Is there a name for these curved lines that represent head motion?

Rosie Cleaning Up


From Wikipedia...

In comics, motion lines (also known as movement lines, action lines, speed lines, hites or zip ribbons) are the abstract lines that appear behind a moving object or person, parallel to its direction of movement, to make it appear as if it is moving quickly.

I can't find a corresponding (domain-specific?) definition of abstract lines as used above, but I'm guessing it's intended to imply lines which convey an abstract quality such as movement, emotion, etc. - rather than something "material", such as might be captured by a photographic image.

By implication therefore, exclamation marks or a lightbulb drawn above a cartoon character's head (indicating surprise, or a sudden inspiration) ought to also be called "abstract" lines / glyphs / punctuation marks, but I've never come across any such usage myself.

For anyone who thinks this is "Quiite Interesting" (such as me, now my attention is focused on it), I also found this post on Pinterest...

Hites, Vites, Dites, or Briffits.

Hites are horizontal lines to indicate speed or movement. Vites are vertical lines that add shine on a floor or an icy pond. Dites are diagonal lines to represent the reflection in a window or mirror. And Briffits are simply cloud-shaped dust clouds.

Fascinating stuff, domain-specific terminology.

  • @Lambie: I bothered because abstract lines was used as part of the Wikipedia definition, not simply as an alternative name having the same meaning as motion lines, action lines, speed lines, hites, zip ribbons. And I went on to provide supplementary info regarding hites because at least some people (though apparently not you) might well think that's highly relevant to the usage. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '18 at 15:07
  • I don't see what you mean by that. Assuming we're both competent native speakers, how come it's "obvious" to you that abstract here means denoting an abstract quality that's not normally visible, but to me it's at least an "unusual" usage that I had to think through in context to see what it meant? And if it strikes me as unusual, wouldn't it be even more likely to be somewhat opaque to a non-native speaker such as might be reading this answer? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '18 at 15:32
  • What else? How about If symbols are the most focused and explicit kind of conceptual imagery, at the opposite end of the scale of precision are abstract images? In my understanding, things like exclamation marks as referenced in my answer are definitely symbols (as is lightbulb, in the context of being drawn over a cartoon characters head). Whether we should call "hites" symbols or abstract images (given they're presented there as complete opposites) is a quandary to me. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '18 at 15:44
  • 1
    I would have stuck with just motion lines and left the discussion about abstract lines out of it—aside from just having it as part of the quotation. Perhaps I think how @Lambie does, although I can't tell with the comments now missing. My emotional reaction to abstract lines in this context is to find the term nonsensical and ridiculous—and a distraction from an otherwise simple answer—in particular if no other sources corroborate the Wikipedia entry. (There are also many other sources that discuss motion lines.) But, that's just my personal opinion . . . – Jason Bassford Oct 8 '18 at 19:20
  • @JasonBassford: Like I said, that Wikipedia entry defines "motion lines" as "abstract lines". Since "abstract" in that context didn't mean much to me, I tried to dig a little deeper (without much success, obviously). The issue as being discussed here centred on Lambie claiming that the meaning was obvious, and therefore didn't need to be further explained. But as to what that obvious meaning might be, I'm still as much in the dark as ever - essentially I'm with you in finding the term nonsensical and ridiculous, but since I'd cited it I felt I had to at least try to explain it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 9 '18 at 12:10

I believe the term you're looking for is 'emanata'. It only includes lines coming out of the character, not motion though.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.