Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Cartoon - An Artfully Fine Etymology



Noun & verb. Late 16th century.
[Italian cartone augmentative of carta: see CARTEL, -OON.]

A1 noun. A full-size drawing made on stout paper as a design for a painting, tapestry, mosaic, etc. L16

A2 noun. An illustrative drawing (originally full-page or large) in a newspaper or magazine,
especially as a vehicle for political satire or humour;
an amusing drawing with or without a caption;
a sequence of these in a strip. M19

A2(b) noun. A film made by animating a series of drawings. E20

B1 verb intrans. Draw a cartoon or cartoons. Chiefly as cartooning verbal noun. M19

B2 verb trans. Represent in a cartoon; caricature in a cartoon. L19

cartoonery noun cartoons collectively; the making of cartoon M19

cartoonish adjective resembling (the style of) a cartoon (Sense 2);
showing simplication or exaggeration of some feature L20

cartoonishly adverb L20

cartoonishness noun L20

cartoonist noun a person who draws cartoons L19

cartoony adjective = CARTOONISH L20

My, my! What cartoonery is this? I have been simultaneously cartoonified and superheroficated! As soon as I read cartoon in the OED and had determined, yes, it is an interesting word, I knew exactly who I wanted to illustrate it - the bodaciously brilliant Belgian blogger Bibi, whose creative cartoonery has entertained me pretty much ever since I entered the blogosphere. So thank you, Bibi; all I had in mind to illustrate cartoon was, well, one of your lovely pictures, but instead you've not only rendered me cartoonishly chuffed by making me a superhero - Eddie Lexi: The Hero With the OED - but you've treated me and all of the other Lexicolaters to a very fine three-part cartoon as I do battle with the evil Dr Cacolex: 




Now that Dr Cacolex's dastardly plan to spread txtspk to the world has been thwarted, you might very well be wondering about the origin of the word cartoon (one of those words that definitely starts to sound a bit weird if you say it more than twice). Without wanting to denigrate the art form of cartoons, it does seem rather surprising that cartoon originated with what one might consider fine art, as cartoons originally referred to full-sized preliminary drawings made by artists in the 16th century as they planned their paintings, stained glass, tapestries and frescoes. The Raphael Cartoons, for example, are seven large cartoons for tapestries, although by the modern definition there is obviously nothing remotely cartoonish about them - the use of cartoon as it's popularly used today only started in the 1840s, when one-plate satirical cartoons started to appear in newspapers. As can be seen from the OED's entry, cartoon has now come to represent several different art forms, from the original preparatory cartoon, the humorous or satirical cartoon, the amusing cartoon that may or may not be in a strip, to the animated cartoons we all grew up watching. Anyway, enough blogging - now that I'm a superhero, I'd better get out and start doing lexicologically heroic stuff; I may have won the battle with Dr Cacolex, but txtspk never sleeps ...

Thank you again to Bibi for such wonderful illustrations. If you'd like to see more of Bibi's work, you can do so at Bibi Blog, and may I especially recommend her short animated film How I Learned to Love My Body. Thank you Bibi!

Do you like cartoons?

Are you a cartoonist?

Do let us draw on your experience by commenting in the box below.


  1. Oh! Well done Bibi! I hope we get to see more adventures of Eddie Lexi in the future!
    He needs to put an end to that textspeak nonsense!
    Maybe he could have Clueless as his sidekick! :)

    I do love cartoons still, but must admit my love is mainly for the old ones, like Chip 'n Dale, Tom and Jerry, Felix the Cat, etc.!

    1. I was never a big reader of the traditional single panel cartoons that appear in newspapers (although I love 'The Far Side'), though I do like a lot of the animated cartoons. Oh, my ... I must have changed my profile pic to Eddie Lexi ... I hope this superhero malarkey isn't going to my head ...

  2. Lycra n a cape eh?! I'll never look at you the same again! Naomi

    1. Do note the Irish colours Bibi put me in and the tufted ... hang on a second! ... grey hair!?

  3. Magnificent and gorgeous (I mean the cartoon). I love it.

    1. It is rather, isn't it? She's a talented girl, that Bibi.

  4. Absolute Classic.
    Wouldn't be my choice of colours, but they work.
    You have inspired me to creat a villain, in which to wage war in the land of Lexgard.
    Soon to follow ;)

  5. Thank you, Ed, for giving me carte blanche (wink) on a cartoon to accompany this post. Eddie Lexi was a fun little project that took me outside of my comfort zone; something for which I'm very grateful. People need to be pulled out of their comfort zones more often. Comfort zones don't leave room for inspiration. Also, thank you for your help on the big words. Who else but our dearest Lexicolator could come up with a word like "cacolex"?

    And to everyone else: stop it, you're making me blush ^///^

  6. Amazing work by Bibi as always! :) One of your best posts, Ed?

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