1267: Mess

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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'Sorry, I left out my glass of water from last night.' OH GOD I APPARENTLY LIVE IN A GARBAGE PIT.
Title text: 'Sorry, I left out my glass of water from last night.' OH GOD I APPARENTLY LIVE IN A GARBAGE PIT.


There is a common psychological phenomenon which causes people to mentally magnify their own flaws, while failing to notice the flaws of others, so common it apparently doesn't have a specific scientific categorization. Many self-conscious people apologize for "the mess" in their home whenever they have guests over, no matter how clean it may actually be. If the house is neater than the guest's own home, the guest is likely to say to themself: "If they think this is messy, what would they think of my place?!"

This phenomenon is shown in the comic when Cueball's friend apologizes for the mess, despite the only thing appearing out of order is what seems to be a crumpled article of clothing on the floor. This "mess" only amplifies Cueball's fears about his own lifestyle, as he is surely wondering what his friend might think of his messy lifestyle based on their much higher standards.

In the title text, Cueball's anxiety in further amplified when the host left out a glass of water from the night before and apologies for it. Cueball is nervous because when this seemingly small oversight, when applied to his friend's very high standards, might seem like a huge problem, and in his mind, making his home akin to something he thinks is no better than a garbage pit.

In 1565: Back Seat the exact opposite reaction to having to show other people a real messy place is used for the joke.


[Cueball and his Cueball-like friend walk into the friend's bedroom. The friend walks ahead while Cueball stand behind at the door. There's a made bed, a picture on the wall with a river and a sun at the horizon, some curtains around the window, a rug, and one unidentifiable item lying on the floor.]
Friend: Sorry it's such a disaster in here.
Cueball thinking: Whoa— what's wrong with me?
[Caption below the panel:]
My room never looks as nice as the rooms other people apologize for.


The painting in Cueball's friend's room strongly resembles the painting in 1159: Countdown.

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I do this on purpose whenever people are likely to come over. I mostly clean my house except for a little thing and apologize for the mess. 11:29, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

Remind me never to come visit you. 12:40, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
Never come visit him/her. Is that enough of a reminder? -- 05:48, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
you haven't gone and visited him/her - right? we kinda fell down on this social contract, but here's one more reminder: never visit him/her! Brettpeirce (talk) 18:09, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
A reminder from 2017: never visit him/her!-- 22:05, 21 February 2017 (UTC)
And from 2020 - never visit them!Rereading xkcd (talk) 02:52, 7 April 2020 (UTC)
Reminder from 2021: don't visit them 15:53, 5 August 2021 (UTC)
In case you've forgotten to not visit them, by 2023... Don't! 02:00, 11 August 2023 (UTC)
In the presumably likely event you have failed to remember to fail to visit them by September 14th, 2023, I have come to remind you to never visit this person who you never want to visit! Me[citation needed] 19:01, 14 September 2023 (UTC)

"There is a common psychological phenomenon which causes people to mentally magnify their own flaws, while failing to notice the flaws of others." Tell that to my ex-wife! --Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 15:03, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

There is a common psychological phenomenon which causes future ex-wives to mentally magnify their spouse's flaws while failing to notice their own or the flaws of others. 17:41, 15 July 2014 (UTC)

This comic wierdly mirrors (in contrast) a recently broadcast radio programme (which I doubt Randall will have heard, it being UK's BBC Radio 4 "Thinking Allowed", I think it was, with a segment regarding how normal people react to those not acting 'properly' to social norms) in which the phenomena was mentioned. A lady hostess who unselfconsciously apologises for "not having dusted" (despite dust being possibly shed skin cells and such, it's considered "clean mess"), for her visitor, is then utterly mortified when said visitor breaks the rules and also 'helpfully' points out a coffee-ring stain (considered "dirty mess", for some reason) upon a surface. Doubtless the traditional light and largely insignificant layering of dust possibly somehow prevents highlighting any geniuinely missed spots (if one had actually dusted most of the room), yet distinct stains and marks (and dust layers with obvious finger-marks in?) ought to have been cleaned or even prevented in the first place.

(For the record, my own home is a "working mess", much to the chagrin of my mother when she visits. It could definitely be tidier, and there's absolutly no way to convincingly apologise for its state. I consider the whole place to be my "shed", in the grand tradition of "shedology". Mind you, this attitude of mine arises out of the tendency for me to lose so many things when I deliberately tidy up/pack away "projects in progress" for such esteemed visitors. Better that I can find everything when I need to, IMO. This mostly works better than with the alternative, under a sometimes Holmesian 'stratified' surface-based filing system.) 15:42, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

tl;dr--Dgbrt (talk) 22:09, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

I was reminded of.. http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-puts-glass-of-water-on-bedside-table-in-case-h,33751/ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

People call a clean house messy as a way to seem superior to their guests. They clean it before the guest gets here then say that because they know the guest has not cleaned. 17:37, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

Maybe - sometimes. But also, I think it stems from the insecurity of possibly being judged by your guest: in this case, you're saying basically "if my cleanliness doesn't live up to your standards, it's not because my standards aren't as high as yours, it's just because I haven't finished cleaning." L-Space Traveler (talk) 14:30, 16 January 2023 (UTC)

"There is a common psychological phenomenon which causes people to mentally magnify their own flaws, while failing to notice the flaws of others." How is this phenomenon called? 09:36, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

false humility Grahame (talk) 05:44, 18 October 2013 (UTC)Grahame
No, more like self doubt, which is the exact opposite. 09:50, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

I think you mean "What is this called?" I don't know, I've been trying to research it for the last five minutes and it's never the first result on google. Must not exist. 02:37, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

>>"In the title text, Cueball's anxiety in further amplified when he recalls that he left out a glass of water from the night before. "

I do not think this is right. I think it is the host who is apologizing about the glass of water as the apology is in quotes. 01:34, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

 I agree with the idea that it is the host apologizing for the water.

I just noticed, that the picture on the wall is the same motive as in 1159: Countdown (where it even takes multiple lines and different speculations in the explanation), and possibly the one from 4: Landscape (sketch). Are there more comics containing this motive for a drawing/picture? --Lupo (talk) 11:48, 22 October 2019 (UTC)