Obscure Punctuation #2


The Interrobang

Last week’s blog was a tad long, so I’ll be keeping it a bit shorter today. The Interrobang is my subject for the week and, aside from sounding like something loud and possibly dirty, this punctuation mark is used for something quite different. It is the combination of an exclamation point and a question mark: ! + ? = ‽

As the equation alludes to, this mark’s use is fairly self-evident in that it can be used to replace “!?” or “?!” or “!?!?!?”. The interrobang can also be used to simply denote the presence of a rhetorical question that is not so much a loud question as it is a rhetorical expression of shock.

Francis did what?!” This person obviously heard what Francis did and processed the information being presented, but still exclaimed a rhetorical question to highlight her outrage, shock and/or disbelief to the aforementioned situation.

The Interrobang was first proposed in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter. Speckter thought that a single mark would look better to express the surprise or shock of something as opposed to using two marks — a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly. He named it “interro” from the Latin for rhetorical and “bang” from the printer slang for mark, thus rhetorical mark. The interrobang gained some popularity throughout the course of the ’60s but, unfortunately, it became a fad and died a fad.

I still stand by the fact that this punctuation is great especially since it is apparently grammatically incorrect to use “?!” in any kind of phrase. This is possibly because it is distracting or one might argue that one mark should be more appropriate to use than the other. What’s great about the interrobang is that it’s not a mark that insults its readers as the snark mark might. And it alleviates the discomfort some people have in using “!?” as a form of punctuation out of fear of looking like an amateur because Word has shown up and cursed you with one of its annoying squiggly lines of doom.

All in all, the Interrobang died an unfortunate death at the hands of the trend setters but it’s a mark that is more useful in English than the ` (grave mark), which has a place on American keyboards, but is not even an English specific form of punctuation.

— Deirdre McCormick, Poetry Editor

Editor’s Note: Deirdre McCormick is a third year Biology Major with a minor in Creative Writing.  She is deeply passionate for both topics and that is evident in much of her writing endeavors.  She was also recently published in Lewis University’s own Windows magazine.

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