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Anthropomorphic Typography

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Just wait for the 123s...

In fiction, especially shows intended for younger children, letters, numbers, music notes, and other typographical symbols are sometimes depicted as anthropomorphic.

Common in edutainment shows, usually to teach children about literacy, as well as letters and numbers, as the typography are brought to life. This is also very common in parodies of edutainment programs, and are also common when used in the context of procrastination of homework and study, as the typography speak to the procrastinator.

May form part of an Alphabet Song. Subtrope of Animate Inanimate Object. Compare Fun with Alphabet Soup for another form of letters 'coming to life'. See also Pictorial Letter Substitution.


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  • In the late 90s, the Alpha Bits cereal had the letters themselves as the mascots with commercials giving them arms legs and faces.
  • One commercial for Cocoa Puffs has Sonny stuck in an elevator with the anthropomorphic words "Munchy," "Crunchy," and "Chocolatey," which prompts him to go cuckoo as they remind him of Cocoa Puffs. The anthropomorphic words also appeared in at least one other commercial, continuing to drive poor Sonny cuckoo.
  • There was a clay-animated ad for Cadbury's Crunchie bars where a bar turned into the word "Crunchie". The letters didn't talk, though—they just ate each other.
  • One GEICO commercial depicts the letters G, E, I, C, and O with arms and legs, dancing around to celebrate GEICO being over 75 years old.
  • A MetLife campaign from the early 2000s discussed the various "if"s in life, which were represented by the word "if" appearing in various life situations. In some situations, the word was anthropomorphized, like when one "if" slams into another "if" during a football game, causing an injury.

    Comic Books 
  • Gravity Falls: Lost Legends: In "Don't Dimension It", one of the many alternate versions of herself Mabel meets (and who helps defeat Anti-Mabel) is Threebel, a light pink, sweater-wearing talking number 3.
  • The Argentine comic series and toy line Letronix focused on a group of robots that could transform into the letters of the alphabet.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side had a strip featuring a an anthropomorphic "h" arguing with her husband (an "R") and saying to him, "Yes! I've been seeing all the vowels — a, e, i, o, u... Oh, and sometimes y."

    Fan Works 

  • An old joke anthropomorphizes the numbers:
    Q: Why was 6 afraid of 7?
    A: Because 7 8 9 note 

  • The kid's book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is about a bunch of sentient letters racing each other up a coconut tree, starting with "a", "b", and "c". The sequel Chicka Chicka 123 does this with numbers.
  • Gravity Falls: Journal 3: One of the alternate realities the Author mentions visiting is the "M Dimension", a place where everyone and everything is shaped like the letter "M". He found the place completely baffling, wondering how things like an M-shaped vacuum cleaner would even work. The locals' tendency to replace the first letter of every word with M, leading to sentences like "Mave a monderful mime", left him feeling "muicidal" by the time he was able to leave.
  • In Alya, Klyaksich and the Letter A by Irina Tokmakova, Alya goes on a journey to meet the anthropomorphic letters of the Russian alphabet and save them from the attacks of the villainous Klyaksich. The several sequels have Alya (often together with her friend Anton) meeting personifications of numbers, punctuation marks, and letters of the English alphabet.
  • In The Land of Unlearned Lessons by Lia Geraskina, Vitya encounters anthropomorphic punctuation marks in the eponymous land. Thanks to his constant problems with spelling and punctuation, they are pretty harsh towards him, especially Iron Lady Comma, but he comes to realise it's more like Tough Love because all of them are genuinely happy to see him sort out his problems and become a better student.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Between the Lions has a segment featuring the Silent E, a character with a humanistic body, but with the letter e in place of its head. Other vowels also feature in the segment, each also with human bodies and letters for heads. It can be seen here:
  • The Electric Company (1971) features a song by Tom Lehrer called "Silent E" The main character is a letter E that has arms and legs.
  • Sesame Street had a number of skits that featured sentient letters and numbers.
  • Young Sheldon: In the episode "Demons, Sunday School, and Prime Numbers", Sheldon meets talking versions of the numbers 1 and 0 during a dream. He also mentions dreaming of number 9 some other time.
  • The Letter People was a literacy program founded for schools in the 1970s, with anthropomorphic letters who teach children about the various facets of each letter (for instance, the letter T has tall teeth).

