Zzz's are often used in comics or cartoons to mean sleeping, or snoring.
Is this meaning understood widely in the world, or just western/english-speaking cultures?
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ZZZ: Zzz is an onomatopoeic representation of snoring. It was commonly used in media where sound effects were not an option, notably in comic books. That’s where it got its association with sleeping, even though it wasn’t the only device used to symbolize snoring. [Grammarly]
It's widely understood in most languages due to the spread of comics.
Different languages use different symbols/alphabets as variants of English ZZZ.
Here's a short list of some languages and the variants of ZZZ they use:
Japanese use the following different variants of zzz:
Russians use Хррp-пщщщ.
Norwegians and South Africans use snork.
In Finnish, they use krooh-pyyh.
Chinese use 呼噜 (hu-lu).
In Urdu, it's خر خر
Koreans use De reu rung.
Polish use chrrr-pśśś.
German use Chrrr/ rah-pü/ schnarch.
Vietnamese use khò khò.
Indonesians use groookkkk.
In Israel, they use xrrrr.
Arabic people use اخخ.
In Iraq, they use خ خ خ
Hungarians use horkol.
Turkish use hor.
Bulgarian use Hurrrrr.
In Bengali, they use ghon-ghon.
In Hindi, it's घोर-घोर.
In Czech it's CHRRRR.
Reference: Cross-linguistic onomatopoeias - Wikipedia
In the following extract from Why Does Z Stand for Snoring? from washingtoncitypaper.com the author suggests that other countries use other onomatopoeic sounds to represent sleep/snoring, but also that “like so many other effusions of American pop culture, (zzzz) is in common use worldwide.“
Germans use “chrrr,” which considering the typical German pronunciations of ch and r—i.e., you sound like you’re getting ready to use the spittoon—is a lot closer to snoring than “zzz.”
The French, who also favor a sonically rich r, use “rrroooo,” “rrr,” “roon,” “ron,” and so on. The Spanish likewise use “rooooon.”
The Japanese use characters that transliterate as “guu guu,” while speakers of Mandarin Chinese use characters sounding like “hu lu.”
Finns use “kroohpyyh,” which I’m guessing gives a hint of what I sound like.