2591: Qua

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Qua qua qua is the sine qua non of sine qua non qua sine qua non.
Title text: Qua qua qua is the sine qua non of sine qua non qua sine qua non.


Qua is a relatively rare, formal word, from Latin, roughly meaning "in the capacity of". For instance "In essence, military regimes are autocracies in which the military qua organization performs many of the functions performed by the ruling party in single-party regimes".

Saying something is "X qua X" (e.g. "entertainment qua entertainment") means when X is being viewed in its most typical capacity (eg, entertainment as something that entertains, rather than as a business, a form of propaganda, or whatever).

For example, "A copy, qua copy, can never be the equal of the exemplar, and it may be much its inferior." [1]

Cueball claims that people only use qua to "sound pretentious" without properly understanding its meaning. Thus, people do not use "qua qua qua", or "qua for the sake of qua". However, Megan one-ups this with a series of seven quas: she compliments Cueball's successful use of "qua qua qua qua qua qua qua", or "the phrase 'qua qua qua' for its correct meaning".

The joke is that, for the reader, the conversation has likely dissolved into gibberish because of unfamiliar terminology and semantic satiation. This is similar to other complex sentences such as "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo", "That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is", and "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher". Following this trend, you can create a grammatically correct sentence that includes 'qua' a consecutive number of times equal to (2n-1), where n is a natural number.

The title text goes further with this, using a Latin phrase sine qua non (meaning literally "without which not"), commonly rendered as "that which is absolutely necessary" or "essential". Thus, the title text says that "the word 'qua' in its real meaning is essential to the phrase 'sine qua non' used correctly".

However, the "qua" in "sine qua non" is a demonstrative pronoun ("which"), unlike the other "qua" which is an adverb, so the similarity is only coincidental.


[Cueball and Megan are speaking to each other.]
Cueball: People mostly use "qua" to sound pretentious. You rarely hear qua qua qua.
Megan: Nice use of qua qua qua qua qua qua qua.

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As i've never seen anyone use this, we can safely assume that exterminating these people would not affect the world one bit 10:39, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

If Megan's not careful, this pattern can quickly spiral to infinity: "Nice use of qua qua qua qua qua qua qua." "Nice use of qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua." "Nice use of..." --mezimm 16:37, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

Or perhaps "Nice use of 'Nice use of ... '" although new forms of quote mark would need to be invented. --192·168·0·1 (talk) 19:11, 9 March 2022 (UTC)
From what I've seen, you just alternate between " and '. 23:45, 9 March 2022 (UTC)
Hey, no recursing. Ruffy314 (talk) 21:46, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua New editor (talk) 20:37, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

eh, close enough.youtube.com/watch?v=miLcaqq2Zpk (talk) 12:55, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

I feel like there should be a duck somewhere. Barmar (talk) 21:05, 9 March 2022 (UTC) Buffalo everywhere are concerned.

Maybe one could note that the two uses of "qua" are different: While in the meaning of "as"/"in capacity of", qua is a preposition, it is a relative pronoun in the Latin expression "sine qua non". So, actually, the explanation of the title text given so far is slightly incorrect: The correct use of "qua" (as a preposition) is NOT essential to the correct use of "sine qua non" (where we use only the Latin relative pronoun). Instead, "qua" is essential to build the complex expression "sine qua non qua sine qua non", where the middle qua is indeed the preposition! I also feel that Randall is making fun of "pretentious" people by demonstrating how quickly their talk turns into something like "blablabla" 21:51, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

But the explanation of the title text is not claiming that it is specifically as a proposition that “qua” is essential, is it?
While False (talk) 04:31, 10 March 2022 (UTC)
Well, basically, you're right. But to clarify it better, you would at least have to point out that the title text is talking of two different "qua"s then, BOTH the preposition and the relative pronoun. And in order to use them correctly, you ought to differentiate between the both, i.m.h.o. 07:38, 10 March 2022 (UTC)
I agree with you.
While False (talk) 08:22, 10 March 2022 (UTC)
This is somewhat incorrect, as well as a distinction without a difference. The Latin "qua" that is not a pronoun, used in the comic, is not a preposition (although it can translate to the preposition "as" in English), but rather an adverb. This adverb is directly derived from "qua" the pronoun, ablative feminine form of "qui" ("which"). In fact, the simple ablative use of the pronoun completely covers the meaning of the adverb ("as", "by which", "as which" etc.). Calling some uses of "qua" adverbial, rather than simple ablative use of a feminine pronoun, is something modern linguists do to facilitate understanding of "qua" when not preceded by prepositions; it is not, I suspect, a distinction the Latin speakers of antiquity would recognise. 08:59, 1 April 2022 (UTC)

Even after reading the comic, title text & the explainxkcd.com description, I am still confused. I've never heard of that word/phrase.

