The Lexicon of Comicana
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The Lexicon of Comicana is a book that was written in 1980 by American cartoonist Mort Walker. It was intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at the devices cartoonists utilize in their craft. 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. Walker 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 fact.
The names he invented for them sometimes appear in dictionaries and serve as convenient terminology occasionally used by cartoonists. A 2001 gallery showing of comic- and street-influenced art in San Francisco, for example, was called "Plewds! Squeans! and Spurls!"
- Flying sweat droplets that appear around a character's head when working hard or stressed.
- Clouds of dust that hang in the spot where a swiftly departing character or object was previously standing.
- Little starbursts or circles that signify intoxication, dizziness, or sickness.
- Lines drawn around the head to indicate shock or surprise.
- Typographical symbols standing for profanities, which appear in dialogue balloons in the place of actual dialogue.
- Wavy, rising lines used to represent steam or heat on hot objects -- however, the same shape found over a hot apple pie or something else strong smelling is a wafteron.
- Wiggly lines around an object that is shaking
- Blurgits, swalloops
- Curved lines preceding or trailing after a character's moving limbs
- Horizontal straight lines trailing after something moving with great speed, or indicating reflectivity (puddle, glass, mirror). Likewise, up-hites would be lines above an object falling.
- A shiny spot on a surface of something
- Diagonal, straight lines drawn across something flat, clear, and reflective, such as windows and mirrors.
- Radiating lines drawn from something luminous like a lightbulb or the sun.
- 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, quimp, and jarns.
A Gallery of Symbolia
Briffits and Hites
- Wordwizard Clubhouse
- Steve Edgell, Brad! Brooks, Tim Pilcher, The Complete Cartooning Course (London: Barron’s, 2001), 50-1.