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Written Sound Effect
aka: Onomatopoeia
We've all experienced it: We're reading a book, or a comic, or a website, when all of a sudden:

*POW!*

You get hit by an Onomatopoeia.

Sound effects written out as onomatopoeia can be used in many media, but they play a special role in Sequential Art. Comics are highly visual media that show a scene in pictures instead of describing it in words. Without written sound effects, those scenes would live in a peculiarly silent space in the reader's head, where the only imagined sounds would be the dialogue, if any.

Some very creative things can be done with fonts, sizes, colors, shadows or glow, placement, spatial orientations, and curvatures to make a Written Sound Effect more evocative and fit it with the art.

The Written Roar is one specific kind of Written Sound Effect. Contrast the Unsound Effect, which is a written effect that is not onomatopoeia. A particularly common form of Editorial Synaesthesia. Can be used for Sound Effect Bleep with Speechbubbles Interruption. See also Saying Sound Effects Out Loud.

Examples

  • A fundamental tool of the trade, widely used in Sequential Art in general.

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Light Novels tend to have these a lot, probably since they are closely related to manga. Especially romantic novels tend to be filled with sound effects ranging from falling petals, the rain, wind to the fast beating of the human heart.
  • In Doraemon, there's a drink that makes your sound solid, turned it into letters. The size is according to how loud you speak it.
  • Hirohiko Araki (known best for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure) takes this trope very seriously. Very notable written sound effects are one of the notable traits of his style and he considers them an integral part of his artwork. Two characters in his series even utilize onomatopoeia as their weapon. The onomatopoeia are even retained to a degree in anime adaptations of the story.
  • The opening for the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya uses this in the same way american comics do it. One could argue that "Tug" and "Stop" are the Unsound Effect, but everything else fits this.
  • An early chapter in Tsubasa features a battle where the opponent is a singer, who can literally use her voice as a weapon. The art features HUGE words written out which physically attack the main characters and stretch the frames of the comic.
  • A bizarre example is in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, particularly the third season. The sound effects are actually written on the frame, and they are voiced by the actors.
  • Due to it's vertical strip format, Tower of God can have long-lasting sound effects written in one continuous string over entire sections of a chapter.
  • Gainax's newest Widget Series Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt goes so far as to also include a few Written Unsound Effects, as if it were a deranged comic.
  • Dr Slump - Arale (unknowingly) weaponizes the Written Sound Effect; her boisterously loud "HOWDYA DO!" comes out as solid words and is capable of knocking people off their feet. In another chapter, Akane does this deliberately after getting heckled by one of a flock of Idiot Crows; she calls him a "JERK!", and uses the enormous exclamation point produced to knock the crow out of the sky.
  • Used occasionally in Axis Powers Hetalia, most noticeably in the "United States of Hetalia" strips and episode, which imitates American-style comic books. All of them are written in English/Romaji, though some are a little odd (like "spam spam spam" for patting someone on the shoulder) and others Unsound Effects (a cat appearing sounds like "Neko!").
  • This was used extensively in a 1970s anime Hajime Ningen Gyatoruzu (or Giatrus). Whenever the characters scream, the word appears on screen as (usually red) rocks, sometimes even hitting the characters physically. Not only that, this trope is how the show's logo appears on-screen in the title sequence, where the character screams "Gya!" really loud, eventually morphing into "Gyatoruzu".
  • In Gintama, these are normally played straight, but on one occasion, Gintoki tries to save Otae during a universe wide time stop by editing the sound of her being hit in the head with a rocket punch (Gossu). He initially just removes a "s" from it to make it sound less painful, but ultimately decides to turn it into a stick figure he calls "Gossan", who's trying to save her from the rocket punch by holding it back. It works...then the two of them end up getting married.

