2487: Danger Mnemonic

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 08:11, 10 July 2021 by (talk) (Explanation: Changing to wikilinks (to lose the unnecessary padlock decoration), typo corrected, other tweaks and a callback. There could well be more to link onto)
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Danger Mnemonic
It's definitely not the time to try drinking beer before liquor.
Title text: It's definitely not the time to try drinking beer before liquor.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a DRUNKEN SAILOR'S POISON IVY SNAKE. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
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This is a mash-up of three different common sayings: "red touches yellow, dead fellow. Red touches black, happy Jack," "leaves of three, leave them be," and "red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight."

The adult refers to three different sayings that remind people how to recognize dangerous things or situations. If all are true at once, then things must be especially bad. The sayings are:

  • Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. This is a saying for how to recognize a venomous coral snake, which has red, black, and yellow stripes, with the red and yellow stripes adjacent. A nonvenomous king snake also has red, black, and yellow stripes, but the black stripes separate the red and yellow ones.
  • Leaves of three, leave them be is used to identify poison ivy from its many lookalikes, such as the Virginia creeper in 443: Know Your Vines.
  • Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. The mnemonic predicts bad/good weather conditions based on a particularly red sunrise/sunset. It is predictive at middle latitudes where the prevailing winds go from west to east. Regions of higher air pressure will cause a particularly red sky at sunrise/sunset, so a red sky in the evening indicates a high pressure system is coming in from the west with its calmer weather, while a red sky in the morning indicates a low pressure front coming in (usually with rain/rougher weather). In some countries (such as the United Kingdom), the saying mentions shepherds rather than sailors.

The title text refers to the myth of Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you're in the clear, or one of various other colloquial folk variations that clearly already inspired 2422: Vaccine Ordering. Unlike the first three mnemonics which are genuinely useful for avoiding danger, this one does not have any truth behind it - unless the order affects how much you drink.


[Blondie talking to two children: a younger looking Hairy and Science Girl]
Blondie: Now, remember:
Blondie: If red touches yellow amid leaves of three under a red sky at morning,
Blondie: you should probably just get out of there.

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1) Strangely, I find even the established motherWiki page for the Red Sky motto to be a little short of full explanation. It could do with a diagram to demonstrate how line-of-sight extends one's view beyond the horizon and above surface effects to reveal the nature of the oncoming atmosphere, either imminent (upwind) or historic (downwind, with the implication of an oscillation in the other direction). But, not only that, a sky clear enough to give a good direct red-sky in the Sun's rising/setting direction also will allow Earth-skimming sunlight to red-illuminate the presence of clouds in the opposite direction (with the greater guarantee of 'weather system opposites' east-to-west), enhancing the 'forecast' even further and before/after rising/setting of the Sun as well. Not something to add to the Explanation, but fun to realise. 08:50, 10 July 2021 (UTC)

2) Perhaps don't use a web link to wikipedia when you can use a much more elegant wikilink..? 08:50, 10 July 2021 (UTC)

3) The (probably as apocryphal?) rhyme here is "Beer before wine and you'll feel fine; wine before beer and you'll feel queer", so I leave it up to you to work out what this means for how to ultimately mix your Chateau-Whatever and your no-'e' whisky. ;) 08:50, 10 July 2021 (UTC)

So if you combine the two aphorisms, the best order is liquor->beer->wine? I don't drink, so I can't attest to the truth of any of these. Barmar (talk) 12:03, 10 July 2021 (UTC)
That's if it's not like Rock-Paper-Scissors.. :p 10:29, 11 July 2021 (UTC)

I don't think the title text is warning against getting drunk, just the particular order of drinks that the old saying warns against. She's already told the kids to "get out of there", you don't want to get sick and stop to vomit. Barmar (talk) 12:08, 10 July 2021 (UTC)

Do you reckon this is a reference to the current wildfires ... three x dangerous but the colours of red and yellow and a mention of a nature setting ... Boatster (talk) 02:00, 11 July 2021 (UTC)

In the UK I've never heard the first two of these mnemonics- we don't have poison ivy and our only venomous snake is the adder, which has zig-zag markings. And the weather warning is usually "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. -- 07:33, 12 July 2021 (UTC)

Watch A Perfect Storm to see why sailors should be very concerned with upcoming weather. Barmar (talk) 19:49, 12 July 2021 (UTC)
"the order in which you drink alcohol is unlikely to impact how sick you become"

Not directly, but it can easily affect how much you ultimately drink! The reasons you'll get "sicker" drinking beer before liquor are that, after consuming a few drinks (of either type), the alcohol will have numbed your mouth a bit, so that a strong drink no longer tastes as strong, and also that your judgement will have become impaired, making it easier to accidentally overindulge. Now, consider the fact that beer has a much lower concentration of alcohol than liquor has. Therefore, if you start off with beer, and then switch to liquor, you could very easily consume far too much alcohol, whereas if you start off with liquor, and then switch to beer, it becomes much more difficult (though, to be fair, certainly not impossible) to consume significant quantities rapidly, because you'll tend to get physically full after a few beers. Even if you don't have the presence of mind to consciously control your intake, your subconscious mind will stop you from consuming anything once your stomach is completely full.

Don't believe me? Try it — pour yourself a big glass of water and see how quickly you can drink it. Repeat until you feel "full". Then fill that big glass up one more time, and notice how long it takes you to finish it. You'll have a hard time taking more than a small sip at once; your body just won't let you do more. Dansiman (talk) 17:40, 13 July 2021 (UTC)