Agreed, I feel that the explanation qua it stands leaves me almost qua confused qua I was before coming here and reading it. If qua roughly means “as” or “for the purpose of” then would someone please explain why this not an example of someone using sine qua non: “I could have left work after the accident if I wanted, but decided sine, bore the pain, and stayed.” I don’t get it. 06:47, 10 March 2022 (UTC)
Yeah, it's only really familiar to people who speak Higher Academic. I think at least three nines of all uses of the word "qua" in English-language writing are in the phrase "sine qua non", which is itself too prolix to really qualify as common. The main thing that saves "sine qua non" from being jargon, is that it's not in any way discipline-specific. It's as likely to show up in a formal academic paper related to algebraic topology, as it is to show up in a formal academic paper related to medieval literature. This puts it into the same general category as e.g. "albeit", "je ne sais quoi", or "prolix". As for uses of the word "qua" outside the context of the phrase "sine qua non", I believe this may be the first I've ever encountered, so it's difficult to generalize. --Jonadab (not logged in).
Hey, I actually use "albeit" all the time! (British English? Possibly even regional dialect. But I also use "whilst" a lot, and know that people like to assume that I mean "while", never mind the occasional confusion between the usage as meaning "during" or the one that means "until" (c.f. usages 3 and 4!) Not that I've used a "naked qua" at all, that I can recall, only really used je ne sais quoi when speaking yer actual French, whilst prolix is unknown to me and out of context I'd have thought it a medical term... ;) 21:18, 15 March 2022 (UTC)

On this you are not alone.

If you say "Qua Qua Qua Qua" really fast, it kind of sounds like you are saying "quack quack quack". Thus Megan would sound like she is saying "Nice use of quack quack quack quack..." 00:56, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

“Qua qua qua” is how in Italian you write the duck sound. Vdm (talk) 21:23, 11 March 2022 (UTC)

This comic is most likely inspired by this week's Sunday puzzle on NPR, which asks for an English word that starts with the "kw" sound but doesn't contain Q,U,K, or W. See https://www.npr.org/2022/03/06/1084744124/sunday-puzzle-may-the-odds-be-in-your-favor

Well, apart from the u... 17:19, 10 March 2022 (UTC)
My answer to the puzzle is "choir" Rtanenbaum (talk) 20:20, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

Quamvis sint sub aqua sub aqua maledicere temptant. Sebastian -- 06:22, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

Randall is not using qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua qua, he's using it to sound funny and play with words. Fabian42 (talk) 07:24, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

I think Randall is just trying to sound pretentious coûte que coûte ;-P --IByte (talk) 10:33, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

No reference here to Waiting for Godot?

People only reference Waiting for Godot in order to sound pretentious. Nobody has ever actually read it.
Because it's a play? … You usually don't read a play. … Especially one … with so many … pauses.
(Well, at least five people will then read the play. Whosoever play Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky and the boy(s). Nobody who plays Godot.)
You can always tell people you read Waiting For Godot in the original French, if you really want to sound pretentious. … Or French. 21:18, 15 March 2022 (UTC)

I am anxiously awaiting the day when I come to explainxkcd and the content for that day's comic is just "...look, I don't know man"

Yes. and I am waiting for someone to answer, "...it's just funnier that way." Rtanenbaum (talk) 20:20, 10 March 2022 (UTC)

Perhaps it would help to explain to use angle brackets:

- Cueball: <qua> qua <qua> ("qua-word" _used for_ "qua-meaning"), but also ("any word/expression" _used for_ "its own meaning") with the two outer "qua" = abbreviation of "aliqua" in the meaning of "something"
- Megan: <<qua> qua <qua>> qua <<qua> qua <qua>> ("qua qua qua"-wording _used for_ "qua qua qua"-meaning)
- Title Text: <Qua> qua <qua> is the <sine qua non> of <<sine qua non> qua <sine qua non>> "qua qua qua"-meaning/construct is the _indispensable essence_ of "sine qua non"-wording _used for_ "sine-qua-non"-meaning

Sebastian -- 06:02, 11 March 2022 (UTC)

I have trouble reading the word qua, my brain seems to automatically reorient it, so I can comfortably read end. -- 17:44, 12 March 2022 (UTC)


I am guessing that "Badger badger Badger badger badger badger Badger badger" is just as valid as "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo"? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 00:54, 14 March 2022 (UTC)

No, because the plural of "badger" is "badgers", not "badger". Also "Badger" isn't a well-known city, if it is indeed a place. 05:34, 15 March 2022 (UTC)
If we are going to accept the use of "buffalo" as the plural form of buffalo when it is actually "buffalos/buffaloes", then "badger" as a plural should also be valid. Badger, Alaska has the largest population of the seven places with that exact name(~19,000). However, the popularity of the location doesn't matter to the validity of the sentence, as long as it exists. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 04:59, 16 March 2022 (UTC)
"buffalo (plural buffaloes or buffalos or buffalo)" vs "badger (plural badgers)" 12:10, 16 March 2022 (UTC)
OK, I admit that I stopped after I found a link that I thought supported my argument. I resubmit it as: Badger badgers Badger badgers badger badger Badger badgers. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 20:24, 21 March 2022 (UTC)
Can mushroom mushroom? --192·168·0·1 (talk) 23:42, 23 March 2022 (UTC)
Snake snake.... Snake... 01:48, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

The second, third, and fourth sentences still need a lot of work, folks. 09:00, 21 March 2022 (UTC)