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The Grawlix: How to Swear in Cartoons

We all know that newspaper comic strips aren’t supposed to have any swearing in them.  Also we all know they do, and have for a long time.  Instead of any recognizable vulgarities, though, we typically see a string of symbols that can’t be pronounced, something like “%$#&%!!”  The reader is free to fill in the blank with any obscenity they want, if they want.  The word for an instance of this swearing is a grawlix.
The grawlix is not a new comic strip convention.  In fact, it’s not much younger than the comic strip itself, which is generally considered to have originated with Chester Outcault’s Yellow Kid, which debuted in the New York World in 1895.  The Yellow Kid is famous for this and forlending his name to the concept of yellow journalism.  The Kid’s name was Mikey Dugan, but he never swore.He never uttered a word—anything he had to say was splashed across his oversized yellow shirt.  The characters who inhabited his world, however, spoke in speech balloons, a cartoon conventi…