Word of the day – grawlix

While looking through Language Log today, I came across the unusual words, grawlix, which is apparently a spiral used by cartoonists to indicate a character is swearing or cursing, along with other typographic symbols – for example @$£*&%!! (Here the ampersand (@) stands in for the grawlix).

According to Wiktionary, grawlix means “A string of typographical symbols used (especially in comic strips) to represent an obscenity or swearword.” It was apparently coined by American cartoonist Mort Walker.

Walker also coined a number of other terms for symbols used in comics, including jarn and quimp, which are also used as alternative names for typographic swearing; phosphene, which describes the stars that form over characters’ heads after they’ve been knocked out; and squean, which might float around a drunken character’s head.

Here’s an example of a comic character saying the cartoon-style swear squiggles.

Grawlix dollar sign jarn asterisk hash quimp!

This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

0 Responses to Word of the day – grawlix

  1. Phil says:

    Walker is an excellent neologist. Those words are great. In the linked article they all come under the term obscenicons, which is also delicious.

  2. Nick says:

    I think ampersand is & while @ is just “the at sign”. Interesting though. Often see part of a so-called “obscenity” replaced with the grawlix symbols, or similar eg f***ed

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