1079: United Shapes

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 23:42, 27 July 2014 by (talk) (North and South Dakota are also paired, like Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia and Missouri.)
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United Shapes
That eggplant is in something of a flaccid state.
[Click comic to enlarge]
Title text: That eggplant is in something of a flaccid state.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: This explain doesn't explain the content of this comic.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

In this comic, each state of the United States of America has been filled-in with an object of similar shape. Due to the size range of the states, some states are too small to clearly make-out in the normal size image. Click on the image above to see the large version, which makes every state perfectly clear.

Very few, if any, of the shapes used are stereotypes of the state; they are merely objects that look like the state. Some of the objects are those which the states are widely known to resemble. For example, Michigan is represented by a mitten or glove, and a pot with handle takes the place of Oklahoma (with the panhandle region of the state filled with a literal handle). Others, however, are more creative. Few would have likely pictured Texas as a dog or Alaska as a bear with a jet pack and laser gun. There are several incredibly simple objects filling some states. Kentucky is filled by a cloud, which conceivably could have been used for any state, and Wyoming, one of the square states, is simply an envelope. There are three pairs of states that are related. Georgia and Missouri each contain an image of the other,drawing attention to their similar shapes, North and South Dakota are the top and bottom halves of an amp, and Alabama and Mississippi are faces facing in opposite directions.

Colorado contains what looks like a Wikipedia article. A close-up of the fake article is provided [1]. The following references are made in the Colorado article:

The title text makes fun of Florida which is sometimes called "The penis of America". Obviously, this penis is somewhat flaccid (not erect). The use of the word "state" is a pun, as it means some particular condition (flaccid state) as well as a political entity (The State of Florida).


The United Shapes
A map of things states are shaped like
[Each state has some item wedged to stay inside its borders]
Alabama: A moai head facing east.
Alaska: Winnie the Pooh with a jetpack and a ray gun.
Arizona: A refrigerated shelf containing milk, bread, and pastries.
Arkansas: A measuring cup.
California: A vacuum.
Colorado: The wiki article on Colorado.
Connecticut: A train conductor's hat.
Delaware: A meerkat.
Florida: An eggplant.
Georgia: Missouri.
Hawaii: A snowball.
Idaho: A garden gnome, sitting down.
Illinois: A gangster with a guitar case, upside down.
Indiana: The brush of a paintbrush.
Iowa: A tomato, lettuce, cold cut and cheese sandwich.
Kansas: A stand-up piano.
Kentucky: A cloud.
Louisiana: A boot with some gum stuck to the bottom of it.
Maine: A Vulcan salute.
Maryland: A howling wolf, upside down.
Massachusetts: An elephant, being ridden by a man, carrying tea.
Michigan: A mitten for the lower portion, an eagle for the UP.
Minnesota: $160 in $20 USD bills.
Mississippi: A moai head facing west.
Missouri: Georgia.
Montana: One half of a muffin.
Nebraska: A blue VW type 2 with mattresses sticking out the back.
Nevada: A clothes iron.
New Hampshire: A tall brick factory building.
New Jersey: A bent-over old person.
New Mexico: A liquid container labeled for something of unusual and silly danger.
New York: A hybrid transmission with standard manual-style gears and a torque converter sliced in half.
North Carolina: A bouquet of flowers.
North Dakota: The top half of an amp.
Ohio: Underwear (Briefs).
Oklahoma: A covered pot, dripping with boilover.
Oregon: A locomotive.
Pennsylvania: A very thick book with a bookmark.
Rhode Island: The bow half of a boat's hull.
South Carolina: A slice of pizza.
South Dakota: The bottom half of an amp.
Tennessee: A number of childrens' books, placed in a slightly askew pile.
Texas: A dog sitting in a bowl.
Utah: An oven.
Vermont: A microscope, upside down.
Virgina: A stegosaurid.
Washington: A whale.
West Virginia: A frog.
Wisconsin: A skull.
Wyoming: An envelope.

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Hooray, another comic that only Americans will get. Randall, some of us live in *other* parts of the world. Davidy22[talk] 13:47, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Wait, so an American addict with a mostly-American audience is supposed to limit himself to cartoons that everyone can understand? And people say AMERICANS are the arrogant ones. 07:59, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Could someone please explain the stereotypes? I'm American and I don't really see any jokes. As far as I can tell, he just picked images that fit in each state. -- (talk) 07:59, 24 March 2013 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

We still have to fix this thumbnail issue. --Dgbrt (talk) 16:47, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

For the most part I don't think the shapes have anything to do with the states other than what happens to fit. The Louisiana "boot" and Michigan "glove" are commonly used to describe those states shapes. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

People in Michigan actually say things like "I live in the thumb" 05:18, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure how this really constitutes an explanation. The current text seems to amount to "Yeah this comic is all perfectly clear and logical everyone gets all the references alright I gotta go have fun now!" I think this needs an incomplete flag, but I don't know if someone who isn't a moderator can do that? --Mynotoar (talk) 22:32, 26 December 2013 (UTC)

Could the signature in Wyoming be Randalls own one? Compare it to 1005: SOPA. -- 09:06, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

He does lotsa comics the rest of us can undrestand, too. After all, though, he IS American. Texas: that's a cat? 16:26, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

<rant> The bear in the state of Alaska is NOT Winnie the Pooh. The most recognizable version is yellow with a red shirt. The original illustrations didn't have a shirt, but were still yellow. Further more, there ARE other cartoon bears to choose from, or it could just be a non-affiliated one that Randall created for the sake of fitting in the state of Alaska. Add to that the fact that Winnie the Pooh never had a jetpack OR a raygun and there is a pretty solid case for that bear NOT being Winnie the Pooh. </rant> Anonymous 04:51, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

I did correct a former typo done by Randall himself, but Winnie the Pooh is just what he was thinking about. Please start a discussion on such an edit first, maybe we can say Randall's painting is bad, but that's what is on his official transcript. And SO this does only belong to the explain, the transcript is just only a transcript of the ORIGINAL comic. I'm sorry, but please don't change this until you know what you are doing, please ask for help first. You will get kind answers by many people here. --Dgbrt (talk) 22:29, 18 March 2014 (UTC)4

In regards to New Mexico, the hazardous waste container could easily be a reference to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. I think it's also worth noting that, despite the transcript, the entire container appears to be upside-down, rather than just the label. This could be an allusion to concerns about radiation leaks in that facility. MurphysLife (talk) 23:28, 17 July 2018 (UTC)

WRT Massachusetts, yes, the Boston Tea Party occurred there. However, the tea on the elephant implies the tea came from India, when it came from China. Tea was not commercially cultivated in India until the 1820s, well after the American Revolution. I see no relation with the elephant depicted to the Republican Party symbol. Massachusetts politics do not lean towards Republican political party ideals. The conservative Tea Party, aligns with the Republican Party, but their followers do not hold much sway in Massachusetts.TCMits (talk) 20:26, 28 March 2023 (UTC)

Undoing edits

I expanded a bunch of descriptions, especially with an eye for people who may not be able to see the comic. This was the "incomplete explanation of the day" comic the day I started adding to the wiki. For example, Utah was described as "An oven." I changed this to "A white stove" because the entire appliance is called a stove (an oven plus drawer below, cooktop above, and upright piece with controls at the back of the cooktop).

Dgbrt undid all my changes without explanation. Would someone please explain what, if anything, I did wrong? I know I'm new here, but I did look around before making any changes. Is there an "o

Corollary question: Someone also removed the actual text that appears in the various images.

Is there an official-from-Randall transcript somewhere?

Thanks. Karenb (talk) 21:48, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Dgbrt replaced the transcript that was present with the transcript that can be found here, or in the page source of the original comic. It's not always perfectly accurate, but I usually just trust in it since Randall probably knows what he drew. If you feel that there's a typo/stuff-up somewhere, feel free to change it. Accuracy trumps the original transcript. Davidy²²[talk] 00:48, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, David! That makes a lot of sense. Karenb (talk) 01:37, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
I disagree. The transcript here should explain what is in the comic. Randall's transcript (if there even is one) is often not very complete, and he doesn't use the names we have here. If he has drawn something that is clearly not what he writes it is, then it should be corrected in this transcript. --Kynde (talk) 10:14, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Is this ready for the incomplete flag to be removed? Explain section has been updated to explain the shapes that can be explained.Tornadowrangler (talk) 03:35, 3 April 2014 (UTC)Tornadowrangler

A note about Maryland -- the transcript description is incomplete, because the wolf (main part of the state) appears to be howling at a full moon (across the Chesapeake Bay). That bit of land is referred to as the Delmarva peninsula, because it includes nearly all of Delaware, the eastern part of Maryland and (not indicated on this map) the southern tip belongs to Virginia. 04:13, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

I always thought NC & SC look like a bird beak & VA looked like a bird in flight Beastachu (talk) 19:35, 8 November 2015 (UTC)

I halfway fixed the issue addressed by the incomplete box. I have nothing to contribute to the current spotlighted explanation, so I am working here. I will finish the job later if I have time. I also added some more possible explanations to the chart, such as Washington D.C. being a star because that's how capitals are shown and the somewhat weak explanation of Maine's camp sunshine holding an event to appear in a Star Trek film. 16:04, 20 April 2016 (UTC)

I believe the transcript is now complete. 15:08, 22 April 2016 (UTC)

After some more additions to the transcript I removed the incomplete box. The only thing left is the comic explanation, and finding possible explanations for all of the shapes. Despite what the current description says, Randall just picking shapes based on shape is very unlike him. 22:19, 25 April 2016 (UTC)

So what you're saying is it should no longer be flagged as incomplete because only the explanation is incomplete? What an interesting conclusion

Holy crap what's with the transcript? Should we collapse the table? Because it makes the page zoom way out, to the point where it becomes too small to see the words. Herobrine (talk) 06:08, 6 April 2018 (UTC)

I have fixed the table. 06:38, 4 October 2018 (UTC)
I've marked it as incomplete: A table should not be used in general. Check this What is the format of the transcript section ?. --Dgbrt (talk) 18:45, 5 October 2018 (UTC)


What is eːijaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥ actually pronounced as? Why does that show as the pronunciation of Colorado? It's clearly not colorado.