Never go out without a speech balloon

That’s today’s advice from Zippy:


Zippy is a long-time fan of speech balloons, their history, their uses, their attractions. In fact, speech balloons are a fairly frequent explicit theme in cartoons — cartoons about cartooning.

And then there’s the theme of things you shouldn’t go out without — from   a certain amount of cash or your identity papers, to makeup or condoms, to American Express products or (if you’re hitchhiking in space) a towel.

Speech balloons. They float our thoughts into the air, balloons in form, balloons in function. Our theme song is “99 Sprachballons”, sung to the tune of “99 Luftballons”:

(#2) From Wikipedia:

“99 Luftballons” (German: Neunundneunzig Luftballons, “99 balloons”) is a song by the German band Nena from their 1983 self-titled album. An English-language version titled “99 Red Balloons”, with lyrics by Kevin McAlea, was also released on the album 99 Luftballons in 1984 after widespread success of the original in Europe and Japan. The English version is not a direct translation of the German original and contains lyrics with a somewhat different meaning.

As for German speech balloons, the cover of Sprachballons (Gedichte 1) by Dieter Zeller (2013, Amazon Digital Services), poems full of sound play:


Zippy on Speech Balloons. There’s now a Page on this blog inventorying postings on speech/word balloons/bubbles. Two Zippy items from this richness:

— from my 12/30/10 posting “Speech balloons”, a capsule intro to speech balloons in cartoons


— from my 1/21/17 posting “Word balloons”, more on speech balloons and their history (with a panel on current politics cropped)


Don’t go out without it. You should take your wallet and keys, and probably some cash, and, these days, depending on who you and where you are, your identity papers. Zippy thinks you should also take some speech balloons with you (you never know).

Shakira feels very strongly that she won’t go out without her makeup — it’s a thing for the highly gendered, apparently —  and some other women do too:


Meanwhile, in the time of HIV/AIDS, the advice to young men to always be prepared with condoms when going out became much more urgent, and was extended to women as well. From a 1987 don’t go out without your rubbers campaign:

(#7) What’s the best way to get the word out about condoms without saying “condoms”? By using slang. While an open reference to safe sex and its methods might have offended more conservative viewers, this poster from the State Health Department of Vermont used an informal term to reach those savvy enough to be in on the message. (link)

Meanwhile, American Express doesn’t want you to go out without their products:

(#8) An American Express commercial from the 1980s, “Don’t Leave Home Without It”, touting the AmEx credit card; the original “Don’t Leave Home Without Them” ads from the mid-1970s were for traveller’s cheques

Finally, there are occasions when you really shouldn’t go out without a towel. At least, that’s Ford Prefect’s advice to Arthur Dent:

(#9) Arthur Dent (played by Martin Freeman) in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — in his bathrobe, but with his towel at the ready for interstellar travel

“You got a towel with you?” said Ford [Prefect] suddenly to Arthur.

… “A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

From Wikipedia on the movie:


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005 British-American science fiction comedy film directed by Garth Jennings, based upon previous works in the media franchise of the same name, created by Douglas Adams. It stars Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and the voices of Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman.

One Response to “Never go out without a speech balloon”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    The comment about rubbers is a joke that goes back to the beginning of the 20th Century if not earlier. Gershon Legman recounts it in The Rationale of the Dirty Joke. Every year a young Protestant clergyman comes to his bishop and asks for a raise, saying that his family has had a blessed event and he needs a raise due to this act of God. After 5 years or so of this the bishop tells the clergyman “Well, rain is also an act of God. However, good sense tells us to wear rubbers.”

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