Saying goodbye to the year of the grawlix

By Curtis Honeycutt

If I told you that a grawlix infestation is inevitable, you’d probably respond with something to the effect of, “What the $#@! are you talking about?”

I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m ready to kick the flaming, heaping pile of garbage called 2020 to the curb. Between a once-in-a-century global pandemic, murder hornets and everything else in between, I’ve strung together quite the creative list of profane words when cursing 2020’s series of unfortunate events. The polite way to express these words on a page is through the graphical bleeping of swear words called a “grawlix.”

You’ve probably seen this in the comics section of the newspaper. Picture Cathy, with her eyes so close together that they touch. She hasn’t had her coffee yet, and “Ack!” just won’t suffice. You see, she has just attempted to dye her hair, and it turned out the same green shade as a pickle. Instead of “Ack!” in this situation, Cathy lays down a “%#@$!” or maybe even a “$@&*!” Those are examples of grawlixes (or grawlices … both are correct plural forms of grawlix).

When you employ a grawlix into your comic strip, text message or email, you’re replacing actual curse words with keyboard characters that convey the words without having to spell them out. It allows the reader to fill in the blank with their own profanity-laced Mad Libs interjection.

I have responded to most of 2020 with a series of grawlixes. For instance, when I learned that we’ve had more than 26 hurricanes, so the hurricane-naming people move to the Greek alphabet to start naming hurricanes, I said, “You’ve got to be &#@$ kidding me!” The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were postponed until 2021, which cause my synchronized swimming team to collectively cry, “%&$@#! Now we have to change our flights.”

The year 2020 has been so monumentally full of bad news, I barely remember the Australian bushfires that burned 47 million acres, killed at least 34 people, displaced thousands more and killed, harmed or displaced 3 billion animals. Oh, $%@#&. I mean, the fires did start in late 2019, so it’s easy to forget that we rang in the new year with this terrible event.

So, based on the one-after-another calamities that have bombarded us this year, I’m ready to declare 2020 “the year of the grawlix” while we bid it good %@#&$ riddance. Here’s hoping 2021 brings much happier happenings.

—Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at