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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "After some account issues, we've added 6 new people from the beach house rental website support forum."

A lot of scholarship works this way — in science and engineering as well as in the humanities. The weekend beach house is more of a metaphor than a reality, but the conference workshops…


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 8:32 am

    Lower-case "t", lower-case "l", full stop ? My Google search yielded nothing even vaguely possible.

  2. AntC said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 8:57 am

    @PT are you referring to the “+1.”? That’s plus one full-stop. Urban dictionary will tell you. (Also it might help to zoom your screen.)

  3. languagehat said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 8:58 am

    That's "+1" you're looking at.

  4. david said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 9:00 am

    +1. plus one. It means “I also agree.”

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 10:06 am

    Well, I concede that it is almost certainly intended to read "+1" (meaning "hear, hear"), but because the cross-bar (horizontal) of the "+" is higher than the mid-point, it looked (and still looks) like a lower-case "t" to me. And the "1", lacking the European-style ornamentation that I always use (or even a serif), definitely looks (to me) far more like a lower-case "l". But I accept that both of those are incorrect interpretations, so thank all those who have taken the trouble to set me right.

    And if you look at https://xkcd.com/730/, you will see that the cartoonist's digit-"1"s ("120 ohm or to taste") are indistinguishable from his upper-case "I"s ("HIRE SOMEONE / SINGLE FILE").

  6. Robert said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 11:48 am

    I agree it looks like a lowercase L, but it realistically wouldn't. The whole rest of the comic is in all caps.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 11:51 am

    I might in some contexts interpret "tl" as the first half of the well-known internetism "tl; dr." Although I'm not sure whether that would make particularly good sense in the context of this xkcd panel.

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 11:59 am

    FWIW I am certainly familiar with ambiguity between 1 and l in certain fonts. Indeed, I am old enough to have seen and used manual typewriters that did not distinguish between the two but used the same key for both, just as the same machines did not distinguish between O and 0. But I agree with Philip Taylor that that's a weird-looking +. Maybe it's otherwise for others, but when I write a + by hand, I do the vertical bit first and the horizontal bit second, meaning that even if the horizontal bit is a bit sloppy in terms of its two halves being of exactly symmetric length, it's gonna bisect the vertical bit pretty close to the middle rather than noticeably above-middle like in a "Latin cross" or (in some fonts) t.

  9. Seth said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 1:27 pm

    Interesting, I would never have read it other than "+1", since that's basically a programmer idiom now.
    This reminds me of mystery stories which turn on a plot gimmick where a foreign person describes some common American logo in a confusing way based on how they see the visual imagery.

  10. Haamu said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 1:42 pm

    In terms of what can create a community, it isn't just bugs; it's features (or the lack thereof). Consider, for instance, the absence (or removal) of a comment preview function on certain blogs.

  11. David Marjanović said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 1:50 pm

    the "1", lacking the European-style ornamentation that I always use

    Americans tend not to know this shape even exists, and when they see it, they're prone to reading it as "7".

    (That's why a European handwritten 7 has a wavy top and a crossbar.)

    Russians consistently use "|" as the shape of handwritten "1", too.

    "+1" comes from Google+, AFAIK. It was supposed to challenge Facebook's natural monopoly and failed.

  12. Karen Lofstrom said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 3:30 pm

    I print everything, but I write lowercase L as if it were cursive: an elongated loop. I write e as an epsilon. I put bars on my sevens and zeros. I eschew ambiguity.

  13. Coby said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 4:49 pm

    There is an old Jewish tradition of writing the plus sign like an upside-down T, to avoid drawing a cross.

  14. Philip Anderson said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 5:10 pm

    There was a time when Aberystwyth Arts Centre programmes would print Thursday as “Lau” instead of “Iau”, which I put down to someone misreading an uppercase ‘I’ as as a lowercase ‘L’.

  15. AntC said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 6:14 pm

    That's why a European handwritten 7 has a wavy top and a crossbar.

    That seemed so eminently sensible i adopted it forthwith immediately I saw it.

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 8:59 pm

    @AntC: it has some disambiguation benefits even in the Anglophone world, but it's really the fact that certain "Continental" types draw their 1's all weird (via overluxuriant growth of the serif-thingie) that makes it necessary for disambiguation in the "Continental" context.

    @Coby, I didn't know that, but am pleased to be better-informed. But what do you make of the fact that the xkcd "t" resembles a right-side-up cross? (From certain Christian perspectives, of course, an upside-down cross = Satanism, so I wouldn't necessarily encourage religious minorities in Christian-majority societies to associate themselves with it!)

    It is, when you think about it, rather courteous of the East Slavic strains of Christianity to insist on the three-bar cross (polemically called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Orthodox_cross by wikipedia), since it is pretty hard to draw one accidentally when you meant to be doing something else and not to be making some sort of religious statement.

  17. Norman Smith said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 9:33 pm

    In my early days as a programmer (1970s), during which I was required to write program code by printing it on a sheet of paper for punching by the keypunch operators, I was trained to put a cross-bar on 7s and Zs and an oblique through the 0 to distinguish them from other characters. I still do that unthinkingly when I am filling out forms. I also put a hook on my 1s and dotted the letter "I" (eye, not ell) in upper-case, but that seems to have died out in my handwriting.

  18. Chas Belov said,

    January 17, 2024 @ 10:33 pm

    For what it's worth, tl is also the ISO language code for Tagalog.

  19. Lasius said,

    January 18, 2024 @ 3:28 am

    Americans tend not to know this shape even exists, and when they see it, they're prone to reading it as "7".

    Had this happen to me in Japan of all places. I wrote the date of 21st of the month as the first day of validity on my public transport ticket, but the ticket inspector thought it was 27.

  20. cameron said,

    January 18, 2024 @ 10:11 am

    the "+1" idiom long predates Google, let alone Google+

    it was well established on Usenet in the 90s

  21. Terry K. said,

    January 18, 2024 @ 12:17 pm

    To my eyes, the horizontal + in the plus one isn't noticeably above the middle. It certainly looks more like a plus than it does a Christian cross. I do notice the left side is longer than the right side.

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    January 18, 2024 @ 1:05 pm

    "the horizontal + in the plus one isn't noticeably above the middle" — I think that that is a fair comment, Terry. In fact, the entire glyph is 18px high (after removing the anti-aliasing artifacts) and the mid-point of the cross-bar is 7.5px from the top, so while it is offset vertically, it is not majorly so. For comparison, taking the Unicode Christian cross from compart.com, and re-sizing it to 18px in height, the mid-point of the cross-bar is 6px from the top.

  23. D.O. said,

    January 19, 2024 @ 1:28 pm

    Russians consistently use "|" as the shape of handwritten "1", too.

    Not all Russians (hashtag). Actually it is (used to be?) pretty rare. I've had a professor over there who's 1s were indistinguishable form his 2s.

  24. Thomas Shaw said,

    January 21, 2024 @ 11:06 am

    This is related to an earlier xkcd, about the long-term future of this one: https://xkcd.com/1305/

  25. Andreas Johansson said,

    January 26, 2024 @ 3:50 am


    I had a Russian prof at Uni whose Z's and 2's were more-or-less indistinguishable. Might have been a minor problem but for the fact that he was teaching complex analysis.

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