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How a comic strip *gulp* evolved into an online mode of communication

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dictionary (UWGB Cofrin Library Flickr)
dictionary (UWGB Cofrin Library Flickr)

The New York Times' review of Microsoft's Surface Pro contained an unexpected irregularity — when referring the company's less successful hardware ventures, writer David Pogue penned "*cough* Zune, Kin Phone, Spot Watch *cough*." Though bounding asterisks have been commonly used to describe actions online since the 90s, it's unusual to see this use of language in the online and print editions of the Times. The University of Pennsylvania's Language Log explains the origins of bounding asterisks, which date all the way back to a 1935 Li'l Abner comic strip, and how they've evolved beyond simple one-word actions into complex phrases like *does the Harlem Shake.*