Sunday, August 11, 2013
The origin or parents of the interrobang, a.k.a. Interabang, are my favorite punctuation marks. Why? Well, first, what is interrobang?
It is a nonstandard punctuation mark meant to combine the functions of the question mark (interrogative point) and the exclamation mark (known in printing as “bang”). Put them together and you get:
Some dictionaries define it as a punctuation mark in the form of a question mark superimposed on an exclamation point, used to end a simultaneous question and exclamation.
Before interrobang was invented, I had been using the double punctuation of a question mark and exclamation point side-by-side—and I continue to do so. According to my close friends, these two marks together are so me. I usually ask a question in an excited manner, with matching disbelief. That's why I often feel that the question mark alone is inadequate.
He did what?!
You went to ____without me?!
You don't understand grace?!
Are you serious?!
Using the interrobang counts as poor style in formal writing. My editors would delete it if I ever used one. So I am safe with the (?) and the (!) side-by-side.
Martin K. Speckter, an advocate of precise communication, created the interrobang in 1962. He felt that the combined question and bang marks were typographically cumbersome and unattractive. A few years later, however, some typefaces included the interrobang as one of the characters.
Those of you had the good fortune of growing up in the late '60s, an interrobang key was on typewriters.
Really. Alas, the interrobang failed to amount to much, and it has not become a standard punctuation mark.
If you want to be an editor for a reputable publishing house or desire to be an author, try avoiding it. Also, English professors and teachers frown upon the interrobang.
But if you want to rebel against conventions, well, be prepared for the risks.