore argue more strongly for them.” I removed it because an increase in frustration from unsuccessful convincement does not follow from the triviality of the issues. However, I note this here because the writer (or someone else) may be able to extract a more coherent thought from this. 16:15, 19 April 2018 (UTC)

The CAPTCHA system for this page (and presumably others) is broken. If I'm not logged in it says reCAPTCHA V1 IS SHUTDOWN" and to tells someone about it...which is what I'm doing right now. Weirdly (or perhaps not!), typing "reCAPTCHA v1 IS SHUTDOWN" into the text entry box works just fine! 18:24, 19 April 2018 (UTC)

Any text at all will work, as it turns out! But you do have to type in something. 13:40, 20 April 2018 (UTC)
And that is why they are upgrading the wiki. Herobrine (talk) 13:36, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

I'm sceptical that people actually aggressively promote their ideas in this order, which the comic explanation takes at face value. I want citations, and I want the number of TV station dedicated to promoting each belief taken into account. I say only National Geographic has the banana thing. Thnks for the reCAPTCHA tip. I think it's not broken but closed. Robert Carnegie [email protected] 00:52, 20 April 2018 (UTC)

It has the ring of truth to me, and I've actually done the door to door proselytizing thing. People are more likely to push friends to adopt metric conversion or weird sock tricks to others than to invite them to come to church. You mention dedicated TV stations. Those are just that: dedicated stations where the evangelism is the only thing on them. Compare to the number of you-tube channels that have at one time or another promoted metric over imperial. Your note is true in a few ways. A lot more MONEY gets put into religious evangelizing. That's not quite the same thing as "intensity", which is pretty hard to define in the first place. Also, as the scale moves from left to right it does intentionally get sillier. 13:38, 20 April 2018 (UTC)

I'm greatly amused by the fact that I tried opening bananas from the other end several months ago, have been doing it ever since (it actually opens easier, the bonds in the peel are far weaker down there, like it's waiting for it), yet I've told almost nobody about it. LOL! Then I got irritated at the Fahrenheit vs. Celsius thing. :) F allows smaller measurements without decimals? I grew up with Celsius, and I've never seen decimals except in scientific context. If I hear a summer day is 23, 24, 25, 26 Celsius, it's all about the same, mid-20s is as precise as anybody needs to know. If I hear it's 24 and it's actually 25, I won't even know. 1 degree is plenty of precision. Honestly, this whole idea of F being based on how things feel just seems horribly vague and imprecise. Celsius having 0 be the freezing temperature of water and 100 being the boiling temperature just feels scientific. Nice solid basis. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:31, 20 April 2018 (UTC)

Oh, sure, play the reasonable non-fanatic. Leftist! According to the strip anyway. 05:22, 20 April 2018 (UTC) Gene Wirchenko [email protected]
But he is sooo right (not left ;-). Come one now US, start using the same system as the rest of us. And to those from the UK start driving on the RIGHT side of the road! as well as also using the metric system in daily life, not just in principle (I had a pint, a mile down the road, sitting on a four feet stool) :p --Kynde (talk) 11:15, 20 April 2018 (UTC)
I think most of Britain is just fine with resisting the cultural imperialist demands that we do things the way they do on the continent, actually. 14:18, 21 July 2021 (UTC)

Arguing that people should buy all one type of sock is a no-brainer. It's far cheaper and easier. It saves a HUGE amount of time! Everyone should do it. But telling people that isn't evangelism. It's like arguing that iPhones suck, the Kia Sol is ugly or the dress is blue. It's just common sense, and anyone who disagrees can just suck it, and spend all their time folding socks. Roguetech (talk) 12:36, 20 April 2018 (UTC)

The sock thing isn't about color

The whole sock subsection is wrong or at least doesn't match the "one kind of sock" people I've seen in the wild.

There are three kinds of people in this world (usually it's two, but sock choice is unusually complex).

  1. People who buy any old sock and wear them until they develop holes or massive stains
  2. People who have an obscene variety of novelty "fun socks" and are constantly loosing and replacing them
  3. People who have found their One True Sock, and won't buy anywhere else.

Randall's talking about group 3. It's based on manufacturer or sometimes generic material, not color. I don't know who's that worried about time lost to matching sock colors, but I wouldn't trust them with sharp instruments. The One True Sock is some unreal combination of durable, comfortable, breathable, and warm. It's offered in at least a few colors, one pair costs as much as a whole pack of generic gym socks, and apparently, it will change your life.

Examples: https://gear.lifehacker.com/these-are-your-five-favorite-everyday-mens-socks-1785365259 https://www.powder.com/gear/the-all-american-sock/ https://www.runnersworld.com/man-i-just-love-this/why-i-only-wear-swiftwick-socks

-- 05:57, 21 April 2018 (UTC)

I'd say the people Randall is talking about are Group 1 people who converted to Group 3. At least, Group 1 people who feel "Well, I should make sure they at least MATCH", and are tired of trying to match socks everytime. I especially think so because it specifies throwing out their old socks. :) They're so worn they're disposible anyway, right? :) That they then find one good sock that's effective but also CHEAP, so that it isn't ridiculous to do this and buy a bunch at once. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:03, 22 April 2018 (UTC)
The one-sock policy doesn't work, though. You have to wash the socks. That makes them fade. So the two you have worn are now a slightly different shade than the others. Over time some will get more faded than others - random selection, or maybe the ones nearer the front of the drawer are more likely to be picked, and socks being put into the drawer are more likely to be at the front. Depends on the person. But the socks end up mismatched..
The best method I have found for having matched socks is, when you bring new socks back from the shop, stitch a random number between 10 and 99 under the toes. You can get random numbers from www.random.org. Then when the socks are washed, you do a bucket sort. Socks can easily be laid out on your bed or table, low numbers to the left, high to the right. Pairs automatically end up close together and are easily identified from the number. 09:03, 14 March 2020 (UTC)
Randall forgot

Randall forgot the people from comic 1070 16:51, 21 May 2018 (UTC)

What if you want to keep US units but modify them with metric/SI prefixes (so instead of the mile we'd have the approximately equivalent measure of 5 kilofeet?) 16:24, 11 March 2020 (UTC)

"[T]he other end [of the banana]" is a relative description. Which end is the "other" one is objectively ambiguous. Subjectively, for every reader who has any preference of opening bananas from either end, people of the "other" faction are most evangelic. The explanation here is neutral, though it suggests the "But the little bit of banana at the small end is gross" faction (opening from the stem end) to be larger, without providing a source. But I think this relativity of the term "other" should be mentioned in the explanation! 01:37, 12 December 2021 (UTC)