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Expo Label
Two Examples of an Expo Label, Including This Caption

As You Know, one of the more obnoxious side-effects of creating a believable world in Speculative Fiction is Expospeak. Aha! I've got it! An alternative to using a narrator (or making characters look bat-shit crazy as they stand around talking to themselves) is to label everything so clearly that the audience can tell what it is without further explanation! Everything shall be Exactly What It Says on the Tin!

Most ordinary things are not labeled like that in Real Life. While an Expo Label or two can help with the pacing, they can easily come across as silly and awkward.

On the other hand, various scientific and technical fields are notorious for labeling everything in sight. Console gauges, dials and switches are often clearly marked, with broken components tagged as such to reduce costly (or potentially lethal) operator errors. Programming courses actually encourage you to label every single thing you code. And, obviously, medicine bottles have to tell you what's contained in them and how frequently you take doses of said medicine.

Accordingly, the Big Red Button often has an Expo Label. Bonus points if it's handwritten on a piece of masking tape because the creator hasn't had the time or inclination to mount anything permanent.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • During the chase scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bennie the Cab yells for his passengers to "pull the lever!" Asked "which one?", a sign pops out of the dashboard, marked with a pointing arrow and "This Lever, Stupid!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Spaceballs:
    Sign: Self Destruct Button. Do not push unless you really really mean it!
  • A variant used in Memento, when the main character has to carry polaroids of everyone with labels like "Don't believe his lies" because he is unable to form any long-term memories.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lampshaded in the Doctor Who episode "The Age of Steel": Mickey and Jake are looking for the transmitter controls, and Mickey asks what it looks like. Jake responds sarcastically that it'll have a sign with "Transmitter Controls" in big red letters on it. It does.
  • The old Batman TV show, especially with the "Bat" stuff.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • The box of Rat Poison with "Rat Poison" on it.
    • Also, their plan to attack the Mayor with a box labeled "Ebola".
  • In Beakmans World, Beakman can always find the really dangerous stuff in the cabinet marked REALLY DANGEROUS STUFF.
  • Everything — and we mean everything — in Look Around You, with those embossed red stickers that used to be used in laboratories. In one Credits Gag, a male scientist presents a female scientist (played by Sarah Alexander of Coupling fame) a box of chocolates labelled in this way, which included one item purporting to be sulphur.
  • Castle: The NYPD wears bulletproof vests labeled "Police". In the second ep, Castle gets one custom-made... that's labeled "Writer".
    • The helpfully labeled vests for law enforcement is Truth in Television in the US. Less so for crime novelists.
  • The bins in the workshop in MythBusters are all carefully labeled. Some of them with rather odd contents. RAW MEAT, for example.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Dilbert, somebody had to go around putting labels on things like coffee pots to comply with the ISO 9000 labeling standards. He also had "Stupid Label Guy" printed on his back. This may have been inspired by a Real Life incident in which everything in a lab was labelled for the benefit of a visiting executive. One of the labels covered a product logo which provided the same information (plus a brand name).
  • In just about every Political Cartoon ever (I wonder what that giant monster represents?)
  • A The Far Side cartoon had a man standing in his yard after painting labels such as THE HOUSE, MY SHIRT, THE DOG, THE CAT on everything with a caption of "There! That should clear things up around here!"

