Turns out balloon hats connect us all
October 3, 2011 8:47 PM   Subscribe

Universality "Laughter sounds the same in every language"

A cool video project of a guy going around the world and giving everyone balloon hats, then taking photos of the aftermath. SPOILER ALERT: everyone has a good time and we're more alike than we are different.
posted by mathowie (29 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You know who else liked balloons?
posted by swift at 8:52 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scary clowns?
posted by mathowie at 8:54 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by twoleftfeet at 9:01 PM on October 3, 2011

Yep nine years ago the balloon guy was posted but I thought the video was a cool new aspect to it.
posted by mathowie at 9:02 PM on October 3, 2011

Also ten years ago, but in any case, the statute of limitations on the crime of bringing joy into people's lives must have expired by now.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:06 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Laughter sounds the same in every language"

Reading foreign-language comics would seem to refute this. Some of the old Tintin books have people's laughs reading like sea lion mating calls.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cross-linguistic onomatopoeias: laughter [/smartass]
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:13 PM on October 3, 2011

they all spell it differently, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on October 3, 2011

In Arabic hà hà hà, hee hee
In Chinese, Mandarin hā hā 哈哈, hē hē 呵呵, xī xī 嘻嘻
In Estonian, haha, hahhah, hehe, hehheh, hihi
In Greek: haha χαχα, hehe χεχε
In Indonesian, hahaha, hehehe
In Japanese, フフ (fu fu)
In Korean, hahaha 하하하, kekeke 케케케

That's right... fufufu and kekeke
This part of the world is always special.
posted by Winnemac at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Korean laughter sounds like Greek frogs?
posted by kenko at 9:35 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

"フ" is a breathy sound which is kind of halfway between English "hu" (as in "hula") and "foo" (as in "fool"). It's not as much of an outlier as it seems.
posted by vorfeed at 10:33 PM on October 3, 2011

You know who else liked balloons?



balloonMan    whistles
posted by benzenedream at 10:38 PM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

The ㅋㅋㅋ in korean is more like "kkkkk," which reminds me of chuckling.

Also, I'm in Japan right now, and every time I laugh I get made fun of because it sounds kinda like "she she she she." I hate laughing now.
posted by meows at 10:38 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

From the Simpsons episode "Skinner's Sense of Snow," described in this list of linguistically interesting Simpsons jokes:
Lisa accidentally ends up at West Springfield Elementary and finds herself in a French class. As the students laugh at her, the teacher admonishes, “En français!” and they all nasalize their laughs.
posted by John Cohen at 10:48 PM on October 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

Those are far and away the best balloon hats I've ever seen, and the philosophy espoused in the clip, hey, how you gonna argue with something like that? Going around the world doing something lighthearted and fun, with simple, good and honest intentions? Hey, I certainly wouldn't scoff at it. More power to 'em!

But here's another vote against that hideously banal piano music. Why do so many people put this kind of mind-numbing generic crap soundtrack on their videos? Makes my ears glaze over.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:24 AM on October 4, 2011

couldn't watch it due to cheesy music.
posted by mary8nne at 1:27 AM on October 4, 2011

The Italian spelling of laughter really bugs me: they write "ah ah ah" when what they say is actually "ha ha ha", like (most) everyone else. When you try to point the simply mistaken reverse order of the letters out, they won't have it. Which is partly to do with their general difficulty with words beginning with h, especially if followed by a. (Havana, hamburger, hashish and hacker are Avana, 'amburger, 'ashish and 'acker; but their fundamental incertainty about haitches leads the majority of Italians to overcorrect the director's name to Woody Hallen.)

As laughter written out is likely a relatively modern thing, my suspicion is that this might well be traced to Mickey Mouse (locally: Topolino), as much of modern Italian exclamating onomatopeia is.
posted by progosk at 2:23 AM on October 4, 2011

Exclamating Onomatopeia

Got my new band name.

And their debut album: "Modern Italian"

Love the balloon hats; especially the camel's necklace.

Nthing the desire to hear laughter rather than piano.
posted by chavenet at 2:51 AM on October 4, 2011

Unlike most people, I've actually spent many hours making balloon sculptures. I did this as part of a lengthy education in circus arts (I can juggle! I can ride a unicycle! I can walk a tightrope!)

Balloon sculpture was one of the easier skills to pick up. If you want to learn, the best site I know online is Balloon HQ, but there are other references that aren't online (MeFi mail me if you're interested.)

Balloon sculpture is surprisingly easy to learn because there are only a handful of basic moves. You do a basic pinch and twist, then bend the balloon around for a lock. There are other moves, but those two will take you pretty far. The other two things that are difficult are; (1) getting the damn balloons in the first place (you have to buy long balloons, not ordinary balloons,... but there are sources online) and (2) blowing up the damn things. It's actually pretty hard to blow up a long balloon with just your breath. One trick is to stretch them out before you blow them up, but generally it takes some practice to focus your breath on one of these things.

Once you've got the simplest moves down, you're only limited by your creativity. The usual stuff - hats, animals, weapons - can be learned in a few hours. I like really weird stuff myself. Adult sculptures appealed to me because I'm not a child, and done properly, these kinds of balloon sculptures can be elevated into an art form. (Blah blah blah Jeff Koons.)

Some people do absurdly large balloon sculptures, but honestly, the best deployment of this minor skill I've ever experienced really has been making a silly hat or animal for a small child. Everybody should learn to balloon sculpture. There are worse ways to blow your time.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:54 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

my suspicion is that this might well be traced to Mickey Mouse (locally: Topolino), as much of modern Italian exclamating onomatopeia is.

The other possibility, similarly originating from pop culture, just of a different era, is that it might be rooted in operatic exclamatory laughter, where the letter reversal would actually come close to transcribing how a singer would bark out "laughter". I don't have any libretti to hand, but I'd be surprised if that wasn't how it's written (if indeed it is written out). Further fun hypothesis: the Topolino translators/editors then reversed the h's and a's in the original Mickey Mouse drawings, basing their decision on that operatic spelling convention.
posted by progosk at 3:32 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good balloon artist.
posted by dreyfusfinucane at 4:20 AM on October 4, 2011

I came here to mention the universality of facial expressions, but it looks like it has been debunked.
posted by Tarumba at 4:53 AM on October 4, 2011

Globophobia is no joke.
posted by Eideteker at 5:37 AM on October 4, 2011

If you smile at me I will understand because everybody smiles in the same language.

See also.
posted by bukvich at 6:10 AM on October 4, 2011

warning, it will resize your browser.

Once I got over that annoyance, it was great fun.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2011

We may all laugh the same, but we go insane in our own different ways.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:47 AM on October 4, 2011

Whoops, shoulda checked the whole thread first, bukvich.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:30 AM on October 4, 2011

Language is an imperialist, seeking to conquer all vocalizations and wring from them a tribute of phonemes.
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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