  • There is a song called "E Eats Everything" which talks about the diets of the letters of the alphabet. At the end we find out that the letter Z eats E's.
  • The music video of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Word Crimes", a song about common grammatical errors, has the letter B and various punctuation marks (!, @, {, ?, ;) with arms and legs dancing in front of an off-white background.

  • The Letronix toy line consists of plastic letters with foldable arms and heads.

    Video Games 
  • Most of the characters in 3 in Three are letters and numbers living in an office computer, starting with the protagonist, Ms. 3.
  • The I of It: The playable character is the letter I, which intends to find out why t left. Along the way, it meets a capital T that functions as You Must Be This Tall to Ride and an x that asks it for a balloon.
  • The Unown from Pokémon resemble the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet as well as a question mark and an exclamation point, but the only thing they can actually say are their own names.
  • Darwinians in Darwinia are frequently referred to as "glyphs".
  • Music Park from Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8 have giant music notes with faces that act as obstacles in the track, bouncing back and forth to the music.
  • Mario Party DS: Toadette's Music Room gives the role of selling stars to musical notes. Each note uses words that start with letters that correspond to it when speaking and gives a different price.
  • Yooka-Laylee: Googly Eyes are evil pairs of eyeballs that attach themselves to various objects to bring those objects to life. In the hub world, you can find Googly Eyes that attach themselves to 3D letters.
  • You Don't Know Jack: In most versions, the numbers for each question in a round are depicted as living characters that sing a quick song containing the name of the number. The numbers are not given faces or anything, but still move around in an organic way.
  • Jump Start Music has the Sour Notes, the minions of the villainous Sir Sournote. They are red and green musical notes with faces and a twisted appearance. They work their way into sheet music to make the sheet music sound bad. The player's goal is to capture all of the Sour Notes to fix the music.
  • Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass: The Secret Meridian world has, in addition to Living Polyhedrons, some enemies that are anthropomorphic numbers:
    • The Onefish, Twofish, and Variable Fish enemies are flat, geometric fish-like creatures that are shaped like a 1, 2, and y respectively.
    • Exaggerated with the Balanced Equation enemies, a pair of chemical equations which are indeed balanced.
    • The Optional Boss of the Asymmetrical Cavern, Imaginary Numbers, is a bizarre monster made of mathematical symbols. As the wiki notes:
      The body of this Anomaly is made by warped mathematical symbols: the ∋ ("back epsilon", it means that a set contains something as an element), the ⋮ (vertical "ellipsis", indicates omitted values from a pattern), □ ("tombstone", it marks the end of a proof), the ∌ (a slashed "back epsilon", it means that a set does not contains something as an element), the ∏ ("Carthesian product", the association between the numbers of two sets) and the ∀ ("universal quantification", it implies that property is valid for all the elements indicated).
  • While looking more like a flower, the protagonist of Eversion is, apparently, an asterisk ("*").

