The audible asterisk

Today’s Zits has Jeremy breaking out in asterisks, and they’re neither taboo avoidance characters nor stigmata of ungrammaticality:

What Jeremy’s mother perceives as a spoken asterisk is some complex of vocal quality, pitch. intensity, and timing that marks an expression as produced with some reservation, rather than whole-heartedly. Notably, in the last panel, Jeremy’s production of No corresponds to a Jeremy-mental Yes.

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