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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.

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 of Expo Label include:

Comic Books


  • 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!"
  • 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.

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!"

Live Action TV

  • Gerry Anderson's shows take place in a very well labeled future.
  • 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.
  • In Buffy, the box of Rat Poison with "Rat Poison" on it.
    • Also, their plan to attack the Mayor with a box labeled "Ebola"
  • In Beakman's 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".

Video Games


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 Weather Maker".
      • A government building has a Big Red Button with the label "To call police". Robin pushes it so the police will come and pick up some captured villains.
      • A nuclear power plant in the Big Bad's ship has the label "Nuclear Power Plant".
    • "The Balloon People". An obvious elevator has a giant "Elevator" label above it. Likewise, some launch tunes are labeled "Launch Tubes".
    • "The Mysterious Moles". In the Hall of Justice a printer was labeled "Teletype".
    • "The Planet Splitter".
      • 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.
    • "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.
    • "The Ultra Beam". A spectroscope has the label "Spectroscope" on it.
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