"(speech) balloon", as in the comics

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jan 1 16:20:57 UTC 2011

I apologize for having apparently led first responders off track.  I
did not mean to ask about specific forms of "<modifier> balloon" for
thoughts or words in illustrations.  Rather, about the word "balloon"
itself, for which the OED's earliest quotation is 1843    Dickens,
Martin Chuzzlewit.  But I've encountered such balloons in political
cartoons of the American Revolution (as John also noted below), and
purely by accident just saw an example in a satirical drawing
attributed to the 1600s.  (It's sources to "The Cuckold's Lamentation
of a Bad Wife" (1600s) in The Roxburghe Ballads, vol. 3. p. 635.)

And I have no idea how much earlier one can find illustrations with balloons.

So my questions are:

(1)  If such balloons were used earlier, perhaps 200 years earlier,
than _Martin Chuzzlewit_, were they called "balloons" earlier?

(2)  Or was some other term(s) used in the 17th and 18th centuries?

(3)  Does the OED definition need an extension from "esp. a character
in a cartoon or comic strip" to include satiric (including political)


At 12/31/2010 03:44 PM, Baker, John wrote:
>         The air balloon, thought to be the model for "speech balloon,"
>dates back only to 1783, so it seems quite unlikely that "speech
>balloon" was used any earlier than that, even though "balloon" was used
>in other senses prior to that time.  I'm pretty sure that Griffy was
>referring to speech balloons themselves (which, as claimed, date back at
>least to the 18th century), and not to the term.
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>Of Joel S. Berson
>Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 3:07 PM
>Subject: "(speech) balloon", as in the comics
>Today Griffy, of the comic strip, says, "Speech balloons have been
>around for almost 300 years, Zippy!"
>The OED's earliest quotation is "1843    Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit."
>Is Griffy wrong by 100+ years, or have we not found something?  (Of
>course, the balloons may have been around for a while before they
>were called "balloons".)  I've asked Zippy ... but his mental
>capacity may not be up to an answer.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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