    Comic Books 
  • The Doctor Who comics represented the TARDIS's instantly recognisable phasing-in effect with the equally distinctive "VWOOOOORP! VWOOOOOORP''
  • In a classic Uncle Scrooge tale by Carl Barks, Gyro Gearloose invented an "implosion bomb" that sucked up material in a certain radius and compacted it into a neat pile. Intended for litter collection, the Written Sound Effect was "MOOB" — explicitly stated to be "BOOM" backwards.
  • Notable aversion: Many of comics writer Alan Moore's works have no sound effects at all. This is lampshaded in Watchmen with this exchange between two police detectives.
    Joe: Incidentally, the phone's ringing.
    Steve: Sure. Y'know, all today I've had this funny feeling. It's like there's something in the air...
    Joe: That's sound waves, man. They're coming from the phone.
  • Memorably subverted in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Cowboy Captain Of The Cutty Sark when the space where the sound effect should have been written is left blank with the explanation:
  • A Marvel Adventures comic featuring French Boisterous Bruiser Bartroc ze Lepair had all of his sound effects made French. "LeBOK!"
  • Speaking of Marvel, they even have trademarked onomatopoeiae, like SNIKT (Wolverine sheathing his claws - temporarily changed to SCHLIKT when he had the adamantium sucked out of his bones), THWIP (Spider-Man casting his webbing) or BAMF (Nightcrawler teleporting).
  • The Incredible Hercules especially as written by Greg Pak employed this with GUSTO. Most Triumphant Example was when Hercules, dressed as Thor, was fighting Thor, dressed as Hercules, and Hercules grabbed Thor by nipples. The effect? "NURP!" (In purple, yet.)
  • "Captain America!, I command you to-" WANK!
  • Excalibur once gave us the memorable sound of a bathroom exploding: BA-THROOM!
  • Green Arrow fought a serial killer named Onomatopoeia, who only spoke to describe the sounds he heard (or anticipated hearing.) He'd usually say 'CLICK, BLAM!' before shooting his victims.
  • Warrior #1 treats us to "SKRONK," which supposedly represents the Ultimate Warrior's snarling/coughing-up-phlegm. He does it underwater.
  • EPA is the sound of Green Lantern punching Sinestro, according to the Comic Book Guy of The Simpsons. Became an Ascended Meme with The Sinestro Corps War.
  • MAD #20 had a story told almost entirely in pictures with sound effects
  • Youngblood uses "eepBeep" for the sound of a beeping wrist communicator.
  • Wilhelm Busch (19th century artist from Germany) was pretty good at them. "Klickeradoms", "Rickeracke", "Klingelings"... these wouldn't be out of place in a modern comic either. The dogs Plisch and Plum are even named after sound effects (which are used when evil guy Schlich throws them into a pond).
  • In one Achille Talon album, a villain has the (dis)ability to produce sounds completely inappropriate, like a grenade detonating with a klaxon sound.
  • Tiny Titans had a lot of fun with this. In addition to the classics such as "Bam" and the like, it included such sound effects as "Run", "Swing", and "Milk".
  • John Workman Jr. is well-known for creating impressive sound effects, such as the mighty "DOOM!" of Surtur's forge in Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor.
  • The Impaler, the cool-as-hell stake gun issued to Vampire Knights in the graphic novel series Requiem Chevalier Vampire, goes "TEPES!" when it's fired.
  • Total overload of sound effects happens in "Joe Aaargh" (?) by Will Eisner (??). (This could be the MAD #20 mentioned above. Please check!)
  • A very interesting subversion, from a "Heavy Metal" mag probably (source needed too): A fight between two barbarians, one is disarmed, but grabs the "T" of a "THUD!" sound effect and kills his opponent with it.
  • And another memorable parody sound effect: the gun which went BLAM! BLAM! EMPT! EMPT!. (Again, sauce needed.)

    Fan Works 

    Literature 
  • Older than Television: One of the most famous examples in classic literature is the word "Bababadal­gharagh­takammin­arronn­konn­bronn­tonn­erronn­tuonn­thunn­trovarrhoun­awnskawn­toohoo­hoordenen­thurnuk" from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. It's supposed to represent the thunderclap that occurred in the Garden of Eden at the Fall.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe's notorious "Jedi Prince" cycle (The Glove of Darth Vader et al) makes extensive use of these, never describing a sound when something like "GRONG!" would suffice. This causes at least one Narm moment when the Big Bad shoots one of his inner circle, "ZAP!" detracting somewhat from the intended drama of the scene.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club ghostwriter Peter Lerangis LOVES omnomatopoeia.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses had a cat say "Mrkgnao", which he felt a better approximation than "miaow".
  • In a literary example, L.E. Modesitt, Jr. likes to use those in his novels, notably in the Saga of Recluce series. By far the most prevalent is the explosive CRRRRRUMMMMMPTTTTT.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire does this a few times for warhorns in the distance. Aaaaarrrrrroooooooooooo!
  • If the original cover art for Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion is anything to go by, a pterodactyl's jaws go "K-KLAK!"
  • The Animorphs books are fond of TSEEEEWWW! for Yeerk Dracon beams.

