Odd words: Interrobang

A combined exclamation mark and question mark.

This punctuation mark is not yet standard, and probably never will be. It was invented in 1962 through the actions of Martin Speckter, head of a New York advertising agency. He felt that advertising people needed a mark that combined a question with a shout, that mixture any parent produces at stressful moments: “You did WHAT?!”. His idea was to provide a marker for the rhetorical questions so much favoured by advertising copywriters. He asked readers of his magazine Type Talks to suggest a name for the character, and chose interrobang from among the resulting entries. It combined interrogation, for the question mark, with bang, an old printer’s term for the exclamation mark, a usage since taken over into computing (along with pling and shriek from other sources). Alas, though interrobang received some attention at first, it has never caught on, though for a brief period in the 1960s it was added to a few typewriter keyboards. However, it is not dead: its name appears in a couple of American dictionaries, it is in one Windows symbol font I know of, and it is also in the Unicode character set

About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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3 Responses to Odd words: Interrobang

  1. This is tremendous. Interrobang. Who would have known?!

  2. Tiffany says:

    I’d love to see this punctuation mark in regular use, in hopes that it would keep people from typing things like “????” and “?!?!??!?” in their emails to me.

  3. Netty Gritty says:

    I used to be a wordaholic. I have forgotten most of the interesting words I learned (cos I sucked them up speed reading from the dictionary). But one thing I CAN tell, never heard of this word!

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