The Lexicon of Comicana
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Front cover art
The Lexicon of Comicana is a 1980 book by the American cartoonist Mort Walker. It was intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at the devices used by cartoonists. In it, Walker invented an international set of symbols called symbolia after researching cartoons around the world. In 1964, Walker had written an article called "Let's Get Down to Grawlixes", a satirical piece for the National Cartoonists Society. He used terms such as grawlixes for his own amusement, but they soon began to catch on and acquired an unexpected validity. The Lexicon was written in response to this.
The names he invented for them sometimes appear in dictionaries, and serve as convenient terminology occasionally used by cartoonists and critics. A 2001 gallery showing of comic- and street-influenced art in San Francisco, for example, was called "Plewds! Squeans! and Spurls!"
Agitrons: wiggly lines around a shaking object or character.
Blurgits, swalloops: curved lines preceding or trailing after a character's moving limbs.
Briffits: clouds of dust that hang in the spot of a swiftly departing character or object.
Dites: diagonal, straight lines drawn across flat, clear and reflective surfaces, such as windows and mirrors.
Emanata: lines drawn around the head to indicate shock or surprise.
Grawlixes: typographical symbols standing for profanities, appearing in dialogue balloons in place of actual dialogue.
Hites: horizontal straight lines trailing after something moving with great speed; or, drawn on something indicating reflectivity (puddle, glass, mirror).
Indotherm: wavy, rising lines used to represent steam or heat; when the same shape is used to denote smell, it is called a wafteron.
Lucaflect: a shiny spot on a surface of something, depicted as a four-paned window shape.
Plewds: flying sweat droplets that appear around a character's head when working hard, stressed, etc.
Quimps: planets resembling Saturn to omit obscenities
Solrads: radiating lines drawn from something luminous like a lightbulb or the sun.
Squeans: little starbursts or circles that signify intoxication, dizziness or sickness.
Vites: vertical straight lines indicating reflectivity (compare dites, hites).
Additional symbolia terms include whiteope, sphericasia, that-a-tron, spurls, oculama, crottles, maledicta balloons, farkles, doozex, staggeration, boozex, digitrons, nittles, and jarns.
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- Language Log, Obscenicons a century ago, http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2457 retrieved on 17/07/10
- The Word Blog: Rules & realities of English usage: "Names for the Unspeakable" by Jan Freeman. The Boston Globe July 20, 2008.
Steve Edgell, Brad! Brooks, Tim Pilcher, The Complete Cartooning Course (London: Barron’s, 2001), 50-1.