maandag 4 maart 2013



Gwillim Law  has collected on his site(1) 151 early French and American examples of
Grawlixes dating from 1909 to 1977 and containing about a thousand symbols.
These are the most common with the number of times they appeared in the list;

Following Mort Walker’s definitions(2) they are not just Grawlixes but a mixture of different Maladicta and Emanata.
I thought it would be interesting to compare these with scientific research on emotion.



In his book Descartes Error(3) leading neuroscientist Antonio Damasio differentiates between emotions and feelings;

Emotions are bodily things,
Feelings are mental things.

Emotions are automatic. They don't require any thinking.

Emotions precede feelings, and are the foundations for feelings.

A feeling is a mental representation of the state of the organism's body.

An emotion is the execution of a complex program of actions. Some actions that are actually movements, like movement that you can do, change your face for example, in fear, or movements that are internal, that happen in your heart or in your gut.
The feeling of an emotion is a cognitive response to that bodily condition.

According to Damasio over time these representations of bodily states become associated with particular situations and their past outcomes,

These ‘somatic markers’ are crucial for making decisions.

For instance when a somatic marker associated with a negative situation is perceived, the person may feel sad and act as an internal alarm to warn the individual to avoid a course of action.
Damasio identifies a direct and an indirect pathway,
  1. Emotion can be evoked by the changes in the body that are projected to the brain. For instance, encountering a snake may initiate the fight-or-flight response and cause fear.
  2.  Cognitive representations of the emotions can be activated in the brain without being directly followed by a physiological response. For instance, imagining an encounter with a snake would initiate a similar flight-or-fight response “as-if” you were in that particular situation. In other words, the brain can anticipate expected bodily changes.


How does this reflect on Grawlixes??

We can see clearly in these examples that it is indeed the face that expresses the emotion,
We can also see that different Grawlixesa can be associated with the same emotion suggesting that the relation is secondary.
In most examples, we see symbols that walker associated with negative feelings like intoxication and anger in combination with negative emotion
The third and sixth Maladicta here represent an ambivalence,
‘I realise I feel shit but chose to ignore it and be happy’ and
‘I’m feeling sunny but I’m not showing it’ .
Suppose Grawlixes are feelings that is- mental representations of the state of the organism's body, this gives these possibilities;

  1.  Emotion is no longer automatic (manipulation)
  2.  Feeling is distorted because there is a perception is that the bodily state is distorted (sickness)) or there is a mental distortion separate of the bodily state,(drugs)
  3. The ambivalence is a normal condition (madness)


So if they are not emotions, are Grawlixes representations of bodily states?
Here’s a situation with an unmistakable effect on the body;
As a result of the severe stress on the body we see several Grawlixes popping up.


(1)Gwillim Law. Grawlixes Past and Present ;

(2)Mort Walker.  The Lexicon of Comicana , iUniverse; First Edition edition (March 21, 2000)

(3)Antonio Damasio . Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Putnam Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0-399-13894-3;'_Error

Theo Van Den Boogaard, Wim T. Schippers. Sjef van Oekel raakt op drift
Oberon(1985), ISBN13 9789032045265

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