Is there a name for the use of symbols in place of curse words, for example
I found the term "grawlixes" here: The Lexicon of Comicana.
Typographical symbols standing for profanities, appearing in dialogue balloons in place of actual dialogue.
I also came across the terms "profanitype" and "symbol swearing." I think I like "grawlixes" best.
These have also been called obscenicons. Several links on Language Log offer an in-depth look at their usage.
The "word" represented by the symbols could be pronounced bleep:
So people came up with a small set of conventional euphemistic readings for
>: "bleep", "bleeping", "bleepity-bleep", "blankety-blank", and so on. Of these, "bleep" seems to have pretty much won out, as (again) Geoff noted in his first posting. And, indeed, the IMDB lists the movie What the #$! Do We Know!?* as What the Bleep Do We Know!? So there now is a conventional way for pronouncing the name of the movie.
You might refer to such symbols as "bleeps" though YMMV.
Comics artists sometimes call them grawlixes and sometimes "swear symbols". Their use is referred to as "symbol swearing".
The closest way to duplicate their effect in speech is to bleep (electronically if you've the means, or just making a bleep dound), since such bleeps serve the same purpose with audible speech in television or radio, as they do in print.
I've always known it as symbolic substitution — but have no idea where I learned the phrase. Interestingly enough, the English language contains more descriptive words than any other language — completely negating the need for symbolic substitution in the first place.
Another word I've seen used for it is symtax, but I prefer symbolic substitution because it is self explanatory by definition.