Always label your axes

Posted to Miscellaneous  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

From Fluffware, here’s a fine reminder to always label your axes. See, it’s funny because usually when we talk about labeling axes, we’re talking about axes on plots for context, but here axes is used as the plural of axe, so there are labels on several axes. It’s a play on words. More specifically, it works because axes on a plot and axes the wood-cutting tool are homographs. They’re two words with the same spelling but are pronounced differently. So the joke works with the written word, but it would not work if I were to tell it to you in person. Just to be clear, you should always label both types of axes. Tool and plot, that is. I mean, let’s say you asked someone who only knew about axes (the plot kind) to fetch a certain type of axe (the tool) from your woodshed. If you didn’t label your axes (the tools), that person wouldn’t have a clue. That’d be embarrassing for both parties. And don’t even get me started with the spray.


  • Woah! Way too much explanation for a simple cartoon! ;)

    • Stay tuned for my new book on labeling your double axe. See also woodcutters central for more on appropriate flanel wear and Paul Bunyon references.

  • Yeah, this author is apparently the only person in the universe who felt it was necessary to explain such an obvious play on words. Reading it was painful indeed.

  • The explanation made the chart even funnier.

    I believe Nathan is utilizing irony in the lengthy explanation. (The explanation is the opposite of the simple admonition: label your axes (plot and tool).) He is also using sarcasm… I imagine him saying this with a deadpan tone. Irony + sarcasm = joke.

  • It may be amusing, it may be ironic and Nathan may be sarcastic. The cartoon makes an excellent point.

    The single most common reason for data visualisations to be indecipherable (& many of them are) is poor labelling. The labels are either obscured, or non-existent, or reliant on esoteric abbrevations.
    For doctors, the rule is first do no harm. For graphics it is, finally ensure your label is coherent.

  • Just love the cartoon! very creative :)


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