A List

I was cleaning my room when I found this list in a pile of papers:

It’s my handwriting from the last couple years, and it looks faintly familiar, but for the life of me I have no idea what it means or why I wrote it.

… can anyone help figure this one out?

597 thoughts on “A List

  1. evenings resupplying
    foxhounds bunting
    Johns leg

    1. (relisting them)

    2. (count how many times each letter is used– first column)
    4. (b is the key– divide the numbers in the first column below by 2)
    5. (The 0s and 1s still left should be converted into binary [rewritten in third column and below]

    a=2 1 1
    b=1 0.5
    c=0 0 0
    d=2 1 1
    e=7 3.5
    f=1 .5
    g=6 3
    h=4 2
    i=4 2
    j=1 .5
    k=0 0 0
    l=4 2
    m=0 0 0
    n=6 3
    o=5 2.5
    p=3 1.5
    q=0 0 0
    r=5 2.5
    s=5 2.5
    t=2 1 1
    u=2 1 1
    v=1 .5
    w=0 0 0
    x=1 .5
    y=1 .5
    z=0 0 0

    3. (Take Binary from the ones and zeros– then, without moving the digits around, find ‘b’ if you convert back to text)

    1 /01100010\ 110


    6. (Use the xx at the bottom of the paper)


    7. (ans.= XXS || Extra Extra Small)

  2. I think it might be a memory game. You make up an outrageous story with all the words and somehow you remember all of them. We did it in my AP U.S. history class. For example: On several evenings throughout September, several foxhounds were heard messing with John’s parrot, which annoyed many local lithographers. In retaliation, the lithographers made up several legends about pirates who were resupplying baseball players with bats made specifically for bunting. This somehow scared the foxhounds and they legged it out of there.

    The x marks at the bottom may have been how many times you got it wrong or right.

  3. “Or perhaps you’ve just been picking words out of recaptcha?”

    I dunno, lithographer? Isn’t that a tad long?

  4. Completely irrelevant and late comment here but I’d just like to say that when I saw this I immediately said “How did he get my note!” You see, I thought that I had written that! Our handwriting is spooky similar. Though if I did write it we’re in the same boat as to why.

  5. Well, this one’s easy –
    You wanted to get easy laughs and amuse us at the same time, so you scribbled on a piece of paper(notice the paper is not folded/crumpled etc.) and posted it, challenging us to find the answer.

    I do like it, though, as meaningless riddles are my cup of tea… But after an hour or so of meaningless manipulations of binary representations of the words in ASCII, i finally figured out that it spells out “THE END IS NIGH!!!”.

  6. You have obviously been reading “Naive. Super.” and you wanted to write a list.

    It’s a good list.

  7. Randall: care to share some of the rot13 words you’ve come up with? I toyed with the idea of searching for rot13 doubles but decided it was not an effective use of my time. Can I just bask in the glow of your research?

  8. It’s really too bad that inconsequentially isn’t spelled “inconsequintially”. I suppose I’ll need to add another “X” to the bottom of my personal list.

    But I think I get a point for: totalitarian

  9. Anglave I hate you so much.

    And I’m not even sure if you’re the same Anglave who posted above. I like to think you’re not a troll, but I think someone else would have got it by now if one person could.

  10. Were you playing Metal Gear Solid 3? Snake’s name was John, The End had a parrot, there was a map in the pause menu, you could attack supply stations, snake co-founded Foxhound, there was both day and night in the game…. which just leaves: “leg, bunting, and lithographer.” You’re on your own for those.

    Or I am just too obsessed with MGS 3.

  11. parrot=parrot



    Uh, that’s all I’ve got. I’m pretty stumped right now, but the “parrot-leg-hit” is very interesting.


    ….not ROT13

  12. Daedalus’ suggested solution of words in words (lithographer=parrot+leg+hit legends=leg+ends) seems the simplest while also in line with the type of dictionary foolery that Randall engages in (see xkcd post on April 30th, 2008 at 3:15 pm.) I think a lot of people here are thinking too hard and thus missing the mark.

  13. hmmm… are you familiar with the Lovecraft story “The Shadow out of Time”, and if so, have you noticed any lapses in memory? the Great Race of Yith may have written those words for some dark and eldrich purpose far beyond the reasoned imaginings of mankind.

  14. It sounds a little bit like treasure island to me… John (Long John Silver), Parrot (Duh), Legend, Leg (peg leg) but i have no idea. To me it sounds more like u were playing some crossword or just drunk and bored. By the way i love your comics… even though you are much superior to me in intelegence and i dont understand the square root of 1/100 of them ( for you, the math genius)

  15. Seems to me like a list of pros and cons of becoming a pirate.

    For example, resupplying the ship could be a problem, as well as the fact that to be a proper pirate you have to have a wooden leg… Which would mean you’d have to chop off your own leg. Ouch.
    However it might also be a general to-do list before becoming a pirate.

  16. My thoughts:

    Boggle. Someone commented on similar words within words, so Boggle would be a relatively apt explanation.

    However, there’s also that there are very few smaller words on it.

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  18. Ok, I have a solution that seems to fit pretty well, I attribute most of this to matt, who said something about this list earlier, and then I remembered my own geekout when I encountered this list.

    unless Randall himself actually verifies this, basically the only argument I have is my reasoning, so here it is.

    When my mom, who, incidentally, introduced me to xkcd, sent me to wordcount.org, it was immediately my goal to think of a word that I knew that wouldn’t be on the list. their algorithm seems like it wouldn’t be terribly effective after 10000 words, since the signal-to-noise ratio is so low with word frequency. As for why the list is written down, my bet is that Mr.Science was being more methodical than I and keeping a record of his trials.

    The obvious thing, is to pluralize words, find less tenses of common verbs or whatever, and try to break this algorithm that way. so evening becomes evenings, and it’s really more of a benchmark test anyway. next comes something obscure, once again pluralized, scores much higher (ranked 66358), then a proper noun again pluralized, which is surprisingly common (johns is 17608 most common word in all the manuscripts that wordcount has surveyed), parrot is a bit of a ridiculous try, it’s a common word, and it pirate themed, so naturally is going to be popular amongst the internet. Lithographer, whilst scoring very high, is not really in common usage, and therefore doesn’t count (you may as well enter zloty). legends is also a silly attempt, but it is an expected one because it stinks of arcaneness and therefore rarity, also Randall might have thought the algorithm was gathering data from a specific type of document that was very unlikely to contain the word legends. resupply scored surprisingly high (not resupplying, not yet), followed by bunting, which was lower than expected, and then randall realized that he could add an -ing to resupply (as in bunt) and drastically lower the hit-count, but not really decreasing the common-ness of the word. leg is the beginning of something arcane that begins with leg or perhaps an attempt at adding to the word legend.

    since resupplying fails to be in the list, and thus satisfies the condition, it earns a check mark. the x’s could be a methodical part of this process which I have missed, they could be mental scratchwork manifesting itself as stupid doodles, which I find more likely, or my entire theory could be complete bullshit. If so, I intend to spend no extra time on this problem, and look forward to the answer.

  19. actually, I’d like to amend my theory, I believe that all the s’s were added afterwards (corresponding to the difference in handwriting between middle s’s and end s’s), and the x’s correspond to both lithographers and resupplying failing.

    captcha have gotten human unreadable.

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  21. actually, I’d like to amend my theory, I believe that all the s’s were added afterwards (corresponding to the difference in handwriting between middle s’s and end s’s), and the x’s correspond to both lithographers and resupplying failing.

    captcha have gotten human unreadable.

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