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In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when Arthur searches The Guide for the article on Earth, the following exchange takes place:

The screen flashed and swirled and resolved in to a page of print. Arthur stared at it.
"It doesn't have an entry!" he burst out.
Ford looked over his shoulder.
"Yes it does," he said, "down there, see at the bottom of the screen, just under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6."
Arthur followed Ford's finger, and saw where it was pointing. For a moment it still didn't register, then his mind nearly blew up.
"What? Harmless? Is that all it's got to say? Harmless! One word!"

I had always assumed by "under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6" it had meant that "Harmless" was an opinion of the Earth written by Eccentrica Gallumbits (as in under, definition 5: beneath the heading or within the category of). However, the Hitchhiker Wiki states:

In chapter 7 of the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, because her entry in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is just above that of the Earth's.

However, I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation as 'Earth' comes before 'Eccentrica' alphabetically, so why would it appear second? Additionally, this line is from chapter 6, not 7, so it could just be flat out wrong.

The audiobook version read by Stephen Fry makes this more confusing, as that version has Earth "just above Eccentrica Gallumbits", which would fix my alphabetical issue, but it could also be a mistake, as the other audio book read by Douglas Adams himself also says "under".

Is there any canon source which can confirm which interpretation is correct?

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    Clearly the Babel Fish needs to learn its ABCs. – neilfein Sep 11 '14 at 5:03
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    The Guide "has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate" so why would you expect its entries to be in the right English order? – mu is too short Sep 11 '14 at 5:14
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    There is no way to interpret that passage other than that both Eccentrica and Earth are headwords in the Hitchhiker's Guide, misalphabetized, and with the former having a longer entry than the latter. – Martha Sep 11 '14 at 6:34
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    Maybe it's sorted Z-A so it starts closer to Zaphod? – CyanAngel Sep 11 '14 at 14:11
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    It's clearly Ford's browser history. – Josh Sep 11 '14 at 15:20
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Is there any canon source....

No. Stop looking. Adams himself has said that the series is a collection of jokes often thought up at that moment. Adams' publisher constantly complained about him missing deadlines, to the point where one phone call went: "What page are you working on now? Right, finish that page, a courier will pick it (the manuscript) up in an hour" explaining why one book ends so abruptly.

Big-budget TV and movies have teams of editors and designers who ensure continuity - in a movie someone would design the HHGG page and note to the script editors about the word order. Adams wrote the radio series and books in his house, and it is highly unlikely that he proofread the entire opus for correct and consistent prepositions when the first draft was already far, far behind schedule.

Sometimes it's just best to accept things (especially comical fiction) at face value rather than deeply analyzing everything.

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    Also for the fact that there's like 6 different versions of the book and they all contradict each other. – Mooing Duck Sep 11 '14 at 21:32
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    "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." – Stan Rogers Sep 12 '14 at 3:04
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    I like that you're sitting at +42 for this answer. =D – Crontab Mar 2 '16 at 14:04
  • Adams famously wrote the last scenes for series two in a closet near the recording studio, on many sheets of paper with honest to goodness carbon paper - paper so thin that it spawned the tale that the scripts were written toilet paper. – VBartilucci Jan 12 '17 at 19:41
  • Sorry for having to down-vote, you deserved better; but I realised 1 vote was separating you from being on 42 votes! The magic number... – Ed999 Apr 30 '18 at 15:26
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Why do you assume that the Hitchhiker's Guide is alphabetized? Digital encyclopaedia Wikipedia, for example, isn't really alphabetized (although a selection of articles could be). Given that Adams does not write what selection of articles were currently being enumerated at the time, it seems reasonable enough to take at his (or Ford's) word the fact that those particular entries happened to be on the roster at that moment.

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    No, Ford specifically says "fast wind through the index to V" when first looking up Vogons, clearly implying it's alphabetical. – Daniel Roseman Sep 11 '14 at 7:36
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    The index may be alphabetical, but that doesn't mean the articles are. Because after you find the reference in the index, you tap out the code, and the article displays. There's nothing stating those codes are in any sort of order. – Roger Sep 11 '14 at 13:22
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    Even if it's alphabetical it doesn't necessarily mean top to bottom on the screen. In any case I'd always assumed 'under' here implied an article of less importance and the Guide had some sort of ranking articles in importance in it's display. – TheMathemagician Sep 11 '14 at 18:04
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Like the other answers say, this was a joke not meant to be taken literally.

Specifically? It's a pun, one that might not translate well to other languages and not be very obvious given the setting (although that it's in reference to the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6 ought to be a good clue):

"Under" another person is a reference to sex.


For example, from a scene in Crusade, the spinoff of Babylon 5, where the characters' reactions make it much more obvious:

Elizabeth Lochley: Who was your old hero?

Gideon: Truthfully? John Sheridan.

Elizabeth Lochley: John Sheridan? No kidding.

Gideon: Were you ever under him?

[Lochley chokes on her drink.]

Because it was so easy to miss, someone probably tried to correct it, which is why that one version says "above".


Incorrect correction, by the way, is known for a fact to happen. For example, that's exactly what happened to the answer to Lewis Carroll's famous riddle, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?", that many people seem to think he never answered:

Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!

(An editor/proofreader "corrected" the backwards raven to "never"!)

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    Are you suggesting that the use of "under" implies that the planet Earth had sex with Eccentrica Gallumbits? – Robert Sep 12 '14 at 0:38
  • @Robert As said in paul's answer, it's "a collection of jokes"; a pun such as this is a type of joke. I seriously doubt such a thing actually happened in-universe. (But if you insist, I think it's more likely there's a drawing or picture of Gallumbits in the Guide that's not completely in-bounds of her entry, and while the "under" may not be sexual it was, as a joke, said in a way to be ambiguous) – Izkata Sep 12 '14 at 1:06
  • A raven is like a writing desk because Poe wrote on both. – VBartilucci Jan 12 '17 at 19:38
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You are assuming too much. The Babel Fish translates spoken languages but Douglas Adams deliberately doesn't mention anything about translation of Writing.

There are other instances of writing being mentioned that shouldn't be explained away without spoiling the joke: Menus in Milliways and the light on the bridge of the Hagunengnon Battle Cruiser for example.

The fact that Arthur can read all of these implies the use of English but don't take this too seriously - just take the joke as it comes.

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Since the guide is obviously not an English creation, perhaps it has more phonetic spellings. While what you read on the page is Eccentric and Earth, the guide might have something like Eksentrika and Erth.

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