Part of the Email and messaging glossary:

A grawlix is a sequence of typographical symbols used to represent a non-specific, profane word or phrase. Here's an example of a typical grawlix:

#@$%*!

The term first appeared in a 1964 article called Let's get down to grawlixes by American cartoonist Mort Walker, who is best known as the creator of the Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois cartoons. Later, in a book called The Lexicon of Comicana, Walker created and named an international set of symbols used in comics around the world. Walker called his system Symbolia.

Here are some examples of other terms in the list:

  • agitrons: wiggly lines indicating that something is shaking
  • briffits: clouds of dust indicating that a character left in a rush
  • emanata: straight lines rising from around a character's head indicating surprise
  • plewds: drops of sweat indicating that a character is hot or stressed
  • squeans: asterisks with an empty center indicating drunkenness or dizziness
  • waftaroms: wavy lines rising from something indicating a strong smell or heat.

Some of the symbols used in Symbolia, such as the squean, are not represented on a keyboard or in commonly-used fonts. Some comic-oriented fonts, such as MarkerMan, include Symbolia characters.

This was last updated in June 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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