Register Sunday | June 17 | 2018

Reintroducing the Interrobang

Will the punctuation mark for the twenty-first century finally have its day?

In 1962, Manhattan advertising executive Martin K. Speckter was unhappy. Unhappy with words, the tools of his trade, and unhappy with punctuation. Bored by the usual methods of conveying delight typographically—laundry whites brighter!, new cars faster!—Speckter wanted something with more oomph.

His answer? Take the question and exclamation marks often found together at the end of shock-transmitting sentences (“You won how much money at poker?!”) and merge them into a single typographical symbol: ` . Speckter called his invention the “interrobang,” a neologism that combines “interrogation” with “bang” (printer-speak for the exclamation mark).

Speckter hoped his symbol would catch on, and help people to express that hard-to-capture middle state between excitement and inquiry: incredulity. Sadly, the interrobang dropped off the radar soon after its introduction. While a few typewriter companies like Remington Rand were willing to include an interrobang keycap, most were reluctant to add new symbols to their machines ...

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