2946: 1.2 Kilofives

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1.2 Kilofives
'Oh yeah? Give me 50 milliscore reasons why I should stop.'
Title text: 'Oh yeah? Give me 50 milliscore reasons why I should stop.'


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by 83.333... millidozen BOTS, Y2K reference added by ZC - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address features the phrase "four score and seven"‍ to refer to 87: a "score" is a group of 20, which literally translates as "four-twenties [and] seven". This is because English used to count by twenties (and some modern languages, including French still do, at least partially). However, this practice has died off and most English speakers nowadays would not use "score" in such a manner. Inspired by this, Cueball (possibly representing Randall) decides to use unusual prefixes to state the population of a town.

Metric prefixes can be added to a unit to scale up or down its magnitude. For example, "kilo-" means "multiply by 1000", so a kilometer is as long as 1,000 meters. These prefixes are added to various metric units but, due to their usefulness, have been adopted and added to other, non-metric units, such as "kilocubic feet per second" (for the flow rate of a liquid, much to Randall's chagrin when researching for his book "XKCD What-If"), "megadeath" (how many millions killed in an estimated nuclear blast), or the "millihelen" (the amount of feminine beauty needed to launch a ship). Most potentially confusing might be "kilo-/mega-/giga-/terabyte", which has competing definitions. However, they're not ordinarily added before number words to change their magnitude.

Taking "kilofive" to be a unit meaning 5,000, the population of East Hills, 6,000, can therefore be expressed as 1.2 kilofives. But phrasing a number this way requires the listener to make excess calculations to understand it, so White Hat would probably get confused or annoyed.

It is somewhat common for metric prefixes to go after numbers in abbreviations. Well-known examples are "Y2K" for "year 2000", and "4K resolution" for "4,000 [pixels]". The number 5,000 may be abbreviated as "5K" in "5K resolution". However, the 'postfix' (suffix) may be intended to modify the implied but unstated unit, where there is an obvious one, or stand for the unit itself in such cases as the word "kilometer" (often abbreviated to /ˈkeɪ/(s), in common use, in phrases such as "5K run") or "kilopixel" (in this case referencing the horizontal resolution, as in 5120 × 2880 pixels, rather than prior usages such as the 1080 horizontal lines in the standard known as 1080p, or the total area pixel count in 'megapixel'/'gigapixel' image sensors), thus making it directly stand for a prefixed unit itself, as an adjunct to the the standard common shortening of "kilos" for, usually, "kilograms". Saying "1.2 5K" could be even more awkward, liable to be misunderstood as "1.25k" (1,250) instead of the value of 6000.

In the title text, Cueball has apparently annoyed White Hat with his confusing expressions of numbers, but he doubles down, now directly including the word "score". He is riffing on the common expression, "give me one reason why..." but instead of simply asking for one reason, he asks for 50 milliscore reasons, or 50 × 1⁄1000 × 20, which is equal to 1.

The comic might refer to the village of East Hills, New York. As of the 2020 census, it had a population of 7,284, or 1.214 kilosixes.


In Roman numerals, symbols can be added to numerals to denote orders of magnitude. In this system, 1,000 might be written as "CIↃ". This rough pattern of marks, as typically chisled or impressed into wax by a stylus, would later be refined and expressed in the not dissimilar shape of the "M" as most often seen these days to represent the thousands value in dates/etc. Alternately "I" (nominally '1') could be given a bar above it, as would any other such numerals involve in that expression, to indicate the value being denoted being of the higher order.

For a while, a hundred actually referred to 120.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball, with his palm raised, is talking to White Hat. There is a sign on the ground in the background.]
Cueball: It's a pretty small town—the population is just 1.2 kilofives.
[The sign reads:]
Welcome to
East Hills
Pop. 6,000
[Caption below the panel:]
I don't know why Abraham Lincoln should be the only one who gets to come up with weird ways to say normal numbers.

