What is a scribble? And indescribable scribal dribbling, perhaps: linear babbling. If calligraphy is architecture, a scribble is rubble. The word itself is made to be scribbled: all those loops, with a few lines and a dot; it could look like the cloud of dust surrounding Pigpen from Peanuts.

It comes from the Latin scribillare, diminutive form of scribere ‘write’ – inferior writing. A scribbler is a poetaster, a hack, a prosaic disaster.

But scribbles can also be part of art. Sure, sure, you might say they’re squiggles, or strokes of some other description, but I say things that look like scribbling can be called scribbles, and Oxford agrees with me. I thought of this word when I was looking at some drawings I did for an art class back in my first year of university. I liked putting writing and scribbling into my drawings, and my writing looked like scribbling anyway. So here: art by the 16-year-old me. You be the judge. What, in your semantic ambit of ‘scribble’, is a scribble and what is not?



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