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?

596 thoughts on “A List

  1. I find papers like this frequently, most often in the form of sticky notes that have fallen behind my desk. Noting the two columns plus the uneven spacing between words “parrot” and “lithographer” i suspect that this list was created over a period of time. When I find these it is most often a result of a late night playing a random internet flash game which I have found and the words are passwords to get to certain levels. I’m usually very tired and sometimes drunk by the time I finally quit playing and retire to my bed in the wee hours of the next morning resulting in only a faint recollection of my previous night’s adventures.

    As for the two “x”s, I again submit a valid explanation based on my own habits. You stated that the hand writing matched the one that you have been currently using implying that you switched at some point, as did I. Not to poke at your penmanship, your x is clearly intruding into the space reserved for you h in the word “foxhound” and while I often simply erase and rewrite letters which I decide do not appear consistant with my writing style, if it’s a scrap paper I will sometimes also write the letter in the margin a few time to decide what the best font would be.

    And yes, I have been diagnosed with OCD.

  2. parrot is an anagram for raptor, I think all the other words are throaways because we’ve obviously found the only relevant correlation, you mayt need to use the other things on the list to escape the slaughter to come.

  3. This kind of reminds me of the things I write when I first wake up. I started keeping a dream journal, but I generally only remember my dreams during the first ~5 mins after waking up. So I’ve taken to scribbling down reminders in a haze so I can write the whole thing when I’m feeling less lazy.

    The X’s are beyond me though. Unless it was a count or meant to be a reminder of something else… Weird.

  4. Johns, Parrot, Leg all say one thing to me: Long John Silver. John S.
    Foxhounds: a hunt.
    Bunting: a ship’s colors.
    Everything here has some interpretable relation to treasure island.

    My money’s on an encoded treasure map from the future.

  5. Maybe if you check the page numbers on your most frequented dictionary it has some sort of pattern. Or maybe they’re words that can’t be translated into spanish via Spanish to English dictionary (or some other language). Maybe if you look each of the words up, find the page number, then Google the word and click on the website of the same number of the page it will help jog your memory. Treasure map from the future does sound plausible though….

  6. looks like the ‘ing’ in resupplying was added later, after resupply was written.

  7. Has anyone pointed out that almost all the words are different lengths?

    The presence of “-s”, “re-” and “-ing” suggest that xkcd-man was trying to find words of different lengths to form some set.

    The real question is, what 4 and 10 letter words are missing? Which of “bunting” and “legends” doesn’t belong?

    Split into separate columns, it’s even a bit tidier:


    I would also comment that the “find dictionary words with certain property” seems very likely. No one would ever come up with “foxhounds”. It’s just an unnatural word.

    Then I went mad.

  8. haha, i remember when i was trying to figure this out. here’s a clue, THE CROSSES. it has something to do with the CHECK in resupplying. try harder, its important!

  9. Arkada?lar bu ve benzeri videolari youtube ye rakip haz?rlad???m?z sitemizden izleyebilir veya sitenize ekleyebilirsiniz. kendinizde video y├╝kleyebilirsiniz..


  10. Is there anything on the reverse? Like “Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels…”? (Or am I the only one geeky enough to have thought of that?)

  11. While all of these systems/patterns approaches are interesting, I find none really explains the meaning of the seemingly meaningless list. So I was left to pontificate upon the simplest answer possible, as most bewildering problems have fairly simple answers. (If all else fails, the solution to the problem is: “a miracle”) I have devised three answers, in the order they occurred to me.

    1) Very, very interesting wet dream, that you simply *had* to remember.

    2) Clues for a treasure map, “x” marks the spot, and the other “x” means you’ll either get kissed, or killed. Or both. So make sure she’s tested clean first.

    3) The apocalypse is here. But the four horses are really four foxhounds, and Jesus is a lithographer. I am the parrot.

  12. Y’know, I don’t know you very well, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is, in fact, a list of words you wrote down for the explicit purpose of seeing what people would come up with when given a selection of words that have absolutely no correlation.

  13. …On the other hand, just a few minutes after writing that, I feel an unrelenting guilt, and I must admit, the only reason I haven’t offered anything more inventive or enlightening is that I don’t feel like I care quite enough to figure it out. It could be just a list of words that you looked up to see if it had a specific meaning…it could be the remnants of a quick game of Hangman, or a game of Password that you made up yourself. The Xs either symbolize a miss, or getting a word. It’s really hard to tell.

    An interesting thing: Words that end with G are on the right side.

    Well, that’s about all I can give for it, really…

  14. Oh, this is like a total Troll. And I passed it on to have the same effect.

    Damn you, Munroe!!!

  15. Why would you do this to people!?

    btw- I love you.

    And maybe it’s a to- do list… maybe that would explain the “Johns”

  16. Definitely some sort of idea for an adventure…possibly a search for the holy grail?

    But in all seriousness, the bunting and lithographer suggests things necessary to make signs and decorations, suggesting a plan a large gathering. Johns could mean Port – A – Johns, and foxhounds simply means a Fox Hunt is the activity. So clearly you were gathering people for a fox hunt of legendary proportions on some evening, but you’d need to resupply the area with foxes and you were going to dress up as a pirate with a parrot on your shoulder for the hunt. THE HUNT!

  17. So, I don’t know about how you were a couple of years ago, but if it were me, I would guess that I was playing a prank on yourself.

  18. … I still think you’re just messin with us.

    Then again you could be testing the ability of the human mind to find meaning in something created without any intentional meaning.

