@matt You stand on the edge of a deep pit of awful Linux jank.
The decision of what "cursive" means comes down to a thing called fontconfig. If you look in /etc/fonts/conf.d you'll see a ton of files loaded in a hierarchy with XML trees defining "families". When a family is called, the systems tries font by font defined here and uses the first match it finds.
Comic Sans is font No 3 in my config, after two others I know are not installed.
@matt Good questions that likely have very, very long answers. Largely the decision on what fonts come stock in a linux box is up to the distro maintainer. Ubuntu actually used to (and maybe still does) make their own fonts and patch fontconfig to act differently so it'd have unusually high quality and Windows-like text rendering.
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