You did what‽

Published 26th November 2010
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Do you ever find modern life to be confusing and shocking, often at the same time? Many of us do, and find it difficult to express in writing. The majority of people will choose to punctuate with ‘?!’ when they want to put this across in their prose, but I personally find this to be imprecise, clunky and unattractive, and have never understood why the interrobang failed to enter common use. (In fact, while typing this article, my computer told me I’d made the word up. How upsetting.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the interrobang (or quesclamation mark, if you prefer), it is a punctuation mark which expresses everything that the question and exclamation marks do, all at the same time, in one neat symbol. The symbol is, logically, an amalgamation of the two marks, and was conceived by Martin K. Speckter in 1962. At the time, the public took favourably to the new punctuation mark, with the Wall Street Journal even propounding its use in phrases where neither the individual exclamation nor question mark would suffice, such as “You crashed my car‽” The mark was even added to a range of typewriters by Remington Rand in 1968. However, as is clear from the lack of interrobang use in modern writing, it never quite caught on. Chiara mentioned in her article this week that linguistic changes are often aimed at simplifying language, and I believe that interrobang use fits into this category, so let’s popularise it!

If you’re still not convinced, here are some quesclamations that I think need an interrobang:
• It costs how much‽
• Why didn’t anybody lock the door last night‽
• She told you I did what‽
• Why not‽
• You’re pregnant‽
• But how‽

Of course there are many more phrases which are badly punctuated with the ugly ‘!?’, but what do you think? Is the interrobang a much-needed addition to our keyboards (I can think of a few symbols on mine I’d happily trade – I’m looking at you, curly brackets), or is it obscure for a reason?

LAUREN WEBB

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