How to Deal with a Disinterested Audience

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Reader Comments (38)

World's oldest tarp eh? Did you get it from the worlds oldest tarp salesman?

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

JAZZ HANDS SIGHTING! Exciting, but anticlimactic, too.

Actually, I'm not all that interested anyway.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

Disinterested means "impartial". Uninterested is the word you are looking for.

Note from Scott ... and the dictionary:

dis·in·ter·est·ed Adjective/disˈintəˌrestid/
1. Not influenced by considerations of personal advantage.
2. Having or feeling no interest in something.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarren


August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterL33

Aha! Scott schools the pedant! Ahh, Schadenfreude! Mostly because I'm a pedant also.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKozz


I was excited to see you have a page-a-day calendar. Too bad the shipping to Canada is so high.

Any chance of more of your comics on iPad/iPod? I bought the first two long ago.

Thanks - Greg

Note from Scott: The calendar will be available more reasonably in Canada soon. Sorry for the delay.
Have you checked out my iPhone app? There are the two that GoComics made, which are collections of comics and the one I had input on, which updates with new comics. I also should point out, the site is accessible by the iPad, so all the comics are available that way.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg E

Oooo, Dictionaried. Well played, Scott.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

It says "having or feeling no interest in something" right in your post...

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShiri

Which dictionary is that Scott? And what does it say regarding 'uninterested'?

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNed

Darnit, L33, you beat me to it!

But yeah, anticlimax for the lulz.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Rob

Is that Gandhi's gun under the world's oldest tarp!?

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlexR

Sorry, Scott, Darren is right about "disinterested". Persistent misuse may have persuaded some dictionaries to recognise a minor secondary meaning of "uninterested", but it really isn't what the word means. "Uninterested" is correct here.

And I should know -- in my spare time, I am Officer Taylor of the Self-Appointed Grammar Police!

Note from Scott: You're probably right that from a pure "using the correct word" point of view, "uninterested" would have been a better choice ("apathetic" would have been even better). That said, I stand by my choice to use "disinterested" instead.

This may or may not make sense. When writing humor, how the sentence sounds is important, even if it will not be said out loud. You want the sentence to flow a certain way. Say both of these sentences out loud:

How to deal with an uninterested audience.
How to deal with a disinterested audience.

If you're like me, you had to literally slow down to get through "an uninterested." It's awkward. "an-un-in" vs. "a-dis-in". I chose "disinterested" instead. When faced with two words either of which will work, but one damages the joke (even slightly) I'll take the non damaging word, even if I'm having to resort to a secondary meaning.

Now, as to your point about some dictionaries, persistent misuse, and secondary meaning (note the Oxford comma), here's what Merriam-Webster says about "disinterested":

"1 a : not having the mind or feelings engaged : not interested <telling them in a disinterested voice — Tom Wicker> <disinterested in women — J. A. Brussel>
b : no longer interested <husband and wife become disinterested in each other — T. I. Rubin>

2 : free from selfish motive or interest : unbiased <disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilization — G. M. Trevelyan>
— dis·in·ter·est·ed·ly adverb"

Furthermore, a word is nothing but a sound (and corresponding set of squiggly lines) that is used to signify an idea. If any two people agree that a specific sound stands for a specific idea, that's a word. If the majority of people understand a "word" to mean something, you can point at some squiggles in your leather bound copy of the OED all day and it won't change their mind. They'll just write you off and stop listening to you.

I don't enjoy being wrong. I try to be as correct as possible whenever I can. It embarrasses me when an obvious typo, misspelling or wrong form of the word "there" makes in into my comic. I will be terribly embarrassed when someone inevitably points out an error in this post. I'm genuinely grateful to anybody who politely points out an error, especially if it is caught early. I am grateful to both you and Darren for trying to help me make my comic better, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one.

I'm not disinterested in your point, but I am uninterested in changing the title of this comic. :)

... and yes, I realize that by my earlier definition ":)" qualifies as a word.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike Taylor

And not to be confused with a trap

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavin

While not technically a rerun...

Mostly I'm disappointed because I was hoping today would be, "How to receive a pre-surgery pep-talk from your doctor" or "How to maintain your dignity in a hospital gown".

Note from Scott: You write over 400 of these and try not to occasionally revisit an idea. Also, I do have one more tonsillectomy comic scheduled to post on Sept, 4th.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHari

RE: "the oxford comma" -- YES!

So, there is one more person who knows the right way to punctuate a list! I thought I was the only one.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermstrange

Scott, you are a brilliant and funny man. Don't lower yourself to defeding your art to the bitter and lonely critics that lurk amongst your many rabid fans! ALl that time could have been spent creating a mate for Rocket Hat, (I'll be the first to volunteer...a mute man with superpowers and phallic symbols on his head? Where do I sign up!)

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaribethann

hey would that canvas tarpoleon be made of real cannabiss canvas?

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Yeamans

"I will be terribly embarrassed when someone inevitably points out an error in this post. I'm genuinely grateful to anybody who politely points out an error, ..."

As politely as possible, then:

It's Merriam-Webster.

Love the strip.

Note from Scott: Thanks! (grumble-grumble)

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEdward

I checked the Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language for "disinterested" and found:

1. Uninterested; indifferent; free from self-interest; having no personal interest or private advantage in a question or affair. It is important that a judge should be perfectly disinterested.

2. Not influenced or dictated by private advantage; as a disinterested decision. [This word is more generally used than uninterested.]

