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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Monday, August 15, 2005


While meandering through Webster’s dictionary on my computer the other day, I mentally tripped over an odd word – interrobang. This is a punctuation mark designed for use at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question. In appearance it is a question mark overwritten with an exclamation point.

Then tucked neatly away deep in the outer limits of my computer, I found four slightly different versions of this mark - none of which will print in a normal format. The last of these was my favorite, it just looked more honest to me.

Now this find doesn’t rank nearly as high as Louis Pasteur and his discovery of milk, or Madam Curie setting up the Atomic Energy Commission, but it was big to me.

Jumping aboard the web, I find 2,630 references to this unusual mark. It was invented in 1962 through the actions of Martin Speckter, head of a New York advertising agency. It hasn’t come into common usage, but I was somewhat nonplussed as to why this word, the mark and I had never crossed paths before.

Then I noticed a usage problem with the word nonplus. It doesn’t appear that a person can be somewhat or slightly nonplussed, it’s an all or nothing word. I’m not sure then how perplexed I was, but should usage problems be reveled in, or become a writing style?!

This brings me back to the interrobang and whether or not I will bring it into my personal common usage. The answer is in the negative for two reasons.

First, it’s just too much rigmarole to find and print the mark – what with having to go to format and font and wing dings 2 and then all the way back to finish writing.

Secondly, it’s too specific and binding – leaving no room for creativity and/or multidimensional or directional scampers.

For example, if you were extremely excited about the question, conventional punctuation gives you the freedom to show this variation – something like this - ?!!!!!!

But then if you were very perplexed and only slightly excited, it could be - ?????!

You can even show extreme questioning, large excitement and ambivalence as to why - ????!!!!??

The main question mark from God is: Will you? After answering that in the affirmative, it’s all exclamations!!!!!!


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