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"Oh, a sarcasm detector. Oh, that's a real useful invention."
Comic Book Guy, The Simpsons

A speedometer measures how fast you go, a radiometer measures the radiant flux of electromagnetic radiation, and the Thing-O-Meter measures everything else.

Commonly seen as the Laugh-O-Meter or Applause-O-Meter, which is based on the Clap-O-Meter used in old game shows. There are thousands of variations, though— Suck-O-Meter, Creep-O-Meter, Love-O-Meter, Sarcasm-O-Meter, basically Whatever-You-Want-O-Meter.

They're usually not very reliable, as their indicators are prone to going off-scale or even breaking. They generally measure things on an Abstract Scale.

Though popularized by game shows and the like, this trope is Older Than Radio at the very least: William Hogarth's 1727 satirical engraving Masquerade Ticket features "a pair of lecherometers, showing the company's inclinations as they approach 'em."

Not to be confused with any of the meters used in games (like Karma Meter and Awesomeness Meter). Compare Thing-O-Matic, The Little Detecto, Everything Sensor and 20% More Awesome.


    open/close all folders 

  • Nicorette's "Suck-O-Meter" ad features a device measuring how much a situation sucks for the user.
  • There was an interactive Japanese IKEA Christmas holiday commercial had had this thing called, a "Merry Meter".

    Anime and Manga 
  • In an episode of Tenchi Muyo! GXP, a Good Luck Meter appears during Seiryo's search for any lucky treasures and relics, hoping to use them to counter Seina's bad luck.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bridget Jones' Diary: In The Edge of Reason, an acquaintance of Bridget has a habit of making stinging remarks. This is shown as a "jellyfish counter" on the screen, which increases with each remark. It decreases when Bridget manages to insert stinging remarks of her own, but eventually goes off the scale and explodes.
  • Ghostbusters (1984). When the team goes after the library ghost, Egon Spengler has a meter that reads PKE (Psycho Kinetic Energy) valences, which are apparently given off by ghosts. It's the one that has the "arms" go up when the PKE increases. When Venkmann goes into Dana's apartment, he brings an odd meter of some sort with a long pole that sucks in air, with a hand-pump. When Dana asks him about it, he only says that it's one of their "little toys". It's based on a real-life device called a "Bacharach Chemical Sniffer", once used to check for gas leaks and other things. One could, in theory, use it to find evidence of a haunting (vapor trails and such), but con-man Venkman is only trying to look like he knows what he's doing.
  • The movie That Thing You Do! has an applause-o-meter that determines the winner of a band contest. It's not a machine but a model standing in front of a marked-off dial backdrop; she uses her hands to show how high the applause goes. The gradations are: "You stink", "Not terrible", "Good", "Extra good", "Super", and "Wicked". (The fact that Jimmy is seriously butthurt over Guy changing the tempo on his song while ignoring the applause-o-meter redlining at the far end of "Wicked" behind him neatly foreshadows some of the problems to come.)
  • In Men in Black, Agent J comments that the Edgar Bug gets a 9 on his "Weird-Shit-O-Meter." Seriously though, Agent K uses a small soil analyzer with a row of multicolored lights to determine what kind of alien he's dealing with. ("Green" apparently means "Bug.")
  • In Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, there is the Happy-o-Meter, which measures happiness of the pigs. The levels are "amused", "tickled pink", "cloud nine", "ecstatic" and "delirious".

