A Lesson In Venn Diagrams... And Who Gets Paid To Touch Your Junk

from the deconstructing-a-joke dept

Recently on Reddit, a link to a "Venn diagram" about "people paid to touch your junk" got pretty popular (even though it was apparently a repeat post of one that didn't get nearly as popular. You can see it here:
The image then got plenty of attention with links from a variety of much bigger sites that I'm not going to mention, and it seemed to get a good chuckle out of folks who have been following the whole TSA/junk touching situation.

Well, that is unless you actually understand what a Venn diagram is supposed to show. Those people were somewhat horrified.

Rich Skrenta points us to an absolutely hilarious deconstruction of the problems with this graphic and how it's not actually an accurate Venn diagram at all written by Andrew Plotkin. As he notes, the overlapping parts of circles on a Venn diagram are supposed to include both sets. In other words, if those three original sets formed a Venn diagram like the one above, the real categorization would be as following:
You have to imagine that the set of "airport-guarding hookers with medical degrees," is somewhat small. Or non-existent in all likelihood. So if we were to draw the chart above to scale, there likely would be almost no overlap between any of the three circles.

As Plotkin then points out, what the original creator of the diagram meant for the diagram to show, is that all three of those professions are paid to touch your junk -- and thus a more accurate -- but not at all funny nor understandable, version of the Venn diagram would be the following:
I might quibble with that one a bit, seeing as not all TSA agents or doctors are necessarily paid to touch your junk (and I guess there could be a tiny subset of prostitutes who aren't either, but I can't imagine that's a very large number), but still, the overall point is there. Though, um, it's not funny. Or really all that understandable.

So, if you wanted to create a Venn diagram that actually makes the same point (sorta) and does it without being the mess above, what would you do? Well, Plotkin comes to the rescue again with the following:
Plotkin then goes on to do a few more diagrams and teach folks a bit about how Venn diagrams are supposed to work -- which is totally worth checking out as well.

They say that if you have to deconstruct a joke, you've probably ruined it, but if that joke contains a Venn diagram, and that Venn diagram is wrong, but still becomes popular with people claiming it's an accurate Venn diagram, suddenly that deconstruction can be a lot funnier than the original. Kudos to Plotkin for breaking it down...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 11:48am

    article

    I like this article. good laugh :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    Actually....

    "suddenly that deconstruction can be a lot funnier than the original."

    The funniest part of this for me was a bunch of math whizzes taking affront to an innacurate venn diagram rather than just letting the innaccurate joke go by.

    I don't know why that's funny to me, but it is....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    scarr (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    The third diagram is incorrect too

    "Medical security guards" and "Strumpet MDs" are switched.

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 11:54am

    i thought you were a male until i read this. only a female could take something small and funny and blow it out of proportion. I realize wrestling is fake but jesus christ do you have to bring it up.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:04pm

    Re:

    "I realize wrestling is fake"

    ....WHAT!!!???!

     

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  6.  
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    scarr (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    Re: The third diagram is incorrect too

    Reading the original post, Plotkin corrected this. He also made a Firefly reference, so he's ok in my book.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Seriously, I like the first venn diagram better. Forget this necessity to be "correct" and following an exact methodology, just keep it simple and understandable.

     

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  8.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Next he is going to tell us Santa, Satan , and the easter bunny are not real ...

     

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  9.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Santa's real. I've met him...

     

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  10.  
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    Ben (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    Pink circle for Blue Gloves?

    In the last Venn diagram, shouldn't the "People who wear blue latex gloves" be the blue circle? I mean really, Plotkin, get it right!

     

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  11.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What about the easter bunny?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Santa's real. I've met him..."

    Damn it, Lobo, for the LAST TIME: just because you sit on a guy's lap and he smiles at you does NOT make him Santa....

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Actually....

    "a bunch of math whizzes taking affront to an innacurate venn diagram rather than just letting the innaccurate joke go by."

    I have that problem when I watch movies that make unreasonable leaps, ruins them for me.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:32pm

    Its a banner day. Techdirt had a post I laughed at and enjoyed. I must be dreaming.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:39pm

    Re:

    "Its a banner day. Techdirt had a post I laughed at and enjoyed. I must be dreaming."

    Ha ha. Pink Swaztika. That's awesome....

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    I feel like the (your nightmare) should be "Germophobic Whores" or something.

     

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  17.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No no no!

    I met Santa during the summer while I was working at Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

     

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  18.  
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    Angry Puppy (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Did he touch your junk?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Coises (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    A much simpler way to correct the original diagram

    Prostitutes -> Characteristics of Prostitutes
    Doctors -> Characteristics of Doctors
    TSA Agents -> Characteristics of TSA Agents

     

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  20.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Did he touch your junk?"

    My mother tells me Santa is Catholic....so yes.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: The third diagram is incorrect too

    Reading the original post, Plotkin corrected this. He also made a Firefly reference, so he's ok in my book.


