Interrobang

Interrobang

[in-ter-uh-bang]

The interrobang , is a nonstandard English-language punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of the question mark (also called the interrogative point) and the exclamation mark or exclamation point (known in printers' jargon as the bang). The typographical character is a superimposition of those two marks. The same effect is also frequently achieved by using both, for example, "How could you do such a thing!?" or "How could you do such a thing?!"

Application

A sentence ending with an interrobang either (1) asks a question in an excited manner, (2) expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or (3) asks a rhetorical question.

For example:

  • How much did you spend on those shoes
  • You're going out with whom
  • They did what

Use of an interrobang or combinations of question marks and exclamation marks is not necessary in English as an exclamation mark is sufficient. However, the interrogative character of a sentence may not be apparent and may be lost with only an exclamation mark.

History

Many writers, especially in informal writing, have used multiple punctuation marks to end a sentence expressing surprise and question.

What the...?! Neves, Called Dead in Fall, Denies It (headline from San Francisco Examiner, May 9, 1936)
The question mark frequently comes first (to emphasize that it is a question), although there is no universal style rule on the subject.

It is not uncommon for writers in very informal situations to use several question marks and exclamation marks for even more emphasis:

He did what?!?!?!
Like multiple exclamation marks and multiple question marks, such strings are generally considered very poor style in formal writing.

It is important to note that writers had combined question marks and exclamation points (along with using multiple punctuation marks) for decades before the interrobang was invented. In particular, they were prevalent in informal media such as print advertisements and comic books. They are also currently used in algebraic chess notation with "!?" showing an interesting move that may not be the best, and "?!" showing a dubious move that may nevertheless be difficult to refute.

Invention

American Martin K. Speckter invented the interrobang in 1962. As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark. He proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks. Speckter solicited possible names for the new character from readers. Contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination"; bang is printers' slang for the exclamation point. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.

In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued the Americana typeface and included the interrobang as one of the characters. In 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. During the 1970s, it was possible to buy replacement interrobang keycaps and strikers for some Smith-Corona typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, with the word interrobang appearing in some dictionaries and the mark itself being featured in magazine and newspaper articles.

The interrobang failed to amount to much more than a fad, however. It has not become a standard punctuation mark. Although most fonts do not include the interrobang, it has not disappeared: Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set (on the }/] and the ~/` keys) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in several fonts, including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri, the default font in the new Office 2007 suite.

The French equivalent is "point exclarrogatif", expressing a similar idea - the fusion between "point d'interrogation" (?) and "point d'exclamation" (!).

Inverted interrobang

A reverse and upside down interrobang (combining ¿ and ¡, Unicode character: ⸘), suitable for starting phrases in Spanish, Asturian, Galician and Leonese is called by some a gnaborretni (interrobang backwards). Unicode encodes this character at the code point U+2E18. In current practice, interrobang-like emphatic ambiguity in Hispanic languages is usually achieved by including both sets of punctuation marks one inside the other (¿¡Verdad!? or ¡¿Verdad?!). Older usage, still official but not widespread, recommended mixing the punctuation marks: ¡Verdad? or ¿Verdad!

Display

The interrobang is not a standard punctuation mark. Few modern typefaces or fonts include a glyph for the interrobang character. It is at Unicode code point 203D. It can be used in HTML documents with ‽ or ‽, although the second form has poor support in common web browsers. The Interrobang can be used in some word processors with the alt code ALT+8253 when working in a font that supports the interrobang, or using an operating system that performs font substitution.

The interrobang can be displayed in LaTeX by using the package textcomp and the command textinterrobang. The inverted interrobang is also provided for in the textcomp package through the command textinterrobangdown.

Depending on the browser and which fonts the user has installed, some of these may be displayed.

Image Default font Fixed Palatino
Linotype
Calibri Arial
Unicode MS
Code2000 Unicode

Uses in popular culture

See also

References

External links

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