The Washington Post

Everyone on the Internet does Venn diagrams wrong


The creator of the Venn diagram would be 180 today, as you surely know if you’ve been anywhere near in the past 12 hours. But rather than celebrate with a cute interactive doodle, we thought we’d mark John Venn’s birthday with a quick PSA about the actual meaning of his creation.

A Venn diagram is a representation of the relationships between sets. It depicts an actual overlap between two distinct groups of things — NOT what you get when you add two things together. So this Venn diagram by “Late Night With Seth Meyers” doesn’t work. This Venn of Beer, by the folks at Pop Chart Lab, makes zero sense. Every chart the “Fault in Our Stars” marketing team put on Tumblr is utterly nonsensical.

In fact, just about every viral Venn you’ve ever seen is, in all likelihood, a total misrepresentation of the actual diagram. Behold these gems:

Your Dad is, presumably, not a type of “beer” or “bathroom.”

I suspect this is a joke about cats + GIFs = Internet, but that isn’t how Venn diagrams work.

That’s not the same Tito.

Neither of those things is a distinct set.

Likewise, this is just adding two things.

… and with this one, I can’t even.

So, in summation:

John Venn is rolling over in his grave.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (
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