  • Discworld:
    • The thaumometer, which measures a magical field in "thaums". Mind you, this is just a perfectly sensible piece of equipment for a wizard on a world run by magic.
    • Moving Pictures has the resograph, a device designed by a wizard named Riktor the Tinkerer to measure changes in the fabric of reality. On the Discworld, said fabric is a lot more flexible thanks to the power of belief and the Theory of Narrative Causality. The name is a Brick Joke from an explanation that "thaums" are made of sub-particles called "resons", which is doggy-Latin for "thingies", so the resograph is literally a thing-o-meter. Riktor also invented the Mouse Counter,note  the Rev Counternote  and the Swamp Meter.note  Regrettably, he seems not to have been very good at keeping records of what a particular thing-o-meter was supposed to be measuring or how to read it, information that would have been immensely helpful to Ponder Stibbons when the resograph starts going off.
  • In Magika Swordsman and Summoner, the protagonist Kazuki has a magical ring that measures how much the girls of his harem love him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Queen for a Day's Applause Meter is the Trope Maker, if not the Ur-Example.
  • Cluedo: In the first series, the audience could vote for who they thought the murderer was. The screen did not show bar charts rising for each suspect, but instead random numbers which would suddenly stop at their final totals.
  • The Crystal Maze: Series 2 had a meter showing how many gold and silver credits had been posted in the Crystal Dome. It was not calibrated, so it only gave a very rough idea.
  • Dr. Fad, a children's game show from the late 1980s which focused on creativity and using scientific knowledge to solve problems, had a round where the contestants brought their inventions (pre-made before the show), and explained and demonstrated the items. The audience reaction was measured with an on-screen meter, with the winner decided by how far to the right the needle went.
  • Canadian teen talk show Jonovision had an applause-o-meter to determine how much of the audience agreed with the topic du jour.
  • On Frasier, Niles snarks that the psychic debunker they've invited over will be bringing a "ghost-oh-meter" (hard "o"). Daphne rejoins that it's called a "ghost-ah-meter" (soft "o").
  • The Gong Show used a chroma-keyed clap-o-meter to settle ties at the end of the show.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • In the episode featuring Angel's Revenge, Tom Servo invents a Shame-O-Meter (pronounced "shuh-MAH-meh-ter") to measure the shame the actors in the film are feeling, using Peter Lawford as a baseline. Pat Buttram as a used-car salesman managed to reach mega-Lawfords, Jim Backus as a right-wing Crazy Survivalist registered well into the giga-Lawford range, while exposure to Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank dressed as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs nearly breaks the meter.
    • In another episode, Joel invents the Steve-O-Meter, which measures whether a given idea has already been thought up by Steve Allen.
  • Nickelodeon Kids' Court has the Honorable Judge O'Meter (An applauding meter dressed like an English judge with grey-haired wig Analog VU meter for eyes and 2 LED Meters for nose and mouth). Most loud sound of the audience applauding and screaming, Wins the case. Whether the suspect is guilty or not guilty!
  • Saved by the Bell had a Love-O-Meter at The Max.
  • An Ascendometer is a self-contained, portable unit from the Stargate-verse used to analyze neural activity in the brain. This allows people to judge how close to ascension someone is.
    • Originally found on P3X-584 in Stargate SG-1, the device was named as such by Cameron Mitchell, leaving Samantha Carter wishing she had thought of it first.
    • Assumably the very same device was used in Stargate Atlantis when they were monitoring how near to ascension Dr. Rodney McKay was during the events of 'The Tao of Rodney'.
  • The Summarize Proust Competition on Monty Python's Flying Circus uses a graph gauge to determine who can summarize Marcel Proust's A La Recherche du Temps Perdu best. (No one can, so the prize goes to the girl with the biggest tits.)
    • A variation has a man surrendering to police, claiming he's Atilla the Hun. He's asked to breathe into a Hunalzyer. Nothing happens, so he's proven to be Alexander the Great as he actually breathed into an Alexander the Greatalyzer.
  • Top Gear's cock-o-meter measures how much of cock you are judging by the car you're driving. Hammond's BMW M3 tops it.
  • Hot Seat was a short-lived ABC game show from 1976 note  in which married couples are attached to sensors that gauge emotional levels while answering yes-or-no questions about their married life.
  • The Slammer uses a clap-o-meter to register the audience applause and decide who is the winner of the Freedom Show.
  • QI: The episode "Happiness" features the "QI Pleasure Gauge," which measures audience happiness. Extra points are awarded for maxing it out.

