Scrambled pairings

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "The Romeo and Butt-Head film actually got two thumbs up from Siskel and Oates."

A less satisfactory alternative method would yield Romiette and Julio, or Abelise and Heloard, or Antopatra and Cleony.


  1. Ellen K. said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 10:09 am

    Romiette and Julio is the title of a book for teens. Yes, a retelling of the Romeo and Juliette story. By Sharon Draper.

  2. William said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 10:24 am

    I'd pay good money to see Sherlock Holmes and Silent Bob. (Assuming Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes. Ooh, controversial.)

  3. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 10:34 am

    In the Swedish translation of the play, "Juliette" is translated as "Julia" (so the name of the play in Swedish is "Romeo och Julia"). Some time in the 1990's, I heard a radio comedy show do a sketch called "Romeo and Raul Julia". I don't even remember what the sketch was about, but I can't help but start giggling every time I think of that name.

  4. Dick Margulis said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 10:39 am

    Is there some deep pattern that I'm missing here, or are the pairings random?

  5. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    @Dick Margulis: I think the joke is just that "Dr. Jekyll and Ashley Olsen" sounds funny.

  6. Dick Margulis said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 11:12 am

    They all sound funny. Props for the humor. But often there's some mathematical or linguistic structure underlying an xkcd installment, and I just wondered whether I missed it in this case.

  7. Lazar said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

    "Timon and Garfunkel" is too good to be random.

  8. stephen said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

    A site called gives a lot of background information and describes the patterns.

    I wanna see most of these movies!

  9. Penny H said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 1:10 pm

    @Dick Margulis The Explain xkcd article
    explains the pairings in terms of "cycles". May or may not be a satisfying pattern….

  10. Dick Margulis said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

    Thanks. That works for me.

  11. Ralph Hickok said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

    In Yip Harburg's lyric, "Something Sort of Grandish," from "Finian's Rainbow," Og (the Leprechaun) and Sharon sing a duet. At one point, she sings "Romeo and" and he jumps in with "Guinevere."

  12. DCBob said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 1:52 pm

    I remember a book of aphorisms like this, where the pages were all cut right through the middle horizontally, so that one could read the top of one page with the bottom of any other. My favorite pairing was "Spare the rod and spoil the broth."

  13. Guy said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

    Just in case it's not immediately obvious, if each half of each pairing is used exactly once, then we have a permutation on the pairings, and all permutations (on finite sets) can be decomposed into cycles.

  14. Rubrick said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

    …Which therefore relates this comic to the amazing 100 Prisoners problem. Because Math.

  15. Roger Lustig said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

    Slightly different, but nice: the singing duo of Garfunkel and Oates.

  16. David Morris said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 7:10 pm

    I had always assumed that Timon of Athens was /TEA-mn/ and not /TIE-mn/. /TEA-mn/ and Garfunkel doesn't immediately work for me. I have never seen The Lion King, so had to look up that reference and certainly don't know how it is pronounced in the film. From what I've found after a short glance at Wikipedia, Greek iota is /i/ or /i:/ in classical pronunciation, and /i/ in modern. Not that Disney cartoon characters have to pronounce their names as per classical Greek. Not even the ones in Hercules.
    There's also Garfunkel, Messina, Oates and Lisa.

  17. Guy said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 8:06 pm


    Unfortunately for the prisoners, there are 24 pairs and a cycle of length 15 (greater than 12), so the cycle-following strategy would fail in this case.

  18. Guy said,

    February 26, 2016 @ 8:09 pm

    Of course, we have no reason to assume that the pairs were scrambled randomly. At a bare minimum we can be reasonably certain that permutations including 1-cycles were excluded, and the selection method was probably biased to larger cycles in other ways, as well. So the conditions of the 100 prisoner problem's set-up aren't actually met.

  19. John Walden said,

    February 27, 2016 @ 2:38 am

    Strunk and Boo-Boo

  20. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    February 27, 2016 @ 11:23 am

    Timon himself, speaking Greek, would certainly have sounded 'i' as 'ee', but once classical names enter regular English usage they are often pronounced in a standard English way. This would certainly apply in connection with Shakespeare; we say Julius Seezer, not Yulius Kyesar. ('Simon' itself is an ancient Greek name – though also in some degree a Hebrew one – and we don't say 'Seemon' for that reason.)

  21. Rebecca said,

    February 27, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

    Now, just tack "and Zombies" onto all of them, and we've got something.

  22. Xmun said,

    February 28, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

    Juliet, please, not Juliette. And pronounce "Juliet" with the stress on the first syllable and make the vowels of the second syllable a jod and a schwa.

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