771: Period Speech

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Period Speech
The same people who spend their weekends at the Blogger Reenactment Festivals will whine about the anachronisms in historical movies, but no one else will care.
Title text: The same people who spend their weekends at the Blogger Reenactment Festivals will whine about the anachronisms in historical movies, but no one else will care.


The actors on this stage are using language and technology from wildly different time periods:

  • "Forsooth" is an interjection from Elizabethan times (1558–1603).
  • "Grok" is a word from the 1961 Robert Heinlein novel Stranger in a Strange Land.
  • "Jive" is African American slang from the 1940s to the 70s.
  • "Me Hearties" is popular 'pirate speak', which purports to come from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1726) but was actually popularized by the 1950 film Treasure Island, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 novel of the same title. Actor Robert Newton played the pirate Long John Silver with an exaggerated "West Country" accent (his native dialect) and it became associated with all pirates.
  • "Ten-Four" is police code for "Yes" and was popular during the 1970s CB radio craze.

Put together, the exchange roughly translates to "Do you truly understand what I'm saying, my friends?"/"Yes, we understand!".) The characters also combine archaic weapons like a spear and a sword with a presumably modern handgun and a laptop, adding to the growing heap of anachronisms.

Randall's contention is that hundreds of years from now, people will make similar errors that we do today when depicting historical items and language. Modern movies, fiction, and other forms of media that depict history often confuse terms, items, and equipment that were in one place and time period and place them in another, but few people notice because to them, all of it fits under the very broad category of "old, historical things" - only those with an interest in history really notice or seem to care. Thus following this trend, in the future, things like laptop computers and "grok my jive" will seem just as historical and "old-timey" as a spear or the saying "Forsooth!", except to those who participate in such things like "Blogger Reenactment Festivals", as mentioned in the title text.

For instance, take a suit of full plate armor. To most people, plate armor is a "Medieval thing". So thus, when depicting King Arthur, a figure from 500 to 800 AD (if he even existed at all), one would (and has) put him in a suit of full plate because he is "medieval" and that is the stereotypical equipment of a Medieval figure. In actual fact, plate armor only came about after 1350, many centuries after King Arthur would have lived, and it coexisted alongside firearms for a very long time. King Arthur would have worn chainmail, but all of this would be lost on an average person watching a movie about King Arthur, to whom chainmail and full plate are interchangeable under the label of "historical armor" in their minds. It is not much of a jump from a span of 500 to 800 years of equipment being considered interchangeable to 1500 years of equipment and language being interchangeable. A similar confusion of "interchangeably old things" is seen in the title text to 2396: Wonder Woman 1984.

The title text likely refers to 239: Blagofaire, which features the said "Blogger Reenactment Festivals".


[A sword-wielding Cueball on a stage addresses three others; one has a spear, another a handgun and a knife, and the third a laptop.]
Cueball: Forsooth, do you grok my jive, me hearties?
Actors: Ten-four!
[The caption below.]
A few centuries from now, all the English of the past 400 years will sound equally old-timey and interchangeable.

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Although "grok" might be a slang term used among programmers, its roots are somewhat older.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grok , "Grok /ˈɡrɒk/ is a word coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land,[...]" 11:55, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

I don't want to live in a world where people need to determine who coined Grok by checking a reference. It's time for one of us to uninstall...life.— Kazvorpal (talk) 15:42, 22 October 2019 (UTC)

Also, "Jive" shouldn't be taken to mean "bullshit" but "what I'm saying" or "How I'm speaking." 23:57, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Blogger Reenactment Faires? That's a pretty hilarious typo (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This comic comes to mind particularly painfully with respect to the Joseph Ducreux image macros. ~~~~ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Rather too late to add, but I think that a plated 'King' Arthur is not good example of anachronism. One can easily make an argument that it's not a possible historical character that is represented, but actually the one from the Matière de Bretaigne with its many retellings all through the Mediæval and Early Modern periods. Most movies are re-retellings of those.Richardelguru (talk) 10:58, 5 April 2018 (UTC)howlandbolton.com

Here's an idea: How about comparing it to modern views and movies about the crusades? 20:20, 26 November 2019 (UTC)

Another really late comment: I saw something in a rather silly comic which combines this idea with some time travelers doing a poor job trying to blend in: http://dresdencodak.com/2007/05/22/for-lack-of-a-better-term/ -- 23:49, 10 August 2020 (UTC)

I don't think anyone has taken notice of the props the actors saying "Ten-Four" are using. There is a spear, a dagger, a handgun, and a computer, which were all invented in quite different times. It is quite unlikely to see a spear and a computer held in hand in the same room CreatorOfBob (talk) 01:19, 11 May 2023 (UTC)

The comic's subtext specifically says that anachronisms will abound in the future. Like, say, far-future people thinking that handguns and spears are from the same epoch. Nitpicking (talk) 01:31, 11 May 2023 (UTC)
I remember trying to get a good reference on the sword-shape, back when this comic released. It seems reminiscent of certain improbable manga-style swords (unscabbardable, with a somewhat inverse cross-sectional profile, or bulkier scabbard if there is one), though maybe ultimately based upon a sabre of some specific time and territory I couldn't(/still can't) narrow down.
Meanwhile the spear is 'of an era/location' (or several), itself, perhaps more ceremonial in more sophisticated contexts, or else for hunting (but not of anything dangerous, like boars) rather than for actual war. The knife seems actally contemporaneous with the handgun (modern 'Rambo'/survival-style, not a dirk/stiletto/etc; and the gun not being a six-shooter, but a rather modern variation of pistol), though it does imply that the weilder of both is likely waving one or other in their 'off-hand' (but then 'Hollywood combat' rules apply, bringing and simultaneously using both gun and knife to a gun/knife-fight - at least one combatant, and probably both, is going to be pulling off hyperspeed dodge-and-parries disrupting the other party's aim/slash as both blades and bullets ultimately fail to do much more than 'scratch' them.
And the laptop/notebook... Yes, you still have that folding profile, but 'convertible tablet' styles, with prop-up sections, might be the type Randall would draw (for intentional contrast) in a current deliberate attempt to narrowly anachronise. (Or not... I mean it could have been a flip-phone or even a huge-handset 'mobile' phone of the late '80s.)
...No doubt there was some thought about how to combine such incongruousness, but of course we don't really know what options were thought about and rejected. 04:50, 11 May 2023 (UTC)