%#@* that cartoon cursing!

What does one call the use of random non-alphabet characters to indicate cursing? It's a universally understood device, and is applied in both graphic and textual settings. It is such a commonly accepted staple that I assumed it must already be defined and described - but apparently it's not.

I began by checking with the the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum, and was told by the collections manager that "I asked some of our resident experts and no one seemed to know if there was as single term to describe %*&#."  

I later asked Dan Piraro, the brilliant talent behind the nationally syndicated cartoon panel Bizarro. He said: "I have no idea what it is called, either. We use it, but we don't really talk about it. "Cartoon cursing" perhaps?"

I've also seen it referred to as "cartoon swearing" and "comic strip cursing." The term "obscenicons" has also been proposed. One of the few Web references is this linguistics item about Beetle Bailey, which uses the terms "cartoon cursing" and "cartoon cussing." Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker apparently called the characters "grawlixes" in his 1980 book The Lexicon of Comicana, but it's unclear if that term ever caught on.

"Cartoon cursing" is good enough for me. I really wonder about this trope. Below are some clever self-conscious examples of this device.

Lincoln Cushing, 7/11/2008
, revised 12/19/2008

"Get Fuzzy," by Darby Conley; "Cheap City" by Michael Capazzola and Jason Downs, www.Capozzola.com

Thanks to Josh Abraham (Yankee Pot Roast) for the Mort Walker reference.
More examples from Mark Parisi

Also see:

K City by Bruno Pieroni

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