37: Hyphen

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I do this constantly
Title text: I do this constantly


This is the first "My Hobby" comic in xkcd. In these comics, Randall suggests an obscure activity or pastime he enjoys that he declares as his "hobby." In the premiere "My Hobby" comic, Randall's hobby is mentally re-interpreting what people mean when they say "[adjective]-ass [noun]" by moving the hyphen to after the word "ass" instead of before.

The semi-scatological suffix "-ass" is used as an intensifier in informal US English speech, usually attached to an adjective directly modifying a noun, as in "big-ass car" or "funny-ass comedian." In this comic, Cueball is exploring the increased humor aspect of changing "-ass" from a suffix modifying the adjective, to "ass-", a prefix modifying the noun, yielding a "big ass-car" or a "funny ass-comedian," the former presumably being a large car for carrying buttocks, the latter being a humorous comedian specializing in jokes about lower backs. The prefix "ass-" may also have a negative connotation, indicating that something is disliked. An "ass-car" may be a very terrible car, for example.

Another explanation would be that, since this suffix/prefix refers to an element of human anatomy, the car would be in the shape of said anatomical piece.

Outside of North America, most English speakers use "arse" to mean the buttocks, so to them, it may sound as if Randall's talking about donkeys.


[Cueball (on the left) is talking to his Cueball-like friend (on the right) about a car (left to both of them) that resembles a Volkswagen Beetle. Above the drawing is a statement:]
My hobby: whenever anyone calls something an [adjective]-ass [noun], I mentally move the hyphen one word to the right.
Cueball: Man, that's a sweet ass-car.


  • This was the 25th comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
  • Original title: "Friday's Drawing - Hyphen"
    • After a series of comics with no real title, only the week day as a heading, he began again, with this one, to add titles, but only after stating the week day.
    • He kept this practice with including the title after the weekday, until he began using the xkcd site - see this trivia.
      • Except for the next Barrel comic, with no added title.
      • And the last Barrel comic Barrel - Part 5 with the original title but not the week day.
  • Original Randall quote: "Tune in Monday for the conclusion to the story of the boy and his barrel."
    • The next comic on Monday really wasn't the conclusion of the barrel story as mentioned above.
    • This is the first, and probably last time, that Randall has used a quote/title text to advertise the next comic.
  • This comic was posted on xkcd when the web site opened on Sunday the 1st of January 2006.
    • It was posted along with all 41 comics posted before that on LiveJournal as well as a few others.
    • The latter explaining why the numbers of these 41 LiveJournal comics ranges from 1-44.
  • One of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper.
  • This is one of the two comics featured in Blue Eyes: The Hardest Logic Puzzle in the World, the other being 82: Frame.
  • On an interesting note, there really is such a thing as an Ass-Car!
  • There is a bot on reddit that does this to people's comments.

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the later Randall would have used regular expression... ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

There is a community portal discussion of what to call Cueball and what to do in case with more than one Cueball. I have added this comic to the new Category:Multiple Cueballs. Since Cueball has the hobby, I have listed the other as Cueball-like. --Kynde (talk) 14:32, 25 April 2015 (UTC)

Should this be in Category:Substitutions? 23:10, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

No this is not a substitution but a change of what is being said in relation to the placement of the same word. So nothing is substituted, but the hyphen is moved. Not the same. --Kynde (talk) 20:45, 19 July 2016 (UTC)

"Outside of North America, most English speakers use "arse" to mean the buttocks, so to them, it may sound as if Randall's talking about donkeys." is a reasonably amusing joke, but I don't think it really works as part of the explanation as it stands. Can anybody rework it so that it fits better in the explanation flow? 16:52, 9 January 2018 (UTC)

If "ass-car" is pronounced "asscar" then it sounds kind of like "Asgard". Just saying 16:37, 29 January 2023 (UTC)