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Blue's Clues: The special "Blue's Big Musical" features a talking musical symbol, a G-clef named G-Clef, who teaches Steve how to write music. He also has several friends who are singing music notes with faces.
  • Clone High: The Election Day Episode has Gandhi assert, "Numbers don't lie," only for a walking number 4 to run by declaring, "I'm the number five!"
  • Family Guy:
    • One cutaway gag personifies the vowels as businessmen attending a meeting. Y is portrayed as an obnoxious individual who disrupts his colleagues, referencing how said letter can also be used as a consonant.
    • When Peter visits H & R Block, the managers are portrayed as those letters, only with human lips and limbs. R finds out that H has been cheating on her with M (a reference to the H & M clothing company) and takes her own life, prompting her husband to desperately scream "Why?". This causes the letter Y to show up and state he was taking a pee; which in turn leads to the letter P joining them.
  • In The Ghostand Molly Mc Gee, there’s a running gag where in some situations, Scratch will pull out “Plan B” where he puppets his hand into the Letter B
  • Kaeloo: The Rules, an Anthropomorphic Personification of the concept of rules, usually takes on the form of an exclamation mark.
  • Leap Frog is a show that focuses on teaching kids their letters and numbers via this trope. The first episode, Letter Factory, involves the protagonist, Tad, learning his alphabet at a factory that produces anthropomorphic letters. The next couple of episodes focus on using said letters to make words, before shifting to numbers in Math Circus, where anthropomorphic numbers perform circus acts of adding and subtracting. The series goes through a few reboots, from using tad and Lily in a different style of episodes teaching the same concept, then focusing on Scout and his friends going through the same concepts, and finally a CGI cartoon focusing on Tad, Leap, and Lily learning the same concepts.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In "From A To Z-Z-Z-Z", Ralph Philips is asked to solve a math problem on the chalkboard. Looking at the high pile of numbers, he imagines them laughing at him. He gets even by knocking them over, and a five fights him with a four as a sword. Ralph stabs him to death with the line at the bottom of the equation, and that sets the other numbers chasing after him. He fights them off by using the letters on top of the chalkboard as weapons - a D and Y as a bow and arrow, a J as a rifle with its dot and the I dot as bullets.
    • "High Note" is about anthropomorphic musical notes in the score for "Blue Danube". One of them gets drunk and causes havoc.
  • The main characters of Numberjacks are anthropomorphic numbers that can talk.
  • Mostly defied by Numberblocks and Alphablocks in favour of Anthropomorphic Personification. Word of God's reasoning for avoiding this trope was that they wanted it to be about the actual math and linguistics rather than the symbols. This is emphasized by the second What-Iffer episode where, when asked "what if" the Numberblocks had different symbols and/or names, the What-Iffer answers that it doesn't actually change what amount they are. This is still somewhat played straight with the "Numberling" symbols having a limited sentience when not attached to their block.
  • The Pink Panther: In "Pink Punch", the logo for the Panther's titular health drink has the dot in the I stylized as an asterisk. The asterisk comes alive and antagonizes the Panther, first by turning green to ruin the logo's pink color scheme, then by stepping outside and messing with his work. And whenever the Panther tries to get even with it, a large, green asterisk (implied to be its parent) appears to defend it.
  • ReBoot featured numerous numerals throughout Mainframe, most prominently 7, 8 and 9.
  • Rick and Morty: In "Get Schwifty", Ice-T is revealed to be an alien from the planet Alphabetrium, whose inhabitants are shaped like letters and embody various simple substances (H₂O, magnesium, etc.), and are currently at war with a species who are shaped like numbers.
  • The Simpsons: In "Girls Just Want to Have Sums", Bart tries to teach Lisa, disguised as a boy, how to act like one and encourages her to pick a fight. Lisa is reluctant to do so, but then has an Imagine Spot of various mathematical symbols telling her it will be worth it.
    ≥: Do it, Lisa! You'll be greater than or equal to boys!
    8: Even though you're only eight, your possibilities are infinite. [turns to resemble an infinity symbol]
    27: Twenty-seven!
  • Downplayed in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "F.U.N.". During the F.U.N. Song, SpongeBob forms himself into an "N".
  • One episode of Super Why! features all the letters becoming sad because their only purpose was to make sounds. The team saw the opportunity to make words out of the letters so that they can start a parade.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: One skit featured Gogo Dodo running into a group of living letters in Wackyland, and getting into a Who's on First? style routine with them, such as asking one of them "Who do you think you are?", followed by the letter R popping up.
  • The children's show WordWorld has animals that are made of letters.

    Real Life 
  • Mediaeval illuminated manuscripts were characterised by the historiated initial, where the very first letter of each chapter, and to a lesser extent the initial letter of each succeeding paragraph, was made far larger and more ornate than anything that followed. Known today as the drop cap, the historiated initial might well emerge from a picture often featuring human or animal forms, or else be a stylised human or animal figure. The drop cap that emerged after the introduction of printing maintained the relative size of the historiated initial, but only very rarely went beyond an elaborate version of the letter to feature anthropomorphised forms.
  • Emoticons: Emoticons consist of letters, numbers, and other typographical symbols, which when are combined, resemble faces on their sides. These are intended to be used as anthropomorphic faces, which are used to show an expression of an individual.
    • In The Emoji Movie, there are the emoticons, who are the elderly, made from typography, who are anthropomorphic. Justified, because emoticons are made from typography, so that they can resemble faces.
  • The otamatone is a musical instrument made to look like a musical note with a face. YouTuber TheRealSullyG makes music videos with otamatones that depict them as anthropomorphic characters.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Talking Typography, Anthropomorphic Alphabet, Living Typography, Living Letters


Letter Sounds

Tad sings a song about the sounds the letters make, backed up with living letters.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnthropomorphicTypography

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