21 Jun Briffits and Squeens
Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois fame is also credited with creating a bunch of nonsense words for the shorthand symbols used in Newspaper Comics. In 1980 he released a book called The Lexicon of Comicana that listed and defined all of these terms. Many of the terms were adopted by other cartoonists, and even incorporated into cartooning how-to books, although those of us outside the industry (or just preferring to not sound crazy) will usually still use expressions like “dust clouds” and “motion lines”.
This is a list of some of the more well known ones:
Briffits: Clouds of dust that trail behind fast-moving characters, linger in the spot where a character suddenly dashed out of frame, or appear in clumps when objects or characters collide. Car exhaust can serve as a more realistic version of this.
Hites: Horizontal lines that trail behind fast-moving characters to indicate motion. Usually come in pairs. A variation is up-hites, which are vertical and appear above a falling object or character.
Dites: Diagonal lines placed across glass surfaces (either reflective or clear) to indicate sheen. In color comics these are sometimes filled in with white, or, in more modern comics, replaced entirely with a semi-transparent airbrushed white line.
Grawlixes: Symbol Swearing. Traditionally includes symbols like stars, angry scribbles, storm clouds (sometimes complete with lightning bolts), swirls, large exclamation points, and skulls. Machine-lettered comics will often just use keyboard characters.
Plewds: Drops of sweat emanating from the character’s head to indicate nervousness, stress, or working hard.
Squeans: Bubbles and open asterisks (popped bubbles) that appear over a drunk or sick character’s head.
Indotherm: Squiggly lines placed over an object to indicate radiant heat. May also appear above the head of an extremely irritated character.
Solrads: Lines proceeding from a light source.
Emanata: Visually identical to solrads, they surround a character’s head to indicate surprise or shock.
Blurgits: Parenthesis-shaped symbols used to indicate less intense movement, such as a nudge, shoulders shrugging, or slow walking (in a waist-up shot).
Agitrons: Similar in function to blurgits, longer wiggly lines around something that is shaking or vibrating.