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Challenge: Come up with a way like this to say the comic number #2946. Barmar (talk) 03:00, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

How about 4.91 hectosixes? 04:19, 15 June 2024 (UTC)
A kibitwo, four decascore, four score and eighteen. Two octooctotwentythrees and two. A gross-score, three score and 6. Jordan Brown (talk) 05:00, 15 June 2024 (UTC)
A semidozen tetrahectaenneacontahena. Xkcd machine guy (talk) 08:25, 15 June 2024 (UTC)
A decapentagross minus a semiennea. Xkcd machine guy (talk) 10:10, 15 June 2024 (UTC)
A gross score and half a dozen elevensesTier666 (talk) 12:57, 16 June 2024 (UTC)
491 semester Gam3 (talk)

Interestingly, four score and seven is exactly how you say 87 in French (quatre-vingt sept) and Basque (laurogeita zazpi). Both count on base 20. 05:16, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

That's not a coincidence. French and English are closely related linguistically and culturally. It would be nice to work this info into the explanation. 15:46, 17 June 2024 (UTC)

Fun fact: libqalculate and the "Qalculate"/"qalc" programs can just deal with the title text:

   qalc "50milli score"
   50 × (10^−3) × score = 1

But it fails on the main part, the best that works is:

   qalc "1.2kilo 5"
   1.2 × 10³ × 5 = 6000

"five" gets interpreted as Euler's number × imaginary unit × unknown "f" × unknown "v". On my old laptop, I must have some other configuration or maybe an old version, because there it gets interpreted as 0×i×e=0, so you can enter "five plus five" and get 0. Maybe another challenge would be to get arbitrary misleading results out from equations like this. Fabian42 (talk) 05:59, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

Perhaps East Hills NY, but their "Welcome" boards don't mention population, https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@40.7805262,-73.632634,3a,15y,25.75h,92.88t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sf5guvv2tETuyn0f_lSFh7A!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?hl=en&coh=205409&entry=ttu so this might just be a random name that R. came up withZeimusu (talk) 07:40, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

In the comic *fives* does not stand for the number five alone, but for five people. So using it with a prefix is more valid. Sebastian -- 10:15, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

Five kilopeople would be valid. 10:34, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

I think it would have made more sense to say "half a kilodozen". -- 11:54, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

It's just slightly off a gross of ultimate answers. 16:30, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

I wonder why Randall chose to make Cueball the character saying that and not Black Hat/classhole. Turquoise Hat (talk) 15:35, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

Live long enough to become the villain. ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:14, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

I realized that kilofives can be abbreviated as **k5**, as in "the population is 1.2 k5". Or if you're a roman, as **D**. 16:30, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

Wouldn't CIↃ have been rendered as <I>? ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:22, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

I like it. I'm gonna start using this technique more. P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 20:04, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

The weird thing is, this wasn't a weird way to say a number, it was just an old way to say it. See Psalm 90:10 in the King James Bible more examples. 20:51, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

Y2K isn't really a nonce, it's rather common to shorten e.g. "123 thousand" to 123K or 123k. From my 00's online gaming days, I even remember kk, kkk and so on having been used to refer to millions, billions and progressively higher powers of 1000 respectively, but that might've been more niche. 22:09, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

I'd also like to see the source for the claim "they're not ordinarily added to number words to modify their magnitude". For example, in Czech it is very common to say "mega" instead of "million(s)" (similar way as "thousand" is substituted with "K" in "Y2K") when talking about money and I've seen this usage also in English. -- 22:26, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

