Charta, Carta, Cartoon


Show the cartoonists the respect they deserve and state their name, when their work is shown.

A century ago it was still a rarity that their names were mentioned - at least in continental Europe. At times it was even forbidden to state their names. Imagery was meant to blend in seamlessly as the face of the magazine or paper. Names denote personal interpretation.

What about the name of the profession then, considering its central aspect in creating interpretation that should under no circumstance be mistaken for a mere illustration?

Traditionally in the Scandinavian languages we have given the cartoon a name which spoke not of what it was, but where it was printed: A newspaper drawing. In Danish to boot we have been using the old-fashioned word for a newspaper, "blad", so that it would cover all kinds of printed matter for distribution.

Present day Danes do not even know that word, which means they have no idea what we are talking about when we talk about "a "blad" drawing". A what again?

Cartooning is part of the pulse of its day. Losing its touch, means losing its relevance, so why drag about a name, which so openly speak of a reality that belonged to yesteryear?

The solution is right at hand. Internationally the English cartoon has been adapted by the French - of all places - which solved mistaking comics for cartoons and vice versa when translating between the two languages. In Spanish too cartón is the term now used.

Three world languages down and counting. Hindi too for instance. Cartoon has made its linguistical victory lap a little over a decade now and it has made life so much easier. It highlights that we are part of same dialogue across the continents. I am as yet tentative about how we shall pronounce it in Danish, so it is still to be seen how it will take off. Spelling it might prove easier. In Malay for one it is spelled kartun, which would work well in the Scandinavian languages too.

Charta, carta... cartoon. The fundamental structure of the word was laid almost a millennium ago. Let's relight the fire from its original source.


Per Marquard Otzen, November 25, 2014.


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.



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