1986: River Border

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 20:05, 27 April 2018 by (talk) (Explanation)
Jump to: navigation, search
River Border
I'm not a lawyer, but I believe zones like this are technically considered the high seas, so if you cut a pizza into a spiral there you could be charged with pieracy under marinaritime law.
Title text: I'm not a lawyer, but I believe zones like this are technically considered the high seas, so if you cut a pizza into a spiral there you could be charged with pieracy under marinaritime law.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a PIERACY [sic] EXPERT - TOO much descriptive. - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Ponytail explains to Megan that the Missouri-Nebraska state line is based off the river. She then explains that the river once changed course abruptly, and that the state line didn't move with it. That meant that they were on the Missouri side of the river, but in Nebraska. It then occurred to Megan that she could break the law in this area because she is under the mistaken impression that it's neither Nebraskan nor Missourian territory, so neither set of cops actually have jurisdiction. The final panel shows Megan going to cut a pizza into a spiral. The joke is that Megan thinks it's illegal because nobody does it.

The title text claims the region Ponytail and Megan are in is considered the high seas. It sets up a pizza pun about piracy under maritime law: "Pieracy" combines pie another name for a pizza and "piracy". Marinara sauce is frequently served with pizza, so "Maritime" law is rendered "Marinaritime"

The region mentioned in the comic can be seen here at Google maps and is known as McKissick's Island


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Ponytail and Megan are standing next to a river.]
Ponytail: This is a cool spot.
Ponytail: The Missouri-Nebraska state line follows this river. If the river's path changes gradually, the border moves with it.
[A map is shown with a river from the left to the bottom. A dotted arc is connected on both ends to the river, extending to north-east. An arrow with the text "Old riverbed" points to the arc and it's labeled Nebraska on south-west and Missouri on the other side. The text above the map reads:]
Ponytail: But when it abruptly changes course, the border stays behind.
Ponytail: This is a spot where that happened. We're on the Missouri side, but we're in Nebraska.
[Frameless panel back to Ponytail and Megan.]
Megan: Wow.
Megan: So...
Megan: We can commit all the crimes we want here and the cops can't do a thing!
[Megan points up her finger.]
Ponytail: What? No. Why would you even think that?
Megan: I'm going to cut a pizza into a spiral!
Ponytail: That's not even illegal!
Megan: Crimes!

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


The title text doesn't have a typo. Barmar (talk) 16:06, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

"It then occurred to Megan that she could break Nebraska state laws and the police couldn't catch her (because the river was in the way)."

I think it might actually be because Megan is under the mistaken impression that it's neither Nebraskan nor Missourian territory, so neither set of cops actually have jurisdiction (similar to that thing where apparently there's an area of Yellowstone where no one has jurisdiction).
I believe you're right. The title text seems to confirm this. 20:03, 27 April 2018 (UTC)
While I saw the possibility of the Lawless Unclaimed Territory explanation (i.e. nobody has jurisdiction), I feel very sure the intended meaning is that the state that can get there has no jurisdiction and the state they're in can't get to them because of the river. (Mainly because Unclaimed Territory is a bit of a logical leap, while Cops Are Cut Off is fairly logical and somewhat true. Note the wording that "cops can't do a thing", not "there are no cops"). What amuses me is that I've heard of this location before AND that it is indeed true that there are no bridges, so it is indeed quite true that you can't reach this location from the rest of Nebraska. But of course I'm sure cops wouldn't hesitate to pass through Missouri. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:01, 1 May 2018 (UTC)
Good thoughts! I was having a tough time wrapping my head around why the cops wouldn't just use a boat or helicopter, if necessary. That's why I didn't immediately consider it was the river stopping them. 14:36, 2 May 2018 (UTC)
I'd edit it myself, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm right. Thought I'd bring up the possibility so others could decide. -- 16:33, 27 April 2018 (UTC)
I fixed it. Grabadora304 (talk) -- Grabadora304 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I also read it as the river physically keeping the police out of the region so I added it back (before even reading these comments), but only as a second possibility, leaving the jurisdiction as the primary. Note that the river actually IS a physical barrier, there are no roads across the river there. -boB (talk) 21:07, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

This isn’t the only place in the US, or even in Nebraska, where this has happened. The town of Carter Lake, Iowa is only accessible by car by driving through Omaha. 17:08, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

