Loose lips sink ships

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This article is about the English idiom. For other uses, see Loose lips sink ships (disambiguation).
American World War II poster by Seymour R. Goff, also known as Ess-ar-gee.

Loose lips sink ships is an American English idiom meaning "beware of unguarded talk".

The phrase originated on propaganda posters during World War II.[1] The phrase was created by the War Advertising Council[2] and used on posters by the United States Office of War Information.[1]

The most famous poster that helped popularize the phrase (pictured at right) was created for the Seagram Distillers Corporation by the designer Seymour R. Goff (also known by the pseudonym "Ess-ar-gee" or Essargee).[3] This type of poster was part of a general campaign of American propaganda during World War II to advise servicemen and other citizens to avoid careless talk concerning secure information that might be of use to the enemy.[4] The British equivalent used variations on the phrase "Keep mum,"[5] while in neutral Sweden the State Information Board promoted the wordplay "en svensk tiger" (the Swedish word "tiger" means both "tiger" and "keeping silent"), and Germany used "Schäm Dich, Schwätzer!" (English: "Shame on you, blabbermouth!").[6]

The gist of this particular slogan was that one should avoid speaking of ship movements, as this talk (if directed at or overheard by covert enemy agents) might allow the enemy to intercept and destroy the ships.[7]

There were many similar such slogans, but "Loose lips sink ships" remained in the American idiom for the remainder of the century and into the next, usually as an admonition to avoid careless talk in general.[7][8][9]

Some examples of use the phrase outside the World War II propaganda context are:

  • Loose Lips Sink Ships is a pop band,[10] a pop album (by Des Ark), and pop songs by various artists, including Camper Van Beethoven, A Change of Pace, Hit the Lights, and others.[11]
  • Loose Lips Sink Ships is a musical play produced by the American Folklore Theatre.
  • Loose Lips Sink Ships is an episode of the American-animated television program, Fish Hooks.
  • "Loose Lips Sink Ships" is the title an episode of the American television program Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, and a variation, "Loose Lips Sink Relationships", is an episode of the American television program Will & Grace.
  • "Loose Lips" is a song written by Kimya Dawson heard in the soundtrack of the feature film, Juno.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" occurs multiple times throughout the song "Cherry Tree" by The National.[12]
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is also the title of a paper exploring labiaplasty by Simone Weil Davis of the University of Toronto.[13]
  • Phrase occurs in "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" video game at the end of the letter (about evacuation of Federal Emergency Management Agency station MICH.355.sos.7 at Highland Park (Detroit) sent by Joseph Manderley.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is the lyric at the beginning of the song Let's Get It Up by AC/DC.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Nobody's Safe Chump" by EPMD.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is repeated throughout the song "XO", a song on Fall Out Boy's third studio album, From Under the Cork Tree.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is often seen printed on one of the many shirts of Billy Talent's lead singer, Ben Kowalewicz
  • "Loose lips may sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Covered in Cowardice" by Billy Talent
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is seen on the CHEW picture posted by a Riot Games employee smurf to leak information.[14]
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is mentioned in the alehouses in the game Tradewinds.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is an achievement in a video game called Curve Fever 2.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is the lyrics at the beginning of the song "Ben Threw" by Of Mice & Men (band).
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric at the beginning of the song "Sweetwater Kill (The Ocean Song)" by the cello rock band Rasputina (band).
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in Travie McCoy's "Rough Water" ft. Jason Mraz.
  • "Loose lips sunk ships" is the lyrics at the beginning of the song "Sexed Up" by Robbie Williams.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Beneath the Waves" by Young Guns (band).
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Swallow my Pride" by Ramones.
  • "Loose lips sink ships all the damn time" is a lyric from the song "I Know Places" by Taylor Swift.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Slip of the lip" by Ratt.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is the final line in the song "Seaward" by The Acacia Strain.
  • "Loose Tweets Sink Fleets" is a contemporary phrase that reflects current methods of communication and inadvertent information dissemination over social media.[15]
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is repeated throughout the song "Snitches Get Stitches", a song on The Amity Affliction's first studio album, Severed Ties.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "Icebergs" by Madison Bloodbath.
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is a lyric in the song "I Get Around" by Tupac Shakur.


  1. ^ a b "Loose lips sink ships". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Security of War Information - Loose Lips Sink Ships (1942-1945)". Ad Council. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Hadley Digital Archive "Loose Lips Might Sink Ships"". Retrieved October 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Loose Lips Sink Ships". Eyewitness to History. 1997. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ ""Keep mum – she's not so dumb" - Charcoal, gouache, ink & pastel on board". British National Archives. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Schäm Dich, Schwätzer! Feind hört mit-Schweigen ist...". The Memory of the Netherlands. Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Retrieved March 24, 2014. (Dutch)
  7. ^ a b "Idiom: Loose lips sink ships". Using English. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Loose lips sink ships". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Loose lips sink ships – Anti Espionage Posters from WWII". www.successfullearningcommunities.com. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  10. ^ "LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS". progarchives.com. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Albums containing a track with the title:Loose Lips Sink Ships". allmusic.com. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Cherry Tree Lyrics". 
  13. ^ Davis, Simone. "Loose lips sink ships", Feminist Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 7–35.
  14. ^ http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/attachment.php?attachmentid=647302&d=1364406105[not in citation given]
  15. ^ "Loose tweets sink fleets: responsible use of social media is a must". www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil. Retrieved 24 February 2015.