I Don’t Get It

December 18, 2006 8:55 am Published by 3 Comments

Would I be embarrassing myself if I admitted I didn’t get the notorious xkcd make me a sandwich comic? (Now being made into a t-shirt, due to its popularity.) As I read it, there are a number of possible explanations for the punchline, but the ambiguity is (I think) what’s contributing to my lack-of-getting-it.

  1. The seated character (lets call her Alice) uses sudo to make the request as root. Bob follows the request, since, well, you always listen to root. So does this mean that Bob is an executable? In that case, his first response of “make it yourself” seems out of place; something simpler, like “no” would have been more accurate. I think that this is the most likely explanation, but the first line is what throws me off.
  2. The comic leaves off a “-u bob” argument from Alice’s sudo command. In this case, at the end, Bob thinks he’s making a sandwich for himself. Alice plans some sort of future sandwich-stealing action. Maybe she hopes chown will be as effective.
  3. Alice is telling Bob to use the sudo command to make her a sandwich. (In this case, “sudo” is an adverb that modifies “make”. Replace it with the word “quickly”, and you’ll get what I mean.) Bob realizes that with different permissions, he’ll be able to make any number of sandwiches and escape responsibility for purchasing more jelly. Bob’s wily, and Alice’s laziness backfires.

Like I said, it’s probably #1, but Bob’s first response is poorly composed. Part of the allure of xkcd is the off-the-cuff style, evident in the stick figures, but in this case, I think spending a few more minutes considering the dialogue would have been worth it.

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  • nomad says:

    I don’t think that “make it yourself” is any more cryptic than the average unix error message. If you chalk up the initial error message to bad programming, the first explanation fits (it also fits if you don’t overanalyze the comic)

  • nomad says:

    P.S. You put the ANAL in ANALysis

  • Bizarro says:

    I asked a friend who is a giant fan of xkcd, and he said the joke isn’t any deeper than it looks to us. In that case, I think the writing just needs to be a little better on this. I’m not sure how, but it has potential.

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