2191: Conference Question

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Conference Question
I also have an utterance. Less of an utterance and more of an incantation. Less of an incantation and more of a malediction. Less of a malediction and more of a Word of Power. Less of a Word of Power and more of an Unforgivable Curse.
Title text: I also have an utterance. Less of an utterance and more of an incantation. Less of an incantation and more of a malediction. Less of a malediction and more of a Word of Power. Less of a Word of Power and more of an Unforgivable Curse.


Usually, at a conference or other event involving a speaker addressing a crowd, members of the crowd are given the chance to ask questions. This is intended so that people can perhaps ask the speaker to elaborate on a point they've made, or to ask the speaker's opinion on a topic related to their talk.

Occasionally, people at such an event will use (or, rather, abuse) the opportunity to ask a question to instead provide their own (unsolicited) opinion or statement. Such statements are often preceded with something along the lines of "I have a question. Well, less of a question and more of a comment." This formulation in particular has attracted a lot of criticism for not adding anything to the discussion and for pulling focus away from the speaker.

In the comic, this idea is taken to an extreme, with Beret Guy not only transforming the opportunity to ask a question into an opportunity to make a statement through successive rephrasing, turning this into an opportunity to show off a bug he has found. This is accomplished by using a multitude of synonyms in a continuum of relatable word pairs, except near the last: "question" and "comment" are similar, as are "comment" and "utterance", but the extremes, the difference between the first and the last in the entire set (in this case "question" and "friendly bug") is profound. In a way, this segue is meant to be similar to how, in the lines of a color spectrum, red fades into yellow: gradually, and with no abrupt transitions in color (YMMV: CGA versus 4K).

Question. A question is what the crowd member is expected to provide, such that the speaker or a panel member could provide a related answer.
Comment. A comment by a crowd member, is when they just say something they believe, without expecting an answer, giving the speaker or panel members nothing to do. This may be seen as annoying by everyone else, as the crowd did not come to hear the opinion of other crowd members. But answers to relevant questions would be interesting to the crowd and the panel.
Utterance. An utterance is just making a noise, which may or may not be actual words, or if actual words it may not be a complete sentence.
Air Pressure Wave. Sounds are literally pressure waves in the air. So this could be a simple sound, or not a sound at all depending on the severity of the wave. It might be the person simply blowing.
Friendly Hand Wave. Now instead of using his mouth to generate an air pressure wave, he's producing it with his hand, in a manner intended to be interpreted as "friendly". Many times hand waves are done in a friendly manner, designed more for the visual appeal than the amount of air pressure waves they generate.
Friendly Bug. Now he is no longer doing anything himself, except to point out the fact that he has found a bug or insect, which he anthropomorphizes as being friendly.
Want to meet it? He has decided that he and the friendly bug are actual friends and ironically comes full circle by finally asking a question, though presumably whether the speaker wants to meet a bug is not related to the topic of the speaker's talk.

The title text takes the opposite route of Beret Guy, and each step instead refers to successively worse forms of magic spells that would, presumably, have a negative effect upon the listener. Starting from a mere utterance and then using Beret Guy's "it is less than" scheme, it progresses over worse and worse curses, ending with an unforgivable curse!

Utterance. It begins with "utterance", which was also used by Beret Guy. See above.
Incantation. Incantation, or a spell, is a magical formula intended to trigger a magical effect on a person or objects. It is not necessarily with evil intent.
Malediction. A malediction is another word for curse (the prefix "mal" being a Latin root meaning "evil"). This is always with evil intent.
Word of Power. "Word of Power" could refer to the dragonish form of magic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or the early 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons high level spells.
Unforgivable Curse. The term "Unforgivable Curse" refers to a set of three spells from the Harry Potter series, said to be so evil that their use on another person is unforgivable and illegal. The three spells are able to mind control (Imperius), torture (Cruciatus), and kill (Avada Kedavra) their target. It is unclear which spell is implied, though if it was accurate to call it a singular word of power, it is unlikely to be the killing curse.

The title text can be interpreted as a reply by Hairy (the speaker) to Beret Guy, indicating his annoyance at the topic being derailed. It could also be representative of Randall's feelings towards those who abuse the opportunity to ask a question in order to make a statement. Randall has recently done some book tours and was at San Diego Comic-Con last month where he served on various panels, so he probably has had personal first-hand experience with these kinds of circuitous non-questions.


[Hairy stands on a podium having just addressed a crowd of seated people. Beret Guy stands in the middle of the crowd, addressing Hairy. One of Beret Guy's hands is raised at chest height. The front row consists of Cueball, Ponytail, another Hairy, Megan, Hairbun, Danish and another Cueball.]
Beret Guy: I have a question.
Beret Guy: Well, less of a question and more of a comment.
Beret Guy: I guess it's less of a comment and more of an utterance
Beret Guy: Really it's less an utterance, more an air pressure wave.
Beret Guy: It's less an air pressure wave and more a friendly hand wave.
Beret Guy: I guess it's less a friendly wave than it is a friendly bug.
Beret Guy: I found this bug and now we're friends. Do you want to meet it?