The story of the similar situation on the Walloon (Belgian)-Dutch border, and the headless corpse. There used to be a situation like this on the border between Visé, Wallonia, Belgium; and Eijsden-Margraten in the Netherlands. The border used to follow the path of the river Maas/Meuse at the time of the Treaty of London of 1839. Between 1970 en 1979, the river was straightened, and until 2018, the border no longer followed the path of the river. That led to situations similar to the one in this comic on both sides of the river. Especially the Belgian bit at the Dutch side of the river became popular for drug dealings and illicit sexual escapades. At one time, a group of Antwerpians with moustaches proclaimed the area the independent Republic of Snorravia. In 2012, a headless corpse was discovered there. (I have heard that it was a suicide, though details are scarce.) That lead eventually to a land swap agreed in 2016–2017, effective January 1st, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/belgium-netherlands-land-swap-agreement-river-meuse-borders-a7445751.htmlAdhemar (talk) 21:32, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

The Martian allusion - The joke about high seas, piracy, and maritime laws jumped out at me as echoing a joke made in The Martain, which we know is xkcd-approved. Does anyone else think that it's an intentional allusion? PvOberstein (talk) 23:45, 27 April 2018 (UTC)
How exactly can you commit suicide by beheading? -- Hkmaly (talk) 04:46, 28 April 2018 (UTC)
He could have committed suicide by slitting his throat, then something happened that caused his head to fall off. But who knows? Herobrine (talk) 07:30, 28 April 2018 (UTC)
Or by putting on the [Head of Vecna] Kazzie (talk) 05:48, 30 April 2018 (UTC)
A guillotine would be a handy device for a suicidal beheading. -boB (talk) 13:37, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

Wait, so, basically, two people buy plots of land with river flowing between them, after years the river changes course, and they go to court and hire experts to find why the river changed course and, depending on the outcome, one person can win a chunk of land the other person had paid for? And this is common in 21st century law systems? That's quite depressing. Jaalenja (talk) 09:44, 28 April 2018 (UTC)

...Except these aren't the property lines of people buying land, these are the borders of subsections of a country. If two people had bought land at this spot, one would now be on the other side (but would still live in Nebraska), the other just wouldn't have waterfront property any more (but would still have property in Missouri). NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:38, 1 May 2018 (UTC)
I was not talking about the comic itself, but about this part of the explanation
In cases of pure accretion, it is possible for a parcel of land to be entirely eroded away on one side of a river, and have material be added to the opposite side of the river. In such cases, one property owner could lose all their land.
In the real world, however, river systems undergo both accretion and avulsion multiple times over a period of time. This makes the determination of property lines along riverine boundaries one of the most complicated aspects of boundary surveying.
I am by no means expert, maybe it's just poorly worded explanation, but it certainly gave me the impression that something as arbitrary as the cause of a river changing course can affect whether or not someone gets to keep their land, which is by itself as absurd as the very fact they can lose land due to river changing course. Jaalenja (talk) 08:16, 3 May 2018 (UTC)
Jaalenja, you are correct in your reading of my text. A person can lose land due to a river or stream changing location, but since this is due to accretion/reliction, it happens very slowly, over decades. Year by year, a property on the outside of a bend of a river will be eroded by natural forces. Over decades of erosion it's possible to lose acres of land. Given enough time, it's conceivable that an entire property could be eroded, but that's pretty rare. Conversely, a property on the inner side of a bend can gain silt, then sand, then rocks, and eventually vegetation. The time scales that these occurrences happen are usually over generations, which is why most people don't worry about it.
Quick changes are the avulsive river movements, and in those cases, the property boundary doesn't change, because it was a sudden occurrence and the property didn't get destroyed in the process. It may seem like an odd system, but it has been held to be the most equitable way to deal with such natural forces by the English common law system and later on, the American legal system.Surveyorap (talk) 01:45, 23 May 2018 (UTC)

Congrats Randy, your title text made me claw my eyes out. Thankfully, I know kung-touch-typing-fu. 11:29, 28 April 2018 (UTC)

I removed the incomplete because I can't imagine how this explanation could be made any more complete than it is. In fact, this is one of most complete explains I've seen. Great job everybody! Gbisaga (talk) 18:15, 28 April 2018 (UTC)

I read the title text as a joke on 'pier'acy and 'marina'time law, as a freshwater-based set of puns rather than a pizza set. Phineas81707 (talk) 05:03, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

Can't believe there was no mention of Bir Tawil, the only habitable area on earth that isn't claimed by a country. It's basically exactly the scenario megan supposes to be happening in the comic (minus the river) - one country claims one border and the other country claims a different border so they both claim the same area, but the way the borders are drawn, Bir Tawil is claimed by neither country. Edited to add a mention. 04:42, 7 April 2021 (UTC)