    Puppet Shows 
  • Gerry Anderson's shows take place in a very well-labeled future.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court
  • Girl Genius
    • Many things are labeled in this world, especially in Castle Heterodyne. Many of those labels are hilarious. For example "Poison — Illiteracy reduction effort".
    • In the Cinderella theater break, Agatha's miniature volcano has a labeled "innocent town" at its foot.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Edd, of Ed, Edd n Eddy, had everything in his room labeled.
  • When Ned Flanders let The Simpsons borrow his summer cabin, he left these on everything, complete with "-diddly".
    "He actually wrote '-diddly!'"
  • This often appeared in the 1973/74 season of Superfriends.
    • "The Androids"
      • The Cape Courageous missile base control room has an alarm that's labeled "Alarm" and buttons that are marked "Don't Press" and "Danger".
      • Dr. Rebos' food truck has a button labeled "Dining Room Open". Naturally it causes a dining room to open out of the back of the truck.
    • "The Baffles Puzzle". The submarine that Aquaman finds has an air lock labeled "Air Lock".
    • "The Balloon People". An obvious elevator has a giant "Elevator" label above it. Likewise, some launch tunes are labeled "Launch Tubes".
    • "Dr. Pelagian's War"
      • On the TroubAlert panel there's a slot labeled "Blow Ups". No, it doesn't make things explode - when a picture is slipped into it the computer blows it up to larger size.
      • Dr. Pelagian's submarine has a side panel that opens and closes. It's labeled "Side Panel", "Open" and "Close".
      • Dr. Pelagian's submarine also has a computer that's labeled "Computer".
      • Miss Caraway's power plant has a building that contains freon gas. It's labeled - wait for it - "Freon".
    • "The Fantastic Frerps"
      • The Hall of the Justice League has: a box of letters (not the kind you mail, the kind you put on a blackboard to spell words) marked "Letters", a Data Collector section of the Justice League computer marked "Data Collector", and a spray can filled with Frerp solvent marked "Frerp Solvent".
      • King Plasto's Elaborate Underground Base has quite a few: an egg storage room marked "Storage Room", an arena for creating Frerp eggs labeled "Frerp Arena", an entrance control panel marked "Entrance Control", and an obvious elevator with an "Elevator" label. At the end a number of buildings are created that are labeled "City Hall", "Barber Shop", "Library" and "City Jail".
    • In "The Menace of the White Dwarf", Raven's ship has two of them. The device that controls the white dwarf's gravity is labeled "Gravity Control - On/Off". The lever that controls the speed of objects moved by the white dwarf is labeled "High Speed".
    • "The Mysterious Moles". In the Hall of Justice a printer was labeled "Teletype".
    • "The Planet Splitter".
      • The galley in the spaceship has a door labeled "Galley".
      • The guidance system for Jor-El's rocket is labeled "Guidance".
      • During the Krypton Flash Back scene, in Jor-El's laboratory there's a Launch Control and Hanger Roof Door opener labeled "Launch Control" and "Hanger Roof Door".
      • A door-lifting device hidden (inside a wall!) has the label "Automatic Door Opener".
      • As with "The Balloon People", an obvious elevator has an "Elevator" label on it.
      • At the end Wonder Dog goes to a room labeled "Justice League Commissary" and "Wonder Dog's Food Storage", with areas labeled "Steak Bones" and "Sausages" that hold those items.
    • "The Power Pirate"
      • In the electrical power plant the Power Input and Power Output devices are marked "Power In Put" and "Power Out Put".
      • At the Hall of Justice the Super Friends' computer has a scan report device marked "Scan Report".
      • A nuclear power plant has a "Nuclear Power Plant" sign on it.
      • A button to automatically start the nuclear power plant is marked "Automatic Power Start".
    • "Professor Goodfellow's G.E.E.C.". The following items have labels/signs with their names on them: "G.E.E.C. Dog House", "G.E.E.C. Freighter", "Warning Panel", "Taxi Steering Controls" and "South Gate".
    • "The Shamon U"
      • A room with a cable car in it is labeled Cable Car Room. The label is where everyone who can see the sign can also see the cable car.
      • In Dr. Shamons's laboratory there's a control to alter the orientation of the giant U shaped magnet that's labeled "Shamon U" and a control to turn the turntable called "Turntable Control".
      • In the Justice League headquarters the door to the Justice League laboratory has a "Justice League Laboratory" sign.
    • "Too Hot To Handle"
      • In Kobar's lab there's a control to activate the sun-orbiting quadrotronic Solar Robot that's titled "Solar Robot Space Station". There's also an alarm to alert him when someone's approaching the solar robot: it's labeled Solar Robot Warning".
      • Doctor von Knowalot's laboratory in the City Observatory has a Data Collector marked "Data Collector".
    • "The Ultra Beam". A spectroscope has the label "Spectroscope" on it.
    • "The Watermen"
      • Wonder Woman's plane has two different buttons to release her "Wonder Net". One is labeled "Net Release" and one is just labeled "Net" (probably a continuity error).
      • In the speedboat that Robin, Mrvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog use, the throttle is labeled "Throttle" and "Full".
    • "The Weather Maker"
      • A government building has: (a) a mail chute labeled "Mail Chute" (b) a container of nuclear fuel with "Nuclear Fuel" on it and (c) a Big Red Button with the label "To call police". Robin pushes it so the police will come and pick up some captured villains.
      • The villains' ship has: (a) a dial with "Weather Power" on it (b) Controls for the jet stream labeled "Jet: Maximum, Minimum, Off" and "Off, On and Irreversibly On" (c) A nuclear power plant in with the label "Nuclear Power Plant".
      • A building with a roof garden has a sign saying "Roof Garden" above the door leading to it.
  • Bugs Bunny cartoons
    • Hair-Raising Hare. The Mad Scientist's castle says "Evil Scientist" in blinking neon lights, and the monster's cell has "Monster" on the door.
    • Hyde and Hare. In Dr. Jekyll's laboratory the Laboratory door says "Laboratory" and the Store Room door says "Store Room". Why he would need those signs when he works there is not explained.

    Real Life 


Explosive DecompressionSpeculative Fiction TropesExposed Extraterrestrials
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