Rob Barba
Rob Barba Posts: 86
edited April 2022 in History of Typography
Okay, time to tap the hivemind: Any thoughts on some of the more common grawlix glyphs and what should be added to a comic font?

Some of you are going to be staring at that word and wondering What the &#!%$ is a grawlix?  Well, you just got your answer in that last question.  Specifically...
The term grawlix refers to the series of typographical symbols (such as @#$%&!) used in cartoons and comic strips to represent swear words. Plural: grawlixes.

Also known as jarns, nittles, and obscenicons, grawlixes usually appear in maledicta balloons alongside the comic characters who are uttering the oaths. The term grawlix was introduced by American comic artist Mort Walker (creator of Beetle Bailey) in the article "Let's Get Down to Grawlixes" (1964) and revisited in his book The Lexicon of Comicana (1980).
Now granted, I could go just look up some old Katzenjammer Kids strips and come up with some, but I'd like an international perspective, in case the concept has been used in other comic traditions besides English.

Edited to add: And no, grawlixes aren't really "proto-dingbats", though I can see how they could be thought of as such.  They're basically a visual bowdlerization of profanity/obscenity and while some things may make sense in one language, they may not in another.  That's what I'm going for.


  • Florian Pircher
    I always liked the skull ☠️ as it is much more impactful than, say, a percentage sign.

    It would be fun to have a separate grawlixes style or a grawlixes substitution feature so that the underlying text would still be inferable to readers in the know.
  • K Pease
    K Pease Posts: 182
    They typically had spirals in them before the computer age turned them all into at-signs. There is no Unicode for an ordinary spiral, which I find rather strange given everything else that there is. There is cause to make it an alternate @ or even the default one depending on how specialized the font is. People will still get the idea if they see it in an email address.
    Lightning is important too. That has a place at 26A1 ⚡ though incidentally I have to say technology's reassignment of existing glyphs to color emoji has gone a little too far.
  • Florian Pircher
    I think automatic color fonts are a 🌀☠⚡ idea. There is U+FE0E to force the standard text presentation, but if the only fonts installed on your system that cover these code points are color fonts, you will probably not get around the color presentation.
  • Linus Romer
    Linus Romer Posts: 185
    I have often seen Chinese looking glyphs in grawlixes in comics of German language. Sometimes, mathematical symbols are used as well (the border to "proto-dingbats" may be fuzzy in this context).