  • In the Youngblood Chronicles, a series of Fall Out Boy music videos, we see an Evil-Meter when Patrick's being brainwashed to hate music.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Word Crimes" video uses a Care-o-meter to illustrate the unintended meaning of the popular phrase "I could care less".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Far Side strip has a dog pointing a device at a mailman which measures the subject's level of fear.
  • A short arc in Bloom County had a dork detector. Opus didn't understand why it was always going off when he was holding it.

  • Bally's Dr. Dude has the Dude-O-Meter and the Jackpot-O-Meter.
  • Fish Tales has "Stretch The Truth", a gauge which measures how big the current catch really is — from "5X Actual Size" to "Total Lie".
  • Scared Stiff is named after the "Stiff-O-Meter", which has ten levels from "Hair Raising" and "Pulse Pounding" up to "Heart Stopping" and "Scared Stiff".
  • During the "Farley Claymore" mode in The Shadow, a "Hit-O-Meter" appears; making key shots results in Farley getting smacked and the meter getting emptied.
  • The Party Zone has the "Rock-It Meter", which indicates how much fuel the player has collected by how far he will go, from the "Wisconsin State Line", past "The Edge of Reality", and up to "The NEW Frontier!"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During his reign as WWE Intercontinental Champion, Santino Marella would rate himself against the longest-reigning IC champ in history, The Honky Tonk Man, using the "Honk-A-Meter".


    Tabletop Games 
  • An obscure game called "Truth Detector" consisted of cards with questions for the players to ask each other, and an electronic device which claimed to detect levels of truth. The small print mentioned that it actually detected conductivity of the body, which had some semblance to reality, because liars tend to sweat more.
  • The party game Wavelength centers around a blank Thing-O-Meter-type dial. Each round it is labelled with a new pair of opposites, e.g. "Happy song - Sad song" or "Best period to time travel to - Worst period to time travel to". A random point on the dial is chosen secretly, and one player gives a clue to their team corresponding to that point on the spectrum between the two extremes. The team sets the dial and gets points for how close they got to the target.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Arthur episode "Bossy Boots" Brain designs a machine in the episode intro called the "Boss-O-Meter" to measure how many bosses a child has in the life. D.W. makes the machine break down by overloading it.
    • In "Bitzi's Beau" Buster and Harry have handheld Alien-O-Meters which can tell if a person or character is an alien. They are supposedly just toys that always show someone is an alien if activated.
  • A laugh-o-meter features prominently in a the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Almost Got 'Im," where Joker rigs one up to an electric chair, straps Batman to it, and lets laughing gas leak into a studio audience.
  • The Care Bears have, of course, the Caring Meter, which monitors how much caring is going around on Earth. In some incarnations, it's the Care-O-Meter and can take more specific readings, such as the amount of caring within a particular individual at the moment.
  • Clone High's official voting system for student council president is an applause-o-meter. This meant that, in a heated competition between Abe Lincoln and JFK for the presidency, the winner was a random puppy who wandered on stage.
  • Futurama
    • Professor Farnsworth once pulled out a "cool-o-meter" which apparently measured coolness in MegaFonzies. Unsurprisingly, pointing it at Zoidberg makes the needle go dead.
    • On another occasion, he pulled out a "Doom-o-meter" that measures just how doomed something is, in Milidooms. Of course, 1000 Milidooms = 1 Doom.
    • When Bender, Amy and Leela are at club looking for someone for Leela, Bender mentions he has "Gaydar" and can tell if someone is gay, unless he gets interference from a gay weather balloon.
    • The company Kidnappster have a Liu-mo-Stat, which controls every Lucy Liu robot they have, with three settings; Plucky Lawyer (default), Icy Dominatrix, and the fullest setting of Erotic Assassin.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Professor Frink's Sarcasm Detector from "They Saved Lisa's Brain":
      Lyndsey Nagle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
      Frink: [With sarcasm detector] Are you kidding me? This baby is off the charts, mm-hai.
      Comic Book Guy: Oh, a sarcasm detector! That's a real useful invention. [Sarcasm detector explodes]
    • Frink has also brought his Frog-Exaggerator to Loch Ness, thinking he had brought his Monster-o-meter.
    • Also from The Simpsons, in the "spinoff" The Lovematic Grandpa, wherein Grandpa Simpson dies and is reincarnated as a love testing machine at Moe's.
    • Martin once built a device that accurately measured surprise as a school project. People learning what the device did registered "mild surprise". When they found out that Lisa had successfully turned Groundskeeper Willie into a gentleman, it went higher.
    • When kids enter an audition for a singing contest not affiliated to American Idol and produced by people who claim to have never heard of American Idol, Krusty uses an applause-o-meter so he won't have to pay attention to the songs.
  • A season 2 episode of Laff-A-Lympics employed an applause meter to gauge which of the three teams would win a specific event. Mildew Wolf would hold his microphone to the camera, presumably for the viewers at home to vote by applause. Naturally, the Really Rottens got bupkis.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee has meters that ghosts use to gauge how miserable each town is and how well the ghouls perform in making them more awful. Naturally, when Molly McGee enters the picture, the meter for her town gradually undergoes a shift.