So it seems to me that persistent use of the secondary meaning has overtaken the original meaning rather that persistent misuse creating a secondary meaning.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

The "Oxford comma" is referred to as a "serial" comma, right there on page 2 of my Strunk and White. It's a great little book, and much easier to consult for grammatical issues than most other references. I highly recommend it for everyone's bookshelf. I keep mine next to my copy of "The Portable Curmudgeon."

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrroten

In the first panel, I'm pretty sure that should be "disimpressed".

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGawain

By any definition I am both disinterested and uninterested in the nick picking complaints of some of the BI readers around here. What does interest me is that I think that I just figured out how the incompetent Emperor of the Moon keeps capturing Rocket Hat. It appears that one of his henchmen has an alter ego that works with Scott. If only someone could pass on the message and warn him.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Comments are getting really quick approval and response today. Did you get the day off from work?

Note from Scott: It depends on what you call "work" ... and what I might or might not be "working" on.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHari

Seriously, folks? Usually the comment thread is as entertaining as the comic. Today has stooped to a new low on the petty scale.

Scott, you rock. Keep it up as always!

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

@ John
Wait, you're saying that Scott's co-worker is going to cause more problems than early Rick? And that Rocket Hat needs a warning?

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

...and I was taught that it's called the Harvard comma... like anybody cares...

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSondra

@ previous John (no relation): I think you'll find the word is 'nit-picking'.

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

@ imposter John (no relation, thank God): I did look it up and the repository of all that is absolutely correct without any error, Wikipedia, says it is "nitpicking" (one word). So you are wrong too, and I don't care what Margarine-Wombats dictionary says. You owe it to yourself to look it up, if just for the picture.

Scott - you rock!

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Regarding the huge proper-word-usage debacle: Words change meaning all the time. For example, one of the hardest parts about reading Shakespeare is not regarding words that are no longer in modern usage, it's words that have the same orthography as modern words but meant something different 500 years ago. Prescriptivists will try to convince you that "OMG THE LANGUAGE IS GOING TO HELL BECAUSE EVERYONE IS USING IT WRONGLY." This is not a new issue; people have been complaining about this ALL the time, and yet English still hasn't become incomprehensible or unintelligible yet (seriously, even like 300 years ago, Swift was complaining about the degeneration of the English language, and LO AND BEHOLD English is still a functional language despite his ranting and raving). As long as you can convey effectively your ideas from one individual to another using that language, then it is still a functional and perfectly correct language, even if it's not the Queen's English. Prescriptivism is really only good for formal or academic writing, but in terms of casual writing or during dialogue (even if it's dialogue in a formal setting), there really isn't a such thing as "being wrong" unless it hinders the ability of the listeners/readers to understand what's being conveyed.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChare

In our media-driven culture if we don't have a word then we cannot express the idea. I completely agree with your analysis regarding the use of language. I love your work and wouldn't seek to hamper you in any way.

Nevertheless, I mourn the loss of disinterested as a meaning and, increasingly, as a concept.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNed

if you want prescriptive, speak french....


August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterirrogical

Scott you have a promising career as a one-panel cartoonist too. I was thankful I wasn't drinking anything when I looked at your "Curse of the masking tape mummy", cause it would have been up my nose.

Well worth the effort!

As to the raging debate over language, I used to be pciky about that stuff too, but as I got older I morphed into caring more about people than about correctness. Having said that, my belief is that, as long as reading material flows and is not jarring, that is the most important thing. So I agree with you Scott, how it flows trumps the ever-evolving technical definitions of words. Check out song lyrics if you're wondering how this plays out in other media....

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSolak

Looks to me like Chare has a Linguistics degree as opposed to an English degree.

I think it's funny how everyone wants to be like their 8th grade English teacher and rip apart other people's grammar. As if it really matters in a setting like this.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian S.

Not to be overly pedantic (but to actually be overly pedantic), judgment only has one 'e' in it.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ

Scott, FYI, there´s a copy of 2012 calendar on the way to Brazil!

I'm looking forward to have it on my desk at work, especially because I feel like I'm the only Brazilian who read your comic....

(by the way, I´ll never forgive you for pointing out the Pizza with Mayo awkward combination... not common actually, but as disgusting as it sounds)

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmorim

Next up on Basic Instructions:

"How to deflect an argument about the relative merits of prescriptive and descriptive approaches to lexicography"

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah909

>The calendar will be available more reasonably in Canada soon. Sorry for the delay.

That's good news. Thanks.

>Have you checked out my iPhone app? There are the two that GoComics made, which are collections of comics
> and the one I had input on, which updates with new comics.

I have the first two like I mentioned, and just downloaded the Lite one. I like the first two because you make some money off of them and they work all the time, whether or not I have WiFi. By the way, the Lite one just crashes without any message if you have your iPod in Airplane mode. Maybe it should tell you what the problem is (no internet connection).

>I also should point out, the site is accessible by the iPad, so all the comics are available that way.

Like I said I like having your comics available even when I don't have internet access.

Thanks for listening (and the very funny comics).


Note from Scott: I'm sorry you're having that problem. I'll bring it up to my developer.

August 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg E

What is wrong with you grammar police? Is it your inability to create any valuable or interesting content yourself, that you must post incessantly about inane and unimportant things. Is getting someone to kow-tow to your perceived knowledge your idea of fulfillment?
Language is in a constant evolution.
People like Scott create language and language use. You cling to outmoded ancient dictionary terms. There is a reason we don't wear codpieces and prance about saying thou and thee anymore.
Go do something else with your time.
You idiots


Me and most everyone else
PS I hope my lack of punctuation gives you heartburn

August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarnz
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