May 14, 2009

The Interrobang & The Irony Mark & Mr Lincoln's Emoticon

I asked my brother why he had changed his facebook name to "Lee ‽ Welsch". He said, it's an interrobang - a combination question mark & exclamation point. Here's the wikipedia on the history of the interrobang:
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.
I'm against it! Interrobang sets brother against brother. And besides being ugly, it's not like it's difficult to write "!?" or better "!!!?!??!?!?!?". And as for Martin Speckter inventing the interrobang & coining such a silly portmanteaux, well done old man. I'm impressed that it's made it's way into unicode for many modern typefaces, U+203D, & html language as &#8253 or &#x203D, which is why I've posted today using Calibri font.

I far prefer the irony mark (unicode U+2E2E), "point d’ironie; also called a snark or zing", which is about as necessary as a Duchamp artist statement:
This mark ؟ was proposed by the French poet Alcanter de Brahm (alias Marcel Bernhardt) at the end of the 19th century. It was in turn taken by Hervé Bazin in his book Plumons l’Oiseau (1966), in which the author proposes several other innovative punctuation marks, such as the doubt point () certitude point (), acclamation point (), authority point (), indignation point (), and love point ().

Its form is essentially the same as the late medieval , a percontation point (punctus percontativus), which was used to mark rhetorical questions.
Serious, Bazin, a doubt point & an indignation point‽ I find myself torn between their silly conceit & their irresistible stylish good looks. I'm also impressed that Bazin's love point is a combination question & irony. And how does one indicate that one is using the irony point ironically? We wouldn't want our readers to miss anything. I'd like to commission a few more, if anyone (Lee, Grainne, Olaf, Pele?) would like to design them - & we have succeeded only when there is standard unicode, html, & a unique wikipedia entry - even if the square-arse publishing world will never accept them into the mainstream. I propose:
-Patriotism mark
-Incantation point
-Galvanic mark
-Bloviation point
-& for sentences which are neither full-stopped nor ongