1735: Fashion Police and Grammar Police

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Fashion Police and Grammar Police
* Mad about jorts
Title text: * Mad about jorts


In this comic, two groups of angry protesters are presented and labeled. They are most likely drawn side by side not because they're protesting in the same place, but to compare their similarities.

The left group represents the Fashion Police with Cueball holding a sign implying that Crocs are prohibited by showing Crocs shoe/sandal in a circle with a strike through it. Crocs are clogs made of foam. Crocs (and their imitators) have become fairly popular due to their low price, comfort, and ease of use, but are broadly considered unfashionable to wear in public. It is not the first time Randall mocks a special type of shoes, as previously, in 1065: Shoes, Randall was after shoes that has those creepy individual toes like Vibram FiveFingers. They will also never be a hit with the Fashion Police.[citation needed]

The right group represents the Grammar Police with another Cueball holding a sign with the three homophones Their (belonging to them), They're ("they are", contracted), and There (a location). These words are frequently confused for one another, due to their common usage and identical pronunciation, with one spelling then being used in a context meant for a different one and potentially provoking the Grammar Police to quickly intervene. See the Grammar Police on Twitter and Linguistic prescription.

The two groups look similar, standing in similar poses, with Cueball holding a sign and Megan in the front line in both. Each group also has one member brandishing a sword, indicating the exaggerated level of intensity they feel about their respective causes.

Both types of people will correct, criticize, denigrate or mock those who fail to conform to their criteria for what is "correct". Fashion police oppose people wearing clothing that's mismatched, out of style/fashion, or simply "ugly" to them. Grammar police are "sticklers" for grammar rules and have an immediate negative reaction when someone uses non-standard grammar in a sentence. These two groups are generally seen as socially separate, and their goals appear very distinct, but the comic explains how the two groups are actually very similar. This is demonstrated by listing eight characteristics, plus one in the title text, common to both groups. See explanation in the table below.

In the caption below the comic Randall notes that he had just realized that these are literally the same people because they both exhibit the listed traits.

It seems like a safe assumption that there are more grammar pedants (see title text of 1652: Conditionals) than fashion police people who read xkcd, and it also would seem likely that many xkcd readers would dislike the Fashion Police. This comic may, therefore, be intended to point out to grammar pedants that their behavior is functionally similar to that of other people who they dislike. Ponytail also represented the grammar police in 1576: I Could Care Less, where Megan puts her in place after she polices her sentence; this thus shows what Randall thinks about such police work and supports the above assumption. In 1576: I Could Care Less, "literally" was also used in the title text.

Randall is, with regards to language, definitely one of those that can belong in this group: To seem cool and casual, pretend to ignore them while understanding them very well.

The title is a ninth point to add to the list, with the asterisk in front representing one more bullet. See the last entry in the table below for more.

Table of individual items

Explanation of individual items in the list
list item Explanation
Judgemental and Smug Both groups tend to feel very comfortable in their own mastery of their particular field, and are frequently condescending to those who either lack their expertise, or are uninterested in meeting their standards.
Angry about something deeply arbitrary Both grammar and fashion are, essentially, made-up human constructs.
Strong opinions backed by style guides Grammar has The Elements of Style, fashion has fashion magazines.
Appreciate that the way that you are interpreted is your responsibility Whether or not you're interested in fashion or 'proper' grammar, how you dress and speak will impact how others perceive you, and often how they treat you. Whether this is fair or not, it is a reality, and each person is responsible for how they present themselves.
Understand that there's no way to "opt out" of sending messages by how you present yourself, and attempts to do so send strong messages of their own As above, our dress and speech will be taken by others as sending messages about ourselves. Trying to ignore the rules of either grammar or fashion is, itself, a message, as it presents to the world that we refuse to live by this set of rules. Whether or not we're trying to convey that message, it is what will come across.
To seem cool and casual, pretend to ignore them while understanding them very well People who appear to not understand the rules of either grammar or fashion will often be seen as ignorant or low-class. On the other hand, deliberately ignoring rules of either when its clear that you've mastered them comes across as casual, since it's clear that you're choosing to play with the rules, rather than simply not knowing them.
Vindictive about things that are often uncomfortably transparent proxies for race or social class This is probably the most impactful observation. Rules around fashion and grammar, being arbitrary, are generally set by the most powerful classes in any society, which often run along racial lines as well. As a result, the "proper" way to dress or speak generally remains associated with those classes. This association can be pragmatic, such as "fashionable" clothing being more expensive and hard for poor people to acquire, or it may simply be cultural, as 'proper' grammar is whatever's spoken in wealthy neighborhoods and schools, while language variants associated with poor people and minority groups is bluntly denounced as 'wrong', even if it has a fully consistent internal grammar. Similarly, fashions that are associated with poor and non-white social groups are broadly considered to be inappropriate, even if the reasons are arbitrary. As a result, such things become signifiers by which one can present oneself as being part of a social class. In America, it would be socially unacceptable to reject a job applicant because they grew up poor, and illegal to do so because of their race. However, rejecting an applicant for using 'improper' grammar, or for not wearing the right clothing or hairstyle, is standard practice. Randall identifies this fact as "uncomfortably transparent".

To be clear, it doesn't make one racist to dislike another's, or a group's, fashion choices or grammatical habits/rules; only certain bad actors intentionally use them as the proxies mentioned.

Fun to cheer on until one of them disagrees with you As with any arbitrary set of rules, those that we're in agreement and comfortable with are easy to promote, and we may enjoy taking part in the condemnation of others. But that suddenly changes when we find ourselves on the outside, condemned for our own use of language or how we dress. At that point, the flaws of such groups become much harder to ignore.
Mad about jorts (Title text) "Jorts" is a portmanteau for a pair of jeans that are made into shorts.

The fashion police would be mad about jorts for being unfashionable.

The grammar police would be mad about the word 'jorts' being an inappropriate portmanteau of jeans and shorts, and also for the fact that the sentence could be misinterpreted as if someone likes jorts, as in being "mad about" something in a positive way.

Also a fragment, with no subject (properly it would be "I am mad about jorts" or "They are mad about jorts"). Randall has often used portmanteaus as part of his jokes.

It is also possible that the Grammar police are indeed "mad about Jorts" in the positive sense, i.e Grammar Police love Jorts.


[Beneath two headings to the left and right are shown two aggressive-looking groups of people with only the four people in the front clearly shown for each group. Behind them five other people can be seen, but they are drawn in grey and are only partially shown behind the first four, and legs from all five in each group can be seen along with some of their heads.]
Left: Fashion Police

[From left to right, Hairy is holding one fist up to the left, Megan has her arms while crossed facing forward, a Cueball is holding a pole sign above his head with both hands facing a little to the left, displaying a single croc with a line through it and a circle around it, and another Cueball is holding a large stick to the right at head level. The person behind the rightmost Cueball has one fist raised, though not as high as Hairy.]

Right: Grammar Police

[From left to right, Megan is holding both fists above her head to the left, a Cueball is holding a sign much like the Cueball in the Fashion Police, although he is facing to the right and his sign has "Their", "They're", and "There" written on top of each other, Ponytail has one fist raised, facing left, and a bald man wearing glasses is holding a sword in his left hand facing right while his right palm is raised face up.]

[Below the two groups are eight points with bullets:]
  • Judgemental and smug
  • Angry about something deeply arbitrary
  • Strong opinions backed by style guides
  • Appreciate that the way that you are interpreted is your responsibility
  • Understand that there's no way to "opt out" of sending messages by how you present yourself, and attempts to do so send strong messages of their own
  • To seem cool and casual, pretend to ignore them while understanding them very well
  • Vindictive about things that are often uncomfortably transparent proxies for race or social class
  • Fun to cheer on until one of them disagrees with you
[Caption below the panel:]
I just realized these are literally the same people

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This sentence of the explanation is confusing: "Grammar police are people who are 'sticklers' to grammar rules and get mad or contradictory if someone uses non-standard grammar in a sentence." What is meant by the grammar police getting 'contradictory' when non-standard grammar is used? 19:44, 20 September 2016 (UTC)->

I added a basic explanation to this comic. I also changed the incomplete to say "Needs more on the explanation". Maybe you guys can help connect the dots and extend the explanation? --JayRulesXKCD (talk) 14:45, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

It should be noted that he uses literally wrong, just to anger the grammar police he's mocking, it's a nice touch.Trives (talk) 14:59, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

What? He's using literally because it is literally "literally." He just listed 8 traits which both sides supposedly share. The joke/comment isn't that they are practically the same; it is that they are the identical same group of people.

In my eyes the 2 groups are not standing together in this comic. --DaB. (talk) 15:12, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Yeah I'd have said they were just being presented graphically, the intention isn't to display them as protesting alongside each other. Xseo (talk) 15:31, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Is there an extra joke in the Title Text, "* Mad about jorts"? If it's something which both Grammar Police and Fashion Police would find distasteful, it would add an extra layer to the assertion that they are the same people. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes for sure and this is now in the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 20:27, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Incidentally, I find it ironic and probably unintentional that the Title Text demonstrates the importance of grammar and undermines Randall's own assertions that Grammar Police are superfluous and annoying. Is he saying that he really likes jorts, or is he saying that he is really angered by them? If only there was some formal ruleset which allowed meaning to be more effectively conveyed, rather than being a system of glorious chaos... https://xkcd.com/1576/ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think the comment above is inaccurate: "Title Text demonstrates the importance of grammar and undermines Randall's own assertions that Grammar Police are superfluous and annoying". The "*" represents a bullet point so it is clear that "* Mad about jorts" is an additional bullet point that both groups would find offensive. The irony now is that I'm not familiar with how to structure my wiki comments. ~~dizzydan~~ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Yes very intentionally and thanks for pointing out it is an extra bullet point ;-) That is why the grammar police would hate that sentence where the other police just hate jorts. And would be mad if they realized it could be understood like they loved jorts. --Kynde (talk) 20:27, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Technically, the grammar police wouldn't care about jorts, since that is a spelling error, not a grammatical error. Please contact the spelling police.

The Semantics Police (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Jorts is not a spelling error it is a real term used on Wikipedia and now linked in the explanation. They are mad about the use of "mad about". Because in this case it can be misunderstood as either really loving jorts or being upset about jorts. --Kynde (talk) 20:27, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Then it would be "* mad about 'mad about jorts'", thus I lean for the portmanteau explanation - Sebastian -- 03:07, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
When I first read it I just took it in the same context for both. I found it funnier to think that the "Grammar Police" are inexplicably mad at people wearing jean-shorts. Schiffy (Speak to me|What I've done) 14:44, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

Judgemental A spelling of the word 'judgmental,' infrequently used in the UK (which is widely regarded to be more fashionable than the US)?
Deeply Arbitrary Internally inconsistent? Arbitrary means based on random chance or whim and as such cannot be strong or deep?
Appreciate . . . are . . . is Subject/verb disagreement with a plural/singular shift?
Cool and casual vague use of an indefinite pronoun & a 'cool and casual' fashion choice is likely entails a significant amount of work, meaning it is not casual at all.--GotWilLeibniz (talk) 18:43, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Arbitrary is more 'not based on physical phenomena', and is not necessarily based on chance. 06:17, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
'judgment' v. 'judgement' - I was taught that the first is used as in "using one's judgment," while the latter is "the court issued a judgement." Miamiclay (talk) 08:22, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

"Fashion Police and Grammar Police and ExplainXKCD Contributors" (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

True ;-) --Kynde (talk) 20:27, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Ah yes, of course. The implied "they" is grammatically third-person plural, the "you" is second-person singular (using the same rules as third-person plural for verb agreement), and the "way" is singular. Obviously, this means there is a subject/verb disagreement... somehow. ISaveXKCDpapers (talk) 01:58, 4 July 2023 (UTC)

Just dropping a couple links here re: the "uncomfortably transparent proxies for race and class" in language. 21:20, 19 September 2016 (UTC) http://wordtree.com/what-the-victorians-did-to-english-grammar/ http://www.languagejones.com/blog-1/2014/6/8/what-is-aave (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Por simpliĝi gramatikon, nur lernu Esperanton! Ĝi ne havas arbitrajn regularojn. 22:17, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

In reality, I support the grammar police. Language is a set of shared rules allowing us to understand each other. Speaking in improper grammar produces misunderstandings and throws off listeners/readers, as well as making the speaker sound incompetent. Imagine if people started piping garbage down TCP connections! Servers wouldn't understand a thing! 22:50, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Rich white people being in high places is not really the point. Classism is the easiest to demonstrate: the grammar police frown on non-prestige dialects, and the fashion police consider poor people's clothing to be unfashionable. Racism is harder to demonstrate simply, but with language you have AAVE being treated as just "bad English" and, to a lesser extent, fashion popular in certain races being considered bad. (See, the literal fashion police of some French towns in reaction to burkinis. Trlkly (talk) 03:24, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

Hostility to burkini in France has nothing to do with fashion police. This is not a reaction to alleged bad taste in clothing (attemps to make them more fashionable are even well received), but to other things that the French are not comfortable with: public display of rigorist religious behaviour in a strongly secular country, perceived provocation by muslims in a context of islamist terror attacks, considerations around women's liberties (burkini seen as an enslavement to men/husbands)... Or for some it's simply knee-jerk racism... 11:57, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

Isn't this an example of Duck Typing? 10:17, 21 September 2016 (UTC)

Kudos to all who uses badder grammar for this explanations.Nerdman1 (talk) 12:39, 21 September 2016 (UTC)

I'm all for using words in a way that makes them more performant, regardless of the rules, or whether or not they are in the dictionary. Psu256 (talk) 15:28, 21 September 2016 (UTC)

Why hasn't anybody pointed out the most obvious fact?! They are called 'Grammar Nazis'!!!! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I have thought about that, but since this term doesn't show up neither in the comic nor in the title text I discarded the idea again. On the other hand, I've never heard of the term "Grammar Police" while "Grammar Nazi" is quite common to me and in Google the term "grammar nazi" has about twice as many results as "grammar police" - despite explainXKCD Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:49, 22 September 2016 (UTC)

Glamour and grammar ... https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/glamour (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"...and attempts to do so send strong messages of their own" ....what? i dont understand this part. what did randall mean to say?? 21:38, 15 September 2021 (UTC)Bumpf