1010: Etymology-Man

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 21:09, 15 October 2012 by 66.110.220.126 (talk) (Explanation)
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Etymology-Man
'I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish Aquaman were here instead--HE'D be able to help.'
Title text: 'I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish Aquaman were here instead--HE'D be able to help.'

Explanation

This comic is a take on the traditional appearance of a super hero when a disaster strikes. In this case, Etymology-Man arrives, who apparently has the power of Etymology which is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. As Etymology-Man is explaining the history of the words tsunami and tidal wave while the water starts rising towards them.sy explaining the word to save them as a superhero should.

Also, the title text is a play on how useless Aquaman is compared to other superheros, as his only powers are breathing underwater, speed swimming, and communicating with sea life.

Transcript

Person 1: Earthquake!

Person 2: We should get to a higher ground - There could be a tidal wave.

[Person 1 takes a pedantic pose]

Person 1: You mean a tsunami. "Tidal wave" means a wave caused by tides.

[A crash is heard, followed by Etymology-Man flying in while wearing a cape]

Etymology-man: You know, that doesn't add up.

Person 1 and Person 2: Etymology-man!

[Etymology-man takes a pedantic pose]

Etymology-man: What *does* "tidal wave" mean? There are waves caused by tides, but they're "tidal bores", and they're not cataclysmic. It can refer to the daily tide cycle, but that's obviously not what people mean when they say "a tidal wave hit". It's been obvious for centuries that these waves come from quakes. So why "tidal"?

Etymology-man: Remember that until 2004, there weren't any clear photos or videos of tsunamis. Some modern writers even described them rearing up and breaking like surfing waves. Of course, in 2004 and 2011, it was made clear to everyone that a tsunami is more like a rapid, turbulent, inrushing tide - exactly what historical accounts describe.

[Water begins to rush in. Etymology-man keeps his pedantic pose]

Etymology-man: Maybe those writing about Lisbon in 1755 used "tidal wave" not out of scientific confusion, but because it described the wave's form - a description lost in our rush to expunge "tidal wave" from English.

[The water is now waist-deep. Etymology-man continues to drone on, but the others start to panic]

Etymology-man: "Tsunami" is now the standard, and I'm not trying to change that. But let's be a tad less giddy about correcting "tidal wave" - especially when "tsunami" just means "harbor wave", which is hardly...


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Discussion

That water isn't coming in nearly fast enough to be a tidal wave. Probably just a flood. A really fast flood. Davidy22[talk] 13:15, 18 February 2013 (UTC)

Maybe Etymology-Man talks really really fast. 108.162.250.11 03:20, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Maybe Etymology-Man also has the power to slow incoming danger by sheer force of knowledge 108.162.216.54 08:57, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
We need Etymology-Man in this discussion section to describe the term "Flash flood."
Minor characters

Shouldn't etymology man be in the list of minor characters? E^ipi (talk) 12:24, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

The title text should've wished for King Canute instead :P -- The Cat Lady (talk) 15:32, 25 August 2021 (UTC)

Another super-power Etymology-Man doesn't bother using to help anyone: he can break the fourth wall and crash dramatically through the panel frame! Nitpicking (talk) 12:54, 28 December 2021 (UTC)

I disagree. That would be indicated by the comic-frame border being 'broken', which is something Randall has done in the past (or the 'paper' broken through in at least one memorable example). This just looks like an off-frame crash (into the space inhabited by the two tsunami victims, out of some structure he maybe did his Clark Kenting in or perhaps just through a wall/fence that was 'in the way').
Whichever, it was from the direction of the incoming water, and whether his damage of some barrier (albeit the main inpact high above the ground) is useful or just lets the water flow in faster is a question we probably don't want the answer for... 162.158.159.29 13:45, 28 December 2021 (UTC)