Any fan of comic strips in the newspaper has seen grawlixes, plewds and squeans – though most are unfamiliar with the words.
Cartoonists have limited space to convey their joke or message and sometimes rely on graphical clues to get their point across to readers. The comic strip “Beetle Bailey” is a frequent user of these devices.
In fact, Beetle creator Mort Walker wrote a book on the subject called the “Lexicon of Comicana” that established an international set of cartoonist symbols, called Symbolia. Walker made up words and definitions to describe each of these symbols. And while the concept of Symbolia was tongue-in-check, they began to catch on and today are an accepted part of the jargon.
So just what is a grawlix? It’s a string of typographical symbols that are used in place of profanity.
Now that you know what a grawlix is, what are plewds and squeans?
UPDATE: Plewds are flying sweat droplets that appear around a character’s head when working hard or stressed. Squeans are little starbursts or circles that signify intoxication, dizziness, or sickness.