This is the way the world ends.

So, years and years ago, our group of friends discovered Cards Against Humanity, a simple game, similar to Apples to Apples, but with horrendous, inappropriate, gross, and scandalous subject matter. It’s really a lot of fun.

cards against humanityWhat always baffled us a little was the black card, the subject card, which read, “This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but with a ________.” We figured it was a song lyric for the longest time. In fact we sometimes sung the answers when we read them out loud.

Just today I found a quote on the fantastic Profound Programmer blog:

A woman tells her programmer husband to go to the store for some milk and while he’s there, get some eggs. He takes egg carton after egg carton, until there are none left. He reaches for empty space. The ground splits beneath his feet. The universe trembles and collapses.

This is how the world ends. Not with a bang but with a Null Pointer Exception.

Which inspired me to go a-hunting for what it really meant.

Turns out it’s a poem, written by T. S. Eliot, called “The Hollow Men,” which is broadly about post-World War I subject matter, and contains the final stanza:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

So. There you have it. Often quoted, never credited. Sorry, Eliot.

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