Tuesday, December 08, 2009


But for an aggravating event this morning, I might never have known the meaning of grawlixes, unless my old friend Geof Huth told me, because it’s the kind of thing he would know. Last night snow fell in earnest, filling in some of the lawn’s bare patches. Also last night, air leaked out of one of our tires in earnest, presenting a sad sight on the snowy driveway in the morning. A sight that had to be dealt with. I put on the spare, in the snow.

Later, I wrote this: “Those @#$%&* tires have been nothing but trouble since I bought them about two years ago.” That isn’t entirely true, since it’s an example of how product failure lingers in memory much more vividly than months and even years of reliable use. But it's partly true, since I’ve had more than one problem with them in two years, which seems like too many problems.

Never mind. Since I prefer not to include any profanity at this site stronger than ‘sblood or maybe gorblimey, I used the string of symbols above – grawlixes, they're called. Wiki offers the following definition, taken from The Lexicon of Comicana by cartoonist Mort Walker: "Typographical symbols standing for profanities, which appear in dialogue balloons in the place of actual dialogue."

If you want to split hairs, grawlixes used in standard text like this, as opposed to word balloons, might not really be grawlixes. But I'm not going to put that fine a point on it.

Apparently Walker coined the term about 45 years ago. Fun to know, and as usual that bit of information led to other information, namely that Mort Walker is still alive and is still drawing Beetle Bailey after nearly 60 years. I don't think I've seen it in about 20 years, but I'm fairly certain that if I did, it would be about the same as it ever was. It isn't something that's going to be updated. So it's unlikely that there will be a story arc about Beetle in Afganistan (poor Lt. Fuzz, taken out by an IED).

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