Are We Entering The Age Of The Interrobang‽
Like most people these days, I spend a large portion of my waking life either participating in (or writing about) social media. And, like many others, I have my own personal bugbears about how my fellow social beings use platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The one that makes me wince every single time, though, is excessive over-use of exclamation points and question marks.
Less is more, people
Ideally utilised to succinctly express surprise, anger, inquisitiveness or frustration, these poor symbols have been abused in recent years, through status updates such as “OMG I LOVE ONE DIRECTION!!!!!!!!!” or tweets like “Northern Line is delayed again, why do these things always happen to me?!?!?!?!”
There is a potential solution to these grammatical eyesores, and its name is the interrobang. The interrobang is a miracle of punctuation which combines the exclamation and question mark, to express surprise, or a rhetorical question, and is styled as ‽
Language is a living thing, and so is grammar
Not too long ago, we brought you a guide to the socially influenced terms that have been added to the dictionary; selfie, FOMO, etc. It appears punctuation is evolving similarly. Peter Robinson at The Guardian wrote recently about the plethora of previously arcane symbols which have achieved widespread popularity and usage thanks to social media. The @ sign languished in obscurity for years before email addresses and Twitter handles came along. Similarly, the hashtag (#) was used primarily to number issues of comics and to fill in for expletives along with its cousin, the asterisk, before Twitter and trending topics were even a gleam in Jack Dorsey’s eye.
Might the interrobang be about to have its day?
The interrobang was dreamt up by Martin K. Speckter, a Madison Avenue advertising guru, back in 1962, arguably the golden age of advertising. Speckter considered other names for his creation, including “exclorative” and “exclamaquest”, before settling on “interrabang”, an amalgam of the Latin “interrogatio” and “bang” (ad-speak for exclamation point). Originally conceived as a means of saving space on billboards, the interrobang is on the verge of breaking into the mainstream – as Robinson points out,
“Twitter’s 140 character limit has made copywriters of us all.”
So I have only one request for the next incarnation of Apple and Android devices – please incorporate the interrobang into your standard keyboard. You will have my eternal gratitude. Plus, it looks pretty cool, don’t you agree‽
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