    Thats totally something I would do :-)

  19. On the right side it’s a lis of words with 4, 3, 2 and 1 syllables that end with G (“resupplying” counting as 4 and 3, since we can toss the “re” and there’s a small mark after it, evidencing that).

    On the left side, seems harder to understand. It’s clear that all words can have their endings tossed and still have a meaning. Also, “evenings”, “foxhounds” and “legends” are quite simillar, having the “n-consonant-s” at the end and same number of syllables, but “legends” is at the end because you only remembered it after writing “leg”.

    The X’s at the end are just you practicing if it looks pretty if you don’t remove the pen from the paper while writing.

    Then again, I’m much better at math games =P


    Ham’s reasoning for this order was clear, but how he missed the sexual connotations escapes me…

  21. What does the X X in the bottom means?

    Was it a plan for murder? Were u gonna blog seriously?


  22. I’m guessing word association (read the words across from each other.)

    Thanks so much for using reCAPTCHA I feel like the 30 seconds of my life is validated unlike on other sites *cough* myspace, youtube *cough*


  23. I think this is things you wanted to ask about, most likely in one of the early monkey isle games, possible one of the kings quest or hero wuest games. you should check dos box and see what you played over the lasr two years.

  24. i think if you go to the pages where the words are in a certain dictionary, and if you take the page numbers (in the order on the sheet), it will spell out a location to go to left by FutureRandall.

  25. Two years ago you found a certain blog on the internet. The author had posted a scan of a random list of words he had found sitting on a piece of paper on his desk. In an attempt to solve the mystery you wrote them down… and forgot about it all.

  26. Does it make you giggle on the inside that you can post a list of seemingly useless words and have 536 responses simply from your will?

  27. Duh. Its obvious.

    Simply, your evenings are spent chasing FOXHOUND’s from Hideo Kojiima’s Metal Gear Solid Series. You discovered John Johnson (Two John’s in one name), had a parrot that knew the ancient art of Martial Art Lithography, only known by the ‘Legends’ of rock n roll. You needed to resupply Eddie Van Halen with Cocaine, as is your weekly job, (not sure what bunting means, *shrug*) but you broke your leg on an ax (alpha, x, you were being funny.)

    That or its a word game, i.e. Scrabble or Cranium

  28. I haven’t a clue what the list means, but whatever it leads to isn’t going to be as interesting as the fact that people are still guessing 4 months later ;)

    As a side note, google links 5 times to this discussion and related pages before it gets to word lists, so at least next time this piece of paper shows up somewhere the discoverer will have something more interesting to read than “a aardvark aardvarks abaci aback abacus abacuses abaft …”

  29. the unusual thing about this list is it’s complete lack of patterns.
    There appears to be at least one word to break any kind of reasoning.
    resupplying mputs a verb in a list of nouns. Johns brings a plural proper noun into play, lithographer is entirely to unusual to be a part of any kind of meaningful text especially when coupled with other words in the list, leg is too common and short to be a part of any sort of serious attempt at a list of unusual words.

    I’d say the list is a nerd snipe but the two crosses, the mark on resupplying and the hole in johns suggest that the list was not intended for public viewing.

    leg was not interrupted halfway through writing “legends” or there would be a mark of some kind to indicate it.

    I thought the parrot – raptor anagram was interesting.

  30. Sounds like a camping trip, or something related to the outdoors field. Bunting as you know is a boating thing, legends and lithography are part of map readings for geologic research… well, that’s my thoughts… who knows. Foxhounds are used in hunting… Or you were playing Scattergories one night and just happened to find a sheet from it.

  31. I’ve got it!
    a bizzare word association game!
    -are the usual time for hunting with-
    -are slang for prostitutes, who call their clients-
    -is part of the name of long john silver, famous for his-
    -is an anagram for raptor, which i am scared of, I would also be scared by a raptor-
    -records pictures, like lithographs of-
    -of zelda has many , so i have to keep-
    -is important in textiles, especially-
    -can be used to cover a-

  32. Have you ever done online traffic school? They throw words that dont belong into the middle of sentences, and at the end instead of quizzing you on content they quiz you on the misplaced words. =]

  33. Easy. You made a list of things to talk to people about or do. Right now I have a similar one which goes “Plant Clothes 4.10 (crossed out) Emily (crossed out) Work here Dream Ratio Dark Animal”.

  34. Well, parrot is an anagram for ‘raptor’, and lithographer is an anagram for ‘hit raptor leg’. Then you have ‘leg’ on your list.

    Clearly, you were fighting raptors at the time. Perhaps alongside Long John Silver and his parrot. Are legs a raptor’s weak spot?

    Ooh, wait. Clearly there are pirates and treasure involed, what with the Long John Silver and the parrot and the lithographer. Maybe you and the pirates were fighting raptors for treasure. That’s what Stranglethorn Veil in World of Warcraft is all about. There are raptors and pirates and treasure all over the place. Maybe you needed to resupply arrows or potions or something. Do you play WoW?

  35. For those of you suggesting that ‘leg’ was supposed to be legends but that it belonged in the other column rightfully:

    ?A supporting piece of evidence is the ‘g’ in leg– when you look at the caligraphy, you see that the tail was written more slowly than the one on legends– that would suggest that in finishing the g, he figured it out and switched.

    ?It is considered unlikely that he would keep a mistake in the other column, as it could induce further confusion. This is, however, unless this list was meaningless/ not very important/ he was planning on trashing or never seeing again.

    I believe that it is currently unsolvable under these circumstances, unless Randall posts more evidence.

    I thought I might be useful and tried to enter in some of the words in Google Sets, however no results were returned if I used 3 or more of the words from the list at the same time.

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