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...


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

    article

    I like this article. good laugh :)

     

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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....

     

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      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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      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..

       

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      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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    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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      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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        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...

         

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    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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    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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      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.

       

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

      Re: Wrong again

      I'm not sure you're right about that

       

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        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.]

         

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

    Those blue gloves are not latex, they are nitrile.

     

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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?

     

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    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?

     

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    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.

     

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    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. :)

     

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