794: Inside Joke
Title text: I've looked through a few annotated versions of classic books, and it's shocking how much of what's in there is basically pop-culture references totally lost on us now.
Inside jokes occur between friends and family members that live through a shared experience, which makes them laugh when they make reference to it later on. For people not "in the know", these inside jokes can come across as being completely incomprehensible, and in extreme cases just sound like random words strung together.
Randall posits the hypothesis that this has been going on throughout history and that historical figures probably had the same number of inside jokes as any modern group of high-school students. He probably chose to compare them to high-school students because that is a time of complex social interactions and cliques, which are conducive to the formation of inside jokes.
The title text says that there are several classic books that make pop-culture references to events that no modern reader was alive to see. Topicality sometimes has the unfortunate side-effect of the work being far less understood to later generations. Suggested examples so far include Homer's Odyssey, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and Lewis Carroll's Alice books, whose many nineteenth-century cultural references are enumerated in The Annotated Alice.
The inside joke presented in the comic appears to be a reference to the esoterically-named Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a type of fish soup that allegedly smelled so delicious, Buddhist disciples would sneak out of their meditative ceremonies to eat it. In this case, the ham seller comments that his products are so delicious that even the monk nearby is climbing over the wall to get some ham after the buyer remarked that his product was too expensive.
- [A man with a beard and a turban stands to the left of a crude wooden counter. On the right of the counter is a man with a beard and no turban. Both men are laughing. Further behind the counter is a woman with a bun kneeling on the ground and putting something into a box.]
- Turban man: Nine silvers for a ham? That's too much!
- No-turban man: Too much? There's a monk out back with a ladder!
- Caption: There's no reason to think that people throughout history didn't have just as many inside jokes and catchphrases as any modern group of high-schoolers.
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I believe the reference to the ladder is the origin of the 'Monk Jump over the Wall Soup', where a monk (who is not allowed to eat meat) broke his meditation to escape from the monastery as he smelt the delicious food cooking on the other side.
In this case, the ham seller comments that his products are so delicious that 'even the monk nearby is climbing over the wall to get some ham', after being remarked that his product was too expensive.
188.8.131.52 11:48, 29 May 2013 (UTC)Justin
Assuming Randall Munroe had a specific reference in mind, it could just as well be a reference to Saint John Climacus, known as "John of the ladder". AD 525-606. His book "the ladder" was widely circulated and concerns steps to an ascetic life. The roman catholic church celebrate him during the fasting season, when one is not to eat meat.
The joke here is then that "monk out back with a ladder" can mean both "so climb in the rear window and steal some" and "The monk's here with a copy of the book "the ladder", go convert to free ascetism if money and meat is too much for you" 184.108.40.206 12:11, 19 January 2015 (UTC)
- Wouldn't the shopkeeper say "The Ladder", not "a ladder" then? -Pennpenn 220.127.116.11 22:45, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
It is absolutely ludicrous to try to find the meaning or reference in this comic. Randall attempted to come up with something which was incomprehensible. That's the whole point. If he'd thought for a moment there was an actual known origin or explanation for this ham joke, he would immediately have changed it to something else. I mean, come on. XKCD itself is a random, meaningless string [citation needed -☃]. Will edit. AmbroseChapel (talk) 23:52, 17 September 2017 (UTC)
- Au contraire, 'xkcd' itself is neither random nor meaningless - quite the opposite, in fact.
- Add the positions of each of its letters and what number do you get? Please refer to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for further insight, enlightenment, and the answer to the "Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything". TCMits (talk) 18:11, 24 January 2023 (UTC)
- Word Of God denies this, and other interesting coincidences. But I'm also sure he doesn't want to stop personal headcanon, either. 18.104.22.168 19:33, 24 January 2023 (UTC)