The terrible truth about bubble wrap

A Joe Dator cartoon in the June 19th New Yorker:


which will lead us to today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:


Along the way we’ll visit the naugas and their hides.

Daddy, where does bubble wrap come from?

Honey, a sheet of bubble wrap is the pelt of the bubble sheep. Sort of like naugas and their hides.

The conceit of the Dator is that bubble wrap is in fact the pelts of those endearing creatures, bubble sheep — pelts barbarically stripped from them on factory farms.

Two things here: the actual source of bubble wrap; and the compound nouns bubble wrap and bubble sheep.

Bubble wrap. From Wikipedia:


Bubble wrap is a pliable transparent plastic material used for packing fragile items. Regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres (bubbles) provide cushioning for fragile items.

“Bubble wrap” is a generic trademark owned by Sealed Air Corporation. In 1957 two inventors named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were attempting to create a three-dimensional plastic wallpaper. Although the idea was a failure, they found that what they did make could be used as packing material. Sealed Air Corp. was co-founded by Alfred Fielding in 1960.

The term is used generically for similar products, such as bubble pack, bubble paper, air bubble packing, bubble wrapping or aeroplast; Sealed Air denotes its product as a brand of “cushioning material”.

… The bubbles can be as small as 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter, to as large as 26 millimeters (1 inch) or more, to provide added levels of shock absorption during transit. The most common bubble size is 1 centimeter.

… Because bubble wrap makes a satisfying popping sound when compressed and ruptured, it is often used as a source of amusement. Acknowledging this alternative use, some websites provide a virtual bubble wrap program which displays a sheet of bubble wrap that users may pop by clicking on the bubbles, while the Mugen Puchipuchi is a compact electronic toy simulating bubble wrap popping.

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day is celebrated on the last Monday of January. The last Monday of January was designated as Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day after a radio station in Bloomington, Indiana received a shipment of microphones wrapped in bubble wrap, which, after being unwrapped and installed, inadvertently broadcast the sound of their wrappings being popped.

Digression on Mugen Puchipuchi. Billed as “the world’s first electronic bubble wrap”. From Wikipedia:


Mugen Puchipuchi is a Japanese bubble wrap keychain toy by Bandai (Asovision). Mugen means infinite in Japanese while puchipuchi means bubble wrap and also refers to the sound of the bubbles being popped. The toy is designed to mimic the sensation of popping bubble wrap for infinite number of times. It is made of a double layer structure of silicone rubber to create a similar feeling to the real bubble wrap. The square shaped toy has eight “bubbles” that would make a popping sound when pressed. It would also make a sound effect for every 100 pops, which includes “door chime”, “barking dog”, “fart”, and “sexy voice”. Bandai worked with the Puchipuchi bubble wrap company to create a design that is most realistic to the real bubble wrap. Bandai also created other Mugen keychain toys based on Mugen Puchipuchi, such as Puchi Moe, Mugen Edamame, and Mugen Periperi. The original Mugen Puchipuchi has also been marketed in North America as “Mugen Pop-Pop”.

Digression on Naugahyde. As bubble wrap comes from bubble sheep, so Naugahyde comes from naugas (though the manufacturer has tried to deny the sordid truth, in an elaborate campaign of fanciful disinformation).

From Wikipedia:

Naugahyde is an American brand of artificial leather (or “pleather” from plastic leather). Naugahyde is a composite of a knit fabric backing and expanded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating. It was developed by Byron A. Hunter, senior chemist at the United States Rubber Company, and is now manufactured and sold by Uniroyal Engineered Products, LLC, a publicly held company under Invisa, Inc. Invisa also owns Wardle Storeys in the UK.

Its name, first used as a trademark in 1936, comes from the Borough of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where it was first produced. It is now manufactured in Stoughton, Wisconsin.

… A marketing campaign of the 1960s and 1970s asserted humorously that Naugahyde was obtained from the skin of an animal called a “Nauga”. The claim became an urban myth. The campaign emphasized that, unlike other animals, which must typically be slaughtered to obtain their hides, Naugas can shed their skin without harm to themselves. The Nauga doll, a squat, horned monster with a wide toothy grin, became popular in the 1960s and is still sold today.


A clever attempt to conceal the terrible truth. From a 11/13/16 posting, in a discussion of faux-leather fetishwear: “Tell me, Eric, just how many innocent naugas had to be sacrificed to make you those sexy chaps, jockstrap, and big bulldog harness?”

Some people just have no concern for animals.

Compound nouns. Start with bubble wrap, subsective but with a non-standard semantic relationship between the two nouns.

Subsective, because bubble wrap is a wrap, in this sense (from NOAD2):

noun wrap: paper or soft material used for wrapping: plastic food wrap.

But the connection to bubbles is complex: something like ‘wrap made of bubble-like plastic material’.

Bubble sheep (as illustrated in #1) is also subsective: the fanciful bubble sheep are sheep. The relationship between sheep and bubbles in this case is very complex: something like ‘sheep that are the source of bubble wrap’.

There are other bubble sheep, in other senses of bubble sheep. For instance, sheep-simulacra made of bubble wrap:


And a sheep-simulacrum composed of pointillist bubbles, as in this poster by Andy Westface:


And, most inventively, a sheep that is the source of a cartoon bubble:


Which is what brings us to the cartoon in #2, in which (as in #8) cartoon bubbles are objects on their own, which can be attached to someone held in police custody as a way of making them talk (playing on an ambiguity in make s.o. talk).

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