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


I don't know to what "Word of Power" in the title text refers. A quick Google revealed something from Skyrim and something from D&D, but I have the feeling there must surely be a more original source for it, even if it is just a common term in folklore or something. Pureawes0me (talk) 07:45, 19 August 2019 (UTC)

I think it means "magic word". The next step, "Unforgivable Curse", is from Harry Potter; a magic spell against someone that will get you jail time. (C. S. Lewis had an apocalyptic option, the "Deplorable Word", which killed every living person except the speaker) So Harry Potter's schoolteacher demonstrates the Unforgivables on spiders... and on students. (You find out why.) Also I think the title text is the platform speaker's response to Beret Guy. [email protected] 09:12, 19 August 2019 (UTC) WhiteDragon (talk) 13:51, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, I understand the "Unforgivable Curse" part - it's more "Word of Power" I'm struggling with. I agree that the title text could potentially be a response by the speaker, and I've updated the page to reflect this. Pureawes0me (talk) 10:20, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
It's from tabletop roleplaying games; some of the earliest high level spells from the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons were "Power Word Kill," "Power Word Blind," and "Power Word Stun." These spells have been carried forward into newer editions where they are extremely unpopular because they were designed for campaigns when most monsters had a tiny fraction of the number of hit points typical today, and unlike essentially all of the fifth edition spells, they don't do anything when they don't work, and they don't work based on facts which are theoretically unknowable to the players. So, they kind of have a reputation for being the worst high level spells, and are sometimes included in magic items which turn out to be, well, like fruitcake, if you know what I mean. 11:36, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
Re-reading, incantation already is a magic spell, probably. In current use, malediction can be either speaking against someone or something, or its original meaning of actual malicious verbal magic. So I suppose Word of Power has to be more than a magic word... I found a couple of references in the world of H. P. Lovecraft but those I traced were 1970s or later, actually after D-and-D. So, not definite. [email protected] 00:14, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
Note that Unforgivable Curse will not get you just "little jail time". It gets you life sentence in Azkaban. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:41, 20 August 2019 (UTC)

One thing I feel needs to be said is that this behavior shows a lack of linguistic skill, because any statement can always be phrased in the form of a question, e.g, most easily, "Do you agree that _______?" Or by asking about the details of the comment in which the commenter is most interested in emphasizing or soliciting a response. That this kind of thing happens among advanced academics shows how narcissistic and tone-deaf even otherwise intelligent people can often be. 12:20, 19 August 2019 (UTC)

Similar to how the comic ends in a question? I think your statement is part of the joke. Less of a statement, and more of an utterance. OhFFS (talk) 14:28, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
Do you agree it could be more of a noun phrase and a verb phrase, or perhaps merely a subject and a predicate? 00:15, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
And whereof is the object therein? WurmWoode (talk) 23:10, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

There is a Russian Folk Tale, among those collected by Afanasyev, called "Go I don't know where, Bring back I don't know what". In that story, the archer Andrey is given several impossible tasks by a tsar who covets his beautiful wife, the last of which is to go to I don't know where and bring back I don't know what. After journeying a vast distance and meeting his mother in law Baba Yaga, he is guided by an ancient frog across a river of fire, and is told "Over there you will find a house. Well, not so much a house as a hut. And it is not so much of a hut as a barn." This is I don't know where. So Beret Guy's intro to his statement may be a reference to this formulaic format. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

...his mother in law is Baba Yaga? Did he know that? Does the tsar know that? Does it change matters tsar-and-beautiful-wife-wise... (Is this story in English at all, I don't know where...) Wikipedia knows several Baba Yaga stories (some with three Baba Yagas who don't live together, unless this is a complicated alibi) but none match this. [email protected] 00:14, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_I_Know_Not_Whither_and_Fetch_I_Know_Not_What says Baba Yaga is the mystery wife's sister, at least in the Afanasyev version. [email protected] 13:48, 15 August 2022 (UTC)

I think the Unforgivable Curse line in the title text is meant to reference the scene in HP&tGoF when Barty Crouch, posing as Professor Moody, demonstrates their use on spiders to the fourth years in Defense Against the Dark Arts. The curse, be it an annoyed audience member or the speaker, is to be cast on the friendly bug. 21:04, 19 August 2019 (UTC)

I don't think Beret Guy is trying to say that he and the speaker are friends in his last line, I'm pretty sure he's saying that he's friends with the bug he found. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

^^^ Agreed. The "we" in "now we're friends" means Beret Guy and the bug, not Beret Guy and the speaker. It is, after all, a friendly bug. -- Divgradcurl (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I also now agree, and I wrote the original wording. Thanks for fixing it, whoever fixed it. Oh, and remember to sign your comments with the four ~ thingies. -boB (talk) 13:07, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
I would like to meet the bug. I wonder whether Randall has ever introduced people to bugs he found. 04:44, 21 August 2019 (UTC)

I have created a Category:Harry Potter and found almost 20 comics to go there. And also a few that could have gone there, but where it was uncertain that Harry was the reference. --Kynde (talk) 13:44, 20 August 2019 (UTC)

I believe the reference to "It might be the person simply blowing." is technically inaccurate. The movement of air (i.e. breeze/wind or someone exhaling air/blowing) is not the same phenomenon as a sound pressure wave propagating through air. 13:09, 22 August 2019 (UTC)