Dear Kid,

Do you know what a grawlix is? Actually, I’m not sure you can have only one grawlix, so let me rephrase: Do you know what grawlixes are?

I thought not.

You might think grawlixes are Dr. Seuss inventions (and I do love Seuss), but they are not (close your mouth, it’s not that surprising). They are an invention of Mort Walker, cartoonist extraordinaire, best known for the comic strips Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois.

Grawlixes. The characters cartoonists use instead of swear words. DearKidLoveMom.comGrawlixes are the typographical symbols used to replace profanities, swear words, curses, and other undesirable content. As in “What the !#$!%^!” or something like that.

“Oh, Mother,” I hear you thinking, “How came you upon this particular bit of information?”

It’s weirder than you might think.

It’s because of Facebook. Which maybe means it’s not weirder than you think.

A friend of mine posted a link to The 2014 Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog which has some pretty funny stuff. But – it seems to me – the funny is a bit somewhat completely overshadowed by the overly generous use of four letter words (not all of which have four letters).

So I thought I’d look up the history of swear words. Which I did. And I will doubtless without a doubt (extra points if you get the reference) write a blog about swear words at some point (bottom line [BLUF if you’ve been paying attention} in case you can’t wait: they’ve been around a long time and aren’t likely to disappear any time in the near future). And in the process of looking up the history of swear words I found the term grawlixes. And if that isn’t the most fun word of the day, well, then you’ve had a much more interesting day than I have.

Wait, the story gets even better.

In 1980 (the dark ages, if you prefer), Mort wrote a book called The Lexicon of Comicana. His intent was to be silly (tongue-in-cheek type silly) about the “devices cartoonists utilize in their craft.” In other words, to give name and definition to the squiggles, lines, and curlicues they draw to make the situation clear.

Only people took him seriously. How awesome is that? I live for the day when someone will inadvertently take me seriously.

Here are some more of Mort’s fabulous words and definitions.

Plewds: flying sweat droplets that appear around a character’s head when working hard, stressed, etc.

Solrads: radiating lines drawn from something luminous like a lightbulb or the sun.

Squeans: little starbursts or circles that signify intoxication, dizziness, or sickness.

I would draw these for you, except for the small problem of not really being able to draw. Let’s all try working at least one of these into conversation today. I’m quite sure it will improve everyone’s mood.

Unless you really do have squeans around your head in which case we might need to use the grawlixes to cover up your reaction.

Love, Mom

“Doubtless without a doubt” is from the Philadelphia Story