    Real Life 
  • As mentioned in the description, the Clap-O-Meter, which was a feature on many game shows in the 60s and 70s. It was supplanted by more accurate forms of audience voting, like keypads. Definitely not to be used for diagnosing sexually transmitted infections!
    • There's also the version without an actual meter - you "vote by your applause" and the judges decide who/what gets the loudest applause. Used often in Bikini contests.
  • When discussing the development of the Wii, Miyamoto mentioned a theoretical "Wife-o-Meter" he used to measure his wife's increasing interest in video games over the years.
  • Perhaps the most pervasive example ever would be the speedometer in your car.
  • British election coverage always features the Swingometer, a needle that is turned from one major party to the other to indicate how many voters have switched their allegiance. Originally a cardboard prop (which was parodied in the election night sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus as spinning crazily around), it has more recently taken the form of CGI.
  • As referenced in several of the examples above, various devices are described as being able to "test" how much two people love each other. There are stand-alone machines, sometimes seen in bars or arcades, there are pocket-sized ones (somewhat popular in Japan), and naturally several dozen written "tests" (frequently in magazines like Cosmopolitan) which will supposedly rate how strong a relationship is.
    • In 1979 inventor Carlisle Dixon patented a system for single people to identify potential friends/lovers in crowds. Each person programs a personal transceiver with musical, literary, and other preferences. When two such transceivers detect each other, the person carrying them is told how compatible they are.
    • In 1969, back when they were a toy manufacturer, Nintendo marketed a "Love Tester". It consisted of two spherical sensors connected to a meter. The couple would hold the sensors with one hand and hold hands with the other, upon which the meter showed their "love score" on a scale from 1 to 100. The device was designed by none other than Gunpei Yokoi, who loved explaining that kissing the girl would give better results.
  • During the 1980s, the beginning of the drunk-driving-is-wrong awareness era (thanks to MADD and other organizations), bars would often install breath-alysers as a public service, so that patrons could know "when to say when." The practice was discontinued when people started using the machines to adjudicate who's-the-most-drunk contests.
  • The id Tech 3-based games (Quake III: Arena, Call of Duty), as well as engines derived from id Tech 3 (Infinity Ward's IW Engine) feature a Lag-O-Meter, which measures network lag during online play.
  • Pun and Rule 34 demand the Orgasmeter. Actually, already Mc Kinsey effectively built one, only he was a scientist and didn't name it so. In the meantime you can get a similar one (that names itself so) even as an app. Science Marches On.
  • In the US military, there are a variety of "morale patches" which aren't an authorized part of the uniform, but are sometimes temporarily attached to the uniform (and quickly removed, if an NCO or officer without a sense of humor shows up). One of these designs features a "Fun Meter", with the needle often all the way on full.


Video Example(s):



Grundgetta presents Oscar a special mood-detecting machine that grouches use to calculate people's misery.

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Main / ThingOMeter

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