2901: Geographic Qualifiers

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Geographic Qualifiers
'Thank you for the loveliest evening I've ever had...' [normal] '...east of the Mississippi.' [instant intrigue!]
Title text: 'Thank you for the loveliest evening I've ever had...' [normal] '...east of the Mississippi.' [instant intrigue!]


In this comic, Cueball is bragging to a Cueball-like guy in front of a giant statue of a squirrel standing on a skateboard. Cueball states that this is the largest statue of that theme in “the Northern Hemisphere”. The other guy then becomes intrigued, as he realizes that this seems to imply the existence of a taller one in the Southern Hemisphere, not to mention the existence of additional smaller one(s) in the Northern Hemisphere. A skateboarding squirrel is a peculiar enough subject that to find one example of such a statue would be a surprise, and to learn that there is at least one other would be even more surprising.

He quickly considers several countries in that hemisphere, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia. Native squirrel species are found in both Brazil and South Africa, and people there might plausibly choose to erect statues to them. Australia, however, has no native squirrels, and introduced populations of gray and palm squirrels reportedly have been eradicated, at considerable expense of time and money. "Confused Cueball" wonders whether Australians would know or care enough about squirrels to erect statues to them. It so happens, though, that many animals (and many entirely fictional ones) are depicted as statues in countries where they are not native, Australia is known for its many overly large statues, and 1.5 m (5 foot) tall squirrel statues are already sold there. So the existence of squirrel statues in the Southern Hemisphere that are larger than the one Cueball is bragging about is not out of the question - but the comic doesn't permit "confused Cueball" the half hour he'd need to drag out his phone and look up all these facts. The question about whether, and how many, of these putative squirrel statues are mounted on a skateboard is separate, although there is nothing in the urban cultures of the places named to preclude this possibility.

It's entirely possible that this qualifier is unnecessary. If the statue were the largest of its kind in the world, or even the only one in the world (which is a distinct possibility, given the very specific nature of the statue), the description would still be true. Sometimes qualifiers are added simply due to incomplete information. They've exhaustively surveyed skateboarding squirrel statues in the Northern Hemisphere and determined that this one is the largest, but since they haven't searched the Southern Hemisphere, they don't want to commit to it being the largest in the world. On the other hand, it's possible that, paradoxically, he deliberately added a needless qualifier in an attempt to make the claim sound more impressive, even though technically it limits its scope, by implying intense competition for a title that, in reality, no one else is interested in claiming. Randall states, in the caption, that he loves the mystery that such qualifiers create. Doing so could thus have been one of Randall's hobbies, but he doesn't make that explicit.

Another example appears in the title text, where Randall uses the other example qualifier given in the caption. Here someone is expressing gratitude at the end of a date, saying that it's the loveliest evening they've ever had. This seems normal until they add the location qualifier of "east of the Mississippi" (the river). This leaves the companion wondering what kind of great evening they had in some other location. In this case, it's unlikely that the speaker would have incomplete information about their own personal history.

The statue may be a reference to Ms. Pearl, the giant squirrel statue in Cedar Creek, Texas which, at 14 ft (4 m), is indeed the largest squirrel statue in the Western Hemisphere. In 2018, the qualifier was necessary since a 40 ft (12 m) squirrel statue was erected in Kazakhstan. (It is no longer there.) But information for tourists in Cedar Creek, Texas, doesn't include this information that would create the mystique.[actual citation needed]

It is perhaps thanks only to the specific phrasing "tallest statue of a skateboarding squirrel" that we need not consider tallest-statues-of-squirrels (temporarily) placed on skateboards, tallest statuesque skateboards with squirrels atop or even a rather modestly sized statuette representing a moment when a large skateboard had sciurine visitors, in any or all hemispheres.

In 1368: One Of The, the use of the unnecessary qualifier "one of the" was portrayed as one of Randall's Pet Peeves, with a reporter describing the Gateway Arch as "one of the most recognizable arches in St. Louis", when it could have been described as "the most recognizable arch" in the city.


[The scene in this comic is shown from afar and drawn in black silhouette on a white background. It depicts a huge statue of a squirrel standing on a skateboard, which is on a pedestal. Below and in front of the statue there are two Cueball-like guys. The Cueball on the left is pointing at the statue and speaking to his friend on the right who has a thought bubble above him.]
Cueball: At over 40 feet, it's the tallest statue of a skateboarding squirrel in the Northern Hemisphere.
Friend [thinking]: ...Wait, who in the heck...Brazil? South Africa? Australia? Squirrels aren't even native there...
[Caption below the panel:]
I love the instant mystery created by qualifiers like "east of the Mississippi" or "in the Northern Hemisphere."

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Related to this comic 1368

According to Atlas Obscura, the world's largest squirrel statue is 14 feet tall, in Cedar Creek, Texas. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ms-pearl-the-worlds-largest-squirrel-statue Nitpicking (talk) 03:06, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

There are two African families of squirrels that have range into the Southern Hemisphere, the Xerini and Protoxerini. Yes, I checked Wikipedia. Nitpicking (talk) 03:10, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

Australia has large number of “Big Things”. These are big sculptures / novelty architecture that are scattered over the country. These include things like the Big Cow, The Big Penguin and the Giant Koala. The Koala at 14 meters high is bigger then the fictional squirrel statue.

Since there may be as many as 600 of these things across Australia, the qualification is not as odd as it may sound at first. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_things_(Australia) )

New Zealand also has a smaller collection of big things: List of New Zealand's big things. Maplestrip (talk) 07:52, 4 March 2024 (UTC)
But does it have a bigger collection of small things? Enquiring minds wish to know! 11:52, 4 March 2024 (UTC)
Australia has a lot more land-area, and though a bigger proportion of that is desert, it does have more hectares of forests and a bigger population too. I think it's safe to say Australia wins in the collection of small objects competition :p Maplestrip (talk) 09:32, 6 March 2024 (UTC)

Including the pedestal, the statue's height is approximately six Cueballs, which means Cueball is over ~6 2/3 feet tall. But it would make more sense to me for the record to exclude the pedestal, as the pedestal is not a likeness of a squirrel or a skateboard; in that case, Cueball is well over 10 feet tall. 06:13, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

“Why, that’s the second biggest monkey head I’ve ever seen!” - 08:28, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

Someone should probably link Grice's maxims here. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle 09:37, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

I once heard a friend, commenting after a rather chaotic pub crawl, "That's the most drunk I've ever been while off duty." It was part of a running joke about how seriously his employer took their NDAs; he used to act like any information even remotely related to his job (such as whether he'd ever been blackout drunk at work) was top secret. Other examples included "I've never seen 'Groundhog Day' while off duty before" or "This is the best bbq chicken I ever tasted while off-duty" -- Angel (talk) 12:48, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

or the viral "Did you get many spankings as a kid?" "As a kid, no" blooper from Fox News...Mumiemonstret (talk) 11:20, 13 March 2024 (UTC)

Kynde (and others, but especially Kynde), I was never going to just revert your edits, but the Edit Conflict page's summary of differences was far too hard to work out (would have been easier without the newline below the Incomplete-tag being removed, but it offset the first para and then did dumb-matching of odd words from them on...). The plan was always to review what changes I'd intentionally overriden, copypaste them back and shuffle accordingly, then make it much more as if I'd only spent time editing after your edit (but using my own effort that I had started before). Looks like I caught you (and others) still actively reviewing. I think I sorted out everything in useful ways, after another edit or two, but (even by the time this Talk post is posted) no doubt you'll be fine-tuning it in your own way. - I did end up sort-of-reverting some different turns of phrase (not all of which worked, IMO) that changed the sense of my prior editing's intent, but tried to put all *new* contributions by yourself(/ves) back in there. It is always tricky comparing between tabs (one a diff between two prior versions the other an active editing page) on a small device such as I find myself on now, so I hope it wasn't too much disruption. (If I'd have not pipelined quite so many little relevent changes, myself, I'd have checked a soon-to-be-dismissed EC cross-comparison tab with a brand new fresh edit.) Anyway: apologies, explanations and letting you know I've done all my 'big edits' (for now). And tried to leave it tidy and correct, but there are always unintended errors. 15:06, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

Yes I was in the process of changing somethings and was going to add some more to that, and then it had just all been reverted, and that I could not just accept and reverted it right back. I have no idea what you ended up doing, but seems like the important gist of what I was changing has been left in. It is far from the version I last left. But better! It is always annoying with edit conflicts. But it is hard to avoid close to the release of a comic. --Kynde (talk) 12:55, 4 March 2024 (UTC)

By my by-eye reckoning, the 40ft stated (compared to the probably high-5-foot-maybe-even-6-footer Cueballs) seems to include the very significant plinth/base-mount. Not sure if that's totally honest... 15:44, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

"This last country is a place know for its many overly large statues." S/B 'known'. PRR (talk) 18:04, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

...The last sentence of the explanation is incomprehensible to me. IMO it looks like a snob using thesaurus dot com to say something mundane and really should be changed to something better 21:37, 2 March 2024 (UTC)Bumpf

Reminds me a bit of the kind of news article saying "one of the top x", with x being an oddly specific number. Like explainxkcd being one of my top 6 most visited websites. 21:51, 2 March 2024 (UTC)

This is the source of many entries on "dumb law" lists that circulate. "It is illegal to discharge a firearm from a moving vehicle" is sensible. "It's illegal to shoot bear from a helicopter" is a listicle entry. 00:41, 3 March 2024 (UTC)

My favorite: "yesterday was the coldest day since November 14th". It so happens that it was a freak 62 degrees on November 14th, but the statement is still (potentially) true. 15:29, 3 March 2024 (UTC)

I've never wanted to live in the southern hemisphere more than right now. With the time and materials available, of course. Surely somebody already down-under (and/or down-under-and-a-bit-to-the-side) has some 50ft ladders, etc? And a bit of spare time. 12:03, 4 March 2024 (UTC)

At least in Sweden, the corresponding ubiquitous but often unnecessary qualifier is "...in northern Europe". Maybe it's more a sign of how far the writer bothers to extend their search for contenders, rather than of there actually being any. Mumiemonstret (talk) 11:27, 13 March 2024 (UTC)