    Aha. Ok. I replaced it with the corrected image too...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Coises (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re: A much simpler way to correct the original diagram

    And, since we’re being picky, also rewrite the three two-set intersections as:

    Make more per hour touching your junk than you make all day
    Require very little training to touch your junk
    Wear blue latex gloves while touching your junk

     

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  23.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No. I was working one of the carnival games--one of the impossible to win ones.

    He won the largest possible prize in 5 minutes flat and in less than a dozen steps from the game I was working had delighted a young lady by giving her the prize he'd won.

    He was wearing slacks and a white button-down shirt; but there was no mistaking the guy.

     

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  24.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm confused. When did he begin diddling you?

     

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  25.  
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    Mike C. (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    See... the problem is, you just don't understand physics. Santa exists and there's proof:

    http://survivingtheworld.net/Lesson821.html

     

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  26.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    There's quite a lot of "incorrect" Venn Diagrams like the original out there - to the point that it has basically become an accepted format for a joke.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    That is a really long way to go for something that has extremely limits lulz. It wasn't that good on the original site, and didn't get any better here.

     

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  28.  
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    Christopher Weigel (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    So... why not just stop calling it a Venn Diagram? It's a fully functional graphic aside from that point.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Dear Mike C.
    Santa doesn't exist.

    Wikileaks

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonychemist, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    Chemistry quibble to add to the fray

    Now that the math has been cleaned up, how about the chemistry?
    Blue gloves would most likely be nitrile rubber, not latex...

     

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  31.  
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    Michael (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Wrong again

    The original is an accurate Venn diagram. The labels within overlapping areas are simple not exhaustive.

     

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  32.  
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    Greg, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 3:12pm

    Those blue gloves are not latex, they are nitrile.

     

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  33.  
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    McNix (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Expansion:

    A fourth subset? (Or a TSA sub-subset);

    Don't some airports employ dogs to 'Touch Your Junk' should necessity arise?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Actually....

    "The funniest part of this for me was a bunch of math whizzes taking affront to an innacurate venn diagram rather than just letting the innaccurate joke go by."

    I'm guessing they had more fun deconstructing the diagram than you did looking at the original..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Re:

    You just can't make this stuff up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 7:36pm

    Re: Wrong again

    I'm not sure you're right about that

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Dec 30th, 2010 @ 6:34am

    Whoops

    Except that the original diagram was essentially correct.

    Venn Diagrams cover sets of things, but a thing can be a "property of a thing" as well.

    In other words, each circle doesn't have to refer to people.

    For example, the three circles can each have elements that represent, respectively, "properties of prostitutes", "properties of doctors", and "properties of TSA agents".

    And then we'd label these using short-hand: "prostitutes", "doctors", and "tsa agents" rather than using the more accurate longer text.

    This is why most people will see the original diagram and understand what is being described, because in fact it is a correct association but with the figure labeled a bit tersely.

    Also, the universe set (that name that appears on the lower right corner of the surrounding box) would more accurately be labeled "properties of people".

    Note, by "properties" I mean "characteristics" or "features" and not "items owned". See definition 4 here http://www.thefreedictionary.com/property

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Dec 30th, 2010 @ 6:39am

    Re:

    Yup, as explained in a different comment, the original is essentially correct.

    To see what I mean, replace "Doctors" with "Characteristics of Doctors" and repeat the replacement pattern for the other sets as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Dec 30th, 2010 @ 6:52am

    Re: Re: Wrong again

    See the other comments about replacing the simplified set name "X" with "Characteristics of X"

    Then, Michael's comment will make sense since there is more than simply 1 item in each of the overlapping regions. Eg, another characteristic of all 3 professions is that they "are practiced by people who almost always have two arms and two legs", yet that characteristic is not represented.

    Of course, we can fix that as well by replacing "X" with "Representative Characteristics of X".

    [I think a similar disease to what led that other group to want to correct the first diagram explains why I keep posting this "correction of correction" over and over on this thread.]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Dec 30th, 2010 @ 9:17pm

    Re:

    > only a female could take something small and funny and blow
    > it out of proportion

    You should really refrain from commenting on your personal life in a public forum.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    CarlS, Dec 31st, 2010 @ 11:12am

    What do Hookers and TSA Workers have in common? Well, TSA workers have apparently taken money to touch other people's sex organs ...... Isn't that the definition of prostitution?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Bradley Slavik, Jan 3rd, 2011 @ 5:59pm

    Clarification on Jose X

    The author is wrong. The diagram can be fixed simply by renaming the big circles like categories from the $25,000 pyramid game show. For instance, the circle named "Doctors" should say "things a doctor gets paid to do", the circle marked prostitutes could be labeled "things a prostitute does", and the circle marked TSA agents should be labeled "things a TSA agent get paid to do". Then everything else is fine. But who is that pedantic? It was pretty clear to most readers that the joke was about common activities, not looking for people who work multiple jobs. I almost feel like declaring this an example of "Political Correct" mathematical snobbery. My Venn diagrams are superior to yours, so nyah! Grow up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Ken Jansen, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:23pm

    Very Funny

    Love it. Thank you. I had not seen this, but came across a mention of it in another blog. Hilarious. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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