English does use mega as a prefix, albeit not frequently. The most common example in common usage is possibly megaton (of TNT) for nuclear weapons, but it's also frequently used in slightly more technical discussions; megahertz, megawatts, megabytes and megapixels are the usages that most immediately come to mind. -- TimO (talk) 11:27, 17 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I understood that to mean that "mega" can be used in the narrative place of "million(s)", or equivalent. Like 2,000 of your finest Pounds Sterling (or US Dollars) could be described as "two grand"(/"two Gs"), bit in Czech cases it (sounds like it might be) "two mega". Maybe also used in something like "a mega reasons not to go visit the in-laws...", as the kind of phraseology it lets be used. Although (just checking), it looks like "thousand" in Czech is (normally) "tisíc"... so it isn't really saving much talking ("thou-sand" vs "grand"/"Gee has an abbreviating quality, as well as being a slang/cant replacement - albeit meaning these days the obfuscation is fairly widely known and vastly deprecated for that purpose). Perhaps a Czech (or an older Slovak, if not someone from that additional historic minority, the 'O's!) could clarify. I presume is one, or at least knows enough to resolve all confusion/talk to their actual Czechian friends about it! 11:57, 17 June 2024 (UTC)
It's pretty common in English to shorten million and (short) billion to M and B. Like, the company made $5M last year, or the world's population is 7.9B people. Thousand gets shortened to K, I don't think I've ever seen G for grand used in quite the same way. Like, I'd say "I won 2 gees at the racetrack," but I wouldn't say "I have a bag with 2G marbles in it." (talk) 17:50, 18 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Well, these days "G for Grand" can get mixed up a lot with "G for Giga", also. But you can have "a grand", like "a mill(ion)" (I'm not I've ever run in circles where "a bill" is used like that...), at least in contexts similar to refering to a "pony", bullseye", "ton" or "monkey" (25, 50, 100, 500).
I find the "large value suffixes" used in Idle Games to be interesting. Generally at every 1000 (and going with short-scales terms, which I personally consider a waste, as you end using "N-illion" term in short-scale much quicker than in long-scale), there's generally a couple of approaches at 1000x ("k", which is often "K" because it's uppercased, or "t"), 106 almost always "M"(illion), then "B"/"Bi", then "T"/"Tr", from then it's maybe "Qa"->"Qi" or "Q"<->"q" (or maybe "q"->"Q") for quad-/quint-illions, a choice of some variation of "Sx" or "Hx" for the '6-illion', then "Sp"/"Hp" (or it was "S"/"H" upper and "s"/"h" lower) to continue the chosen Latin or Greek for 7. "Oc"/"O" follows, often "No"/"N" for 9-illions, "D(e|c)"/"D". After that, there's a distinct divergence. At some point, though, it seems that everyone reverts to something like "Aa"->"Ab"->"Ac". Occasionally, you can even take the two characters "Xy" and translate them into somethig like "10X+y"-illions, though I think a variation upon "26X+y(+c)" (accounting for the A!=0 issues, of course), though it depends on which options were used to display the sub-Decillions... Single-character suffix for them allows them to not accidentally re-use any double-character, and (if you get high enough values, you get led on into "Xyz" suffix-territory). Though the biggest problem with this is that 321 Octiliion, "321O", can look like the far lowe value of "3,210". 19:36, 18 June 2024 (UTC)

Y2K should be Y2k - the SI prefix for 1,000 is k to distinguish it from the unit abbreviation K, for Kelvin. 23:18, 15 June 2024 (UTC)

That would be a very cold year. 09:36, 17 June 2024 (UTC)
Just a little chilly. P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 14:16, 17 June 2024 (UTC)
The K in Y2K is not an SI prefix, so I'm not sure why it would follow SI prefix rules. FWIW, the UK websites of the BBC and The Times both render it with capital K, as do the websites of the NY Times and the Washington Post. The AP Style Book and the Chicago Manual of Style both have examples with Y2K in them with capital K, although they don't specifically opine on the format of Y2K itself. (talk) 18:01, 18 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'd have said East Hills is home to a hundred shocks. (Or one hectoshock?) 😉 PaulEberhardt (talk) 14:35, 16 June 2024 (UTC)

Coincidence that Abraham Lincoln is on the five-dollar bill? 15:26, 17 June 2024 (UTC)