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Catching Some Z's
A Stock Visual Metaphor trope used widely in animated media. When a character sleeps, sometimes a lot of "Z's" are shown near the character, either in the form of a stream of z's coming from the character's mouth or head, or a group of "Zzz's" contained in a Speech Bubble. This trope used to be shown specifically for people who snore in their sleep. While the sound of snoring cannot be represented easily by letters or onomatopoeia (sometimes it's represented as a log being sawed inside a speech bubble), "Z" was chosen for some reason. It may originate from the musical quarter-rest symbol, which looks like a blackletter "z". The letter eventually became indicative of any sleeping person.

The trope is so obvious that people in media and real life use the term "Catching some Z's", or in Britain, Canada, or Australia, "Fetching some zeds" to indicate they're going to go to sleep. Amusingly, it makes no sense; the Z's usually flutter off into space, and nobody catches them.

See Snot Bubble for the anime version of this. Compare: Circling Birdies.

Examples

Anime & Manga

Comic Books
  • MAD's parody of Room 222 was titled Room 222zzzz... (with the z's gradually trailing off over a scene showing the class asleep).
  • In one Bash Street Kids strip, Teacher ends up falling asleep and the kids (whom he's spent the entire story bringing into class) complain he's not teaching them anything but the last letter of the alphabet.

Film
  • Badly Drawn Roy: Roy does this when he snores.
  • In non-English versions of Meet the Robinsons, where Lizzy originally held up a piece of paper reading "Boring!" in reponse to Lewis' show-and-tell, the paper instead reads "Zzzzz".

Literature

Newspaper Comics
  • Garfield is known to have Z's in a speech bubble. Unusually, it's usually only a single Z.
  • Aversion: In Blondie, Dagwood's snoring is written as "Skn-x-x-x!"
  • Peanuts used this frequently with Snoopy and Peppermint Patty.
  • The Katzenjammer Kids did it before Charles Schulz was even born.
  • In one strip with Goofy, he is working in a supermarket stacking up tin cans to pyramids all the day, and at night the Z's of his snoring form a pyramid as well.

Puppet Shows
  • A 1970s Sesame Street sketch had a sleeping Herry Monster. A trail of Z's was shown as he snored.

Live-Action TV
  • Played with in the Swedish children's learning show Fem Myror är Fler än Fyra Elefanter (Five ants are more than four elephants). As two of the characters learn about the letter Z, one of them (the Wise Guy) notes the letter being used when someone is sleeping in a Tarzan magazine, and the other explains that it's to denote a snoring sound. After this, the first character pronounces every Z he sees as a snore (as in Tarzan's name, for example).

Video Games
  • In Patapon, units can fall asleep due to Standard Status Effect with "Zzzzz" coming out of them when sleeping.
  • This is used in the Sims games. Oddly, whenever Simlish is written, it's in a strange Greek/Hebrew/Wingdings hybrid that doesn't seem to actually contain the letter Z.
    • Vampires in the Late Night expansion pack for Sims 3 have V's instead of Z's.
  • In Metal Gear Solid and its sequels, sleeping guards (i.e., knocked out with tranquilizers or already asleep when you come across them) have Z's floating around their heads. Beating them unconscious leaves stars.
  • Dozing non-player characters in The Lord of the Rings Online have the trail of Z's.
  • This is used in City of Heroes to indicate the "sleep" Standard Status Effect; it's also available for players to use as an "AFK" indication.
  • In Prehistorik Man, sleeping characters (Check Points, the hero if left alone) snore big red Z's that pop once above their heads.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the Sleep Standard Status Effect in the Final Fantasy series switched from Snot Bubble to Z's.
  • Super Mario World does this with Rip Van Fish in the aquatic levels.
  • Dream spell in Runescape results emitting letter Zs.
  • It happens in Earnest Evans when the main character falls asleep.
  • Sleeping dwarfs in Dwarf Fortress are shown with a blinking 'Z'. In Adventure Mode, you go to sleep (or wait around) by pressing 'Z' (case-sensitive).
  • Used in Persona 3 when cutscenes show someone (usually the Protagonist) asleep.
  • Sleeping Pokémon snore on their turn, while a few Zs float up from their head. Also, the move Snore has big spiky Zs in its animation in the third gen games. Also happens in the Mystery Dungeon series, including Gates to Infinity in one scene before the team saves Espeon, in which during Umbreon's explanation about the Entercards, everyone else falls asleep, resulting in this for everybody that fell asleep. In the same game, there is a trap with Zs on it. Stepping on it puts you to sleep.
    • Also, in some games, some features have this, such as the PokéWalker, for example, in which if the screen goes blank, in the journal, some Zs in a speech bubble will appear above the strolling Pokémon's head. In Pokémon Black and White and the sequels Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, the sleeping Pokémon (any of them) has this, alongside a dream cloud. Also happens in the Dream World. Either way, it's the selected Pokémon that is fast asleep with Zs appearing.
    • And Pokemon X and Y have this too; sometimes, when you launch up Pokémon Amie, you will find your one Pokémon fast asleep complete with little "Zzzs" coming from it. You have to wake it up to play Pokémon Amie when this happens.
  • In Toejam And Earl for the Genesis, if you remain idle for a certain amount of time, or open up a School Book present, your character will lie on his back and start snoring, complete with little "Zzzz.." coming from him.
  • Used in World of Warcraft to indicate sleeping mobs; moving too close will wake them up, but usually slowly. This behavior is exploited for several puzzles.
  • The infamous Bart's Nightmare gives you a health bar composed of Z's, indicating how deeply Bart is sleeping. (Waking up is Game Over.)
  • Used for the Hermit Gunsmith in Cave Story. In fact, he'll even say "Zzzz..." in Nicolas's translation of the game (that is, Wiiware version, Cave Story 3D, Cave Story+, etc.).

Webcomics

Web Animation

Western Animation
  • Looney Tunes have the Zzzz stream happening quite a bit. One short is even titled "From A to Z-Z-Z-Z".
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Homer Simpson by a Phonics Frog toy, and at one point he is sleeping with the toy, with it constantly saying "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z..."

Big Shadow, Little CreatureStock Visual MetaphorsCircling Birdies
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