A post from Shady Characters

The Interrobang: addenda

Shady Characters readers have again provided some great extra detail on the marks discussed here. Penny Speckter comments on The Interrobang, part 2 with some heartening information regarding the interrobang’s official status:

While the interrobang has evoked both enthusiasm and derision, and may, like Esperanto, become a blip in history, still, it has evoked thousands of words of interesting comment. And it has finally been awarded an official status in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, published in 1996 under the definition “punctuation,” where it is listed alphabetically along with other recognized marks.

Also, Leonard Boiko reminds us of the interrobang’s Spanish counterpart, the so-called ‘gnaborretni’, and points out that it too has made its way into Unicode. How could I have forgotten‽

I’m away this coming week, so look out for The Octothorpe, part 1 in two weeks’ time, on Sunday 8th May. Thanks again for the comments!

10 comments on “The Interrobang: addenda

  1. Comment posted by Anonimulo on

    Poor Esperanto! No matter its surprisingly extensive literature, thriving music industry, and small community of native speakers that coexists with the larger, bustling world of non-native speakers, it cannot escape snide comparisons with absurd attempts at reform advanced by cranks with a bee in their bonnet about punctuation. Esperantist culture has real human sentiments associated with it and features prominently in the lives of millions of individuals today — it deserves to be more highly regarded than a question mark and an exclamation mark fused together.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Anonimulo — thanks for the comment.

      I must take issue with your characterisation of Penny Speckter as a “crank”, and I’m sure she would too! Her husband’s intention was, as I understand it, to clarify the punctuation of rhetorical or surprised questions (and, given the existence of the percontation mark, he certainly wasn’t the first to try) and in doing so to improve our ability to communicate in some small way. What was Zamenhof’s aim in creating Esperanto if not to improve our ability to communicate?

      And though a single mark of punctuation isn’t comparable to an entire created language, for a concept first mooted in a trade magazine article almost fifty years ago, the interrobang has done pretty well for itself, don’t you think?

  2. Comment posted by Matt Walton on

    Absolutely, Esperanto thrives compared to the interrobang.

    I’m looking forward to the octothorpe articles. I hope that one day I will understand why it’s got so many different names. And why one of them is ‘octothorpe’.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Matt — thanks for the comment. The octothorpe article will, I hope, answer at least some of your questions. Stay tuned!

  3. Comment posted by Michał on

    Octothorpe – eight fields/villages around a central square.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Michał — thanks for the comment!

      “Eight fields/villages around a central square” is certainly one of the theories, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be substantiated anywhere. I’ll be covering the various competing theories in the upcoming octothorpe series.

  4. Comment posted by The Modesto Kid on

    When one day I write my novel, one of the characters will be named Octothorpe. Clive Octothorpe, I think, and he’ll be a young banker.

  5. Comment posted by alex w on

    And not just an album – the Interrobang is a bad enough dude to have at least two bands named after it – the unironically named Interrobang‽(formed 2005)(1) as well as Interrobang Cartel(2003)(2). I can’t think of any other punctuation bands, well, apart from !!!(3). Shit, there’s heaps … Semicolon(4), The Hyphens(5) …
    … “Full Stop”, “Ellipsis”, “Parentheses”, could be an article in it!
    — Alex

    1). http://www.last.fm/music/Interrobang!%3F
    2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrobang_Cartel
    3). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/!!!
    4). http://www.triplejunearthed.com/semicolon
    5). http://www.myspace.com/thehyphens

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