Basic US 213 Folder Collection
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It's March 21, 1955, and the Sarge is really @(#$* mad.
But how do we we know that this means )#@$%(? Using a line of symbols to show obscenity
is an established idea today, but it's as old as the early 1900s, when an entirely new
visual language was being invented.
This is Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker,
and in addition to making soldiers say stuff like !(@[email protected]#(*, he coined the term “grawlixes”
for the obscenity symbols, in an essay published for comic artists and later anthologized.
Other comic conventions include plewds — little sweat drops; Briffits - dust clouds when a
character disappears; and emanata — lines showing shock.
But Walker made a list of tropes — not an origin story.
For that, you've got to go back to the turn of the !)@@!)$ century.
This is the madhouse of comics in 1896.
What we think of as comics basically started with Hogan's Alley, and later The Yellow Kid,
a spin-off centered on the [email protected]#[email protected]# freakshow @#$*( (@!*#$ [email protected]@@!
Irish-American urchin Mickey Dugan (this is him watching a cockfight).
Comics were experimental.
Panels sometimes had to be numbered so you knew the order to read them in, and dialogue
rarely appeared in speech bubbles.
Sometimes words showed up on the Yellow Kid.
Two comics pushed that innovation to the next level and invented a lot of what we know today
- probably including grawlixes.
The Katzenjammer Kids made a paneled story mainstream, showing some naughty little @()#*$s who always got spanked.
Katzenjammer's innovations included consistent speech bubbles and in the next couple of years,
emanata indicating motion and maybe even swears.
Lady Bountiful, a comic about a rich lady who tried to help some urchins — notice
an urchin theme here?
— joined in this idiomatic arms race.
She also had speech bubbles while other comics still used captions.
Those speech bubbles were more visceral than captions.
They could show music and weird stuff like ideas, and this
- the first known grawlix.
Now it's hard to be certain that this really was the first grawlix.
But suddenly in 1902 and 1903, there were a @[email protected]$$$ ton of them, and only a few comics
were innovative enough to employ the new device.
In December 1902, the Katzenjammer kids joined in with Lady B.
These trailblazing comics established how you talk in comics with speech bubbles,
and with the grawlix, they established how you showed you just don't give a [email protected]#()!!.
This is a 1 kiloherz sine wave.
You might not recognize it.
But it sounds like this.
It solves a problem and creates a feeling.
Just like the grawlix.
It's the fun of transgression and the punishment, all in one smush of symbols.
Sure, Sarge gets mad at Beetle for breaking the rules.
But Beetle, that little [email protected](#* !*@#( little @#($*@#($* skinny *@#$(*!)@ son of a ()@#()$*@ kind of *@(#$*(@#*$.
Sarge loves him, too.
Hey, what's up @#)$*(@(#? Two things.
First, if you're interested in language nerdery like this, check out Language Log
and the writing of Ben Zimmer.
Both of those were instrumental in early research on the grawlix and it helped us get our start.
However, I do not wanna brag here, but we did find some early grawlixes that are even
earlier than the previously known ones.
If you want to learn about the research process for something as weird as a grawlix, Vox has
a membership program called the Vox Video Lab where there are a ton of extra videos and information.
In the Videolab, I have made a video about my research process and exactly how I nerded
out over these 1900s comics and found a ton of ()@#*$* grawlixes.
So, check it out if you want to see how it happened.
    You must  Log in  to get the function.
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What the #[email protected]!% are these?

213 Folder Collection
Liang Chen published on February 23, 2019    B.Y.l translated    Evangeline reviewed
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