    Live Action Film 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The old Batman Live-Action TV series used comic-style written sound effects for The Hit Flash. "BIFF! ZOK! POW!"
    • The Simpsons' Batman parody, Radioactive Man, featured these and more, including back references to previous episodes. "BORT! MINT! SNUH!"
    • The Avengers (no, not The Avengers) parodied a Batman fight sequence in "The Winged Avenger". Also, the comic book writer in the episode uses rather odd onomatopoeia. Eeee-erp!
    • Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in Sponge Bob Square Pants use this as well, along with Unsound Effects - punching over cardboard cut-outs of villains in their opening sequence produce "PROP", "CARDBOARD", and "LAME".
  • During one episode of How I Met Your Mother, the sound of glass shattering symbolised a sudden realisation. When a deaf character has a sudden realisation at the end of the episode, we are treated to a subtitle saying "*shatter* "
  • Often used in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, but not in any other Super Sentai.
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Cat Fight Club", Jackie's fight with Laurie is illustrated by Batman-style Hit Flashes and written sound effects like "Meow" and "Scratch!".
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs, oh so much.

    MMORP Gs 
  • An addon for World of Warcraft named (appropriately enough) Comix! adds these to the game. When you get a Critical Hit (incoming or outgoing) "Pow!" "Baff!" and so on appear in midair.
  • Champions Online, with its comic book-based style, uses this with NPCs, having written sound effects appear over their heads that correspond with the attack they are currently using(with different sound effects for differing types of attacks, such as cone AOE, melee AOE, targeted attacks, etc.)

    Music 
  • "Skronk"—an onomatopoetic rendering of the skreeching honk made by a deliberately-mistreated saxophone—has become a recognized genre classification, though you might be more likely to encounter terms like "free improv" or "avant-noise". As performances by Arto Lindsay or Oren Ambarchi might attest, a string- and ear-damaging guitarist can skronk in as great a manner as, say: John Zorn, Kenta Tsugami (or both) on tenor or alto.
  • The first words to appear in "Music Non Stop" by Kraftwerk are "Boing", "Bumm", "Tschak" and "Peng".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • "SPLUT!", for the sound a pie makes when it hits Garfield's face.
  • Peanuts, of course, has "AUUGHH!"
  • Calvin and Hobbes had a Crowning Moment of Funny when testing Calvin's duplicator. Paraphrased:
    Hobbes: Are you sure this is such a good idea?
    Calvin: Brother! You doubting Thomases get in the way of more scientific advances with your stupid ethical questions. This is a brilliant idea! Hit the button, will ya?
    Hobbes: I'd hate to be accused of inhibiting scientific progress... Here you go.
    The button: BOINK!
    Hobbes: (staring right at the fourth wall) Scientific progress goes 'boink'?

    Pinball 
  • These show up whenever you make a shot in Johnny Mnemonic's "Midnight Madness" mode.
  • The playfield and cabinet for Tee'd Off show golf balls ricocheting all over the place, accompanied by assorted BONK!s and ZONK!s.
  • In WHO dunnit, starting "Midnight Madness" will result in every hit causing the display to show "BOOM", "BLAM", "DOH!", etc.

    Theatre 

    Toys 
  • The BIONICLE comics all use this. Probably the most famous sound among fans is the Bohrok's distinctive "Chik Chik Chik Chik". Amusingly, a Translation Train Wreck fan-video of one of the movies subtitles the slashing sound effects as "Hurting Noises!".

    Video Games 
  • The first video game for the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uses sound effects show up when someone or even objects like cars take damage. Thok
  • The boss fights and cutscenes of HarmoKnight contain these, usually loud sounds coming from none other than the Noizoids themselves. There are even sounds like BOOM! and BAAAAAAAAAAAAM!
  • Kingdom of Loathing uses these whenever someone takes damage. If you're dealing it, it's blue ZAP!s, POW!s, and BARF!s; while if you're taking damage, you see red Ouch!es and Ow!s.
  • Persona 3 and Persona 4 use this both in and out of combat.
  • Being beaned in the head with a baseball in Team Fortress 2 results in a flashing, neon sign above your head, reading "BONK!", which is a fairly accurate description of what just happened. And when being scared by a ghost in the Halloween event, it reads, "YIKES!".
  • Freedom Force
  • XIII actually uses them to enhance gameplay, allowing the player to tell which direction sounds are coming from (like seeing the "tap, tap, tap" of patrolling guards' footsteps over some foliage.)
  • Elite Beat Agents and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan use this a lot, mainly because the stories are told using manga panels. Special mention goes to the ending of Elite Beat Agents, where combined music and goodwill of the world blow up the alien mother ship with a "KA-LAPOWABOOOM!"
  • Various sound effects in the black and white (except for blood) game MadWorld appear as yellow text onscreen.
  • Sega Genesis game Comix Zone, happening inside a comic book, is filled with this.
  • Many of She-Hulk's attacks in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 produce one of these.
  • In the 1989 Arcade Game Violence Fight, every time somebody got knocked to the floor a written sound effects as "BOGON" or "DOGOON" would pop up.
  • In Captain America and the Avengers, comicbook-style fight noises such as "KRAK!" and "WABOOM!" appear on screen.
  • Mario Kart 64 has sound effects such as "POOMP!" when hitting the ground, and "SKREEEEEEEEEEEE" when sliding over a banana peel.
  • Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc has sound effects appearing on-screen when punching enemies, such as "KOPN".
  • Saints Row: The Third's DLC mission pack "Strange Science" includes a sequence where the protagonist, high on irradiated energy drink, gains the ability to instagib opponents with a punch, complete with these.
  • The credits of Rock Man 4 Minus Infinity track your deaths under "tiwns", which is supposed to be onomatopoeia for Mega Man's death sound.
  • Astro Marine Corps has "GRONF GRONF" for getting swallowed whole, and also "GLU GLU GLU" for falling into water.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II has these in the cheat-activated Party Mode.
  • Super Bonk has Bonk able to launch the word "RAGE!" out when he's small. The word actually travels forward and bounces off of walls, allowing the player to use it as a makeshift platform (in fact, certain sections require this.)

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Many episodes of Cartoon Network's Courage the Cowardly Dog had these, along with the Unsound Effect at times.
  • The French animated series Enigma used them from time to time.
  • Sometimes used in Ren and Stimpy. One example is when Ren throws the Cheese-o-Phone at Stimpy and the word "Splat!" appears in the splattered cheese.
  • Whenever Batfink uses his Supersonic Sonar Radar, it manifests as the word "BEEP".
  • Every time Cosmo and Wanda grant a wish in The Fairly OddParents, a magic cloud that reads "Poof" appears. A lot of times a non–sound-effect word appears relating to what Timmy wished for.
  • Some of the Grim and Evil shorts of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
  • Used in the Henry and June sketches on KaBlam.
  • This was a staple of Roger Ramjet, particularly during fight scenes.
  • Futurama featured this when Fry, Leela, and Bender became superheroes and fought The Zookeeper and his minions. It parodies the Batman TV show when Fry punching a yak is covered with "YAK!" Bender getting decked results in "01101010101!"

    Other 
  • "The UNH! Project" has amassed a sizeable collection of these.
  • As has Kevin Taylor's KA-BOOM! A Dictionary of Comicbook Words on Historical Principles.
  • MAD artist Don Martin was a master of wild onomatopoeia, including such sounds as "SPLOYDOING!" (something springing out jack-in-the-box style), "SWAKLAKKO!" (leaning too far back in a wheeled desk chair on a tiled floor, and a personal favorite, "SKWEEBEEDEEBEEDAP!" (five cockroaches squashed under a board). Martin himself had a vanity license plate that read "SHTOINK".
    • Spoofed in one particular issue, where it was revealed where companies got their names, such as "BOEING!" (the sound an engine makes when it falls off a plane and hits the ground) and "SPAM!" (the sound of a slab of said meat product falling out of the can and onto your foot).
    • In another issue, "Don Martin's Guide to Some Very Obscure Comics Sound Effects" had specialized onomatopoeias for famous comic characters performing various actions. For example, "THIZ-ZIZ-ZIZ-ZIZ-ZIZ..." represented Spider-Man's web-shooters malfunctioning; "SNAP! PLOOBADOOF" represented Wonder Woman taking off her corset; "GEEEEN" represented Plastic Man giving someone on the 20th floor the finger; and "PLAB-LAB-LAB-LAB-LAB" represented the Batmobile driving off with a flat tire.
    • Yet another (drawn by Paul Coker and written by Duck Edwing) had a similar guide to cartoon sound effects. Among them was "Batflurglegloopblub", which is either Batman flushing his toilet, or a fish blowing bubbles into a fat man's navel.
    • Martin indulged in some self-parody now and then: In a Captain Klutz story, after a Mad Scientist gets blown up by his own doomsday device, he seems more concerned about the unimpressive sound effect it produced.
      Dr. Rotten: "Wango"? After all those years of sweat and toil, my Rotten Atomic Missile goes "wango"?!
    • A MAD self-parody catalog offered for sale an assortment of unused Don Martin sound effects, said to include "37 THLUPs, 24 FWAPs, a dozen or so THOOMPs and SPROINGs, plus the usual BREEP-BREEPs, FWADDAPPs, KABOOMs, FWISKs and SKLISHKs, and an occasional SKLOOSH, FLABADAP and a FOONGA-FOONGA."
    • The sound "BUSH!" of a defecating cow was in MAD, but probably not drawn by Don Martin.

STING!
Visible SilenceSequential Art    
MADArtEvolution/MagazinesSergio Aragonés
What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?The Silent Age of Animation    
Written RoarText Tropes    
WormsignSpectacleWritten Roar
WingdinglishPainting the Medium    
Uncanny Valley GirlImageSource/Anime & MangaHaruhi-chan

alternative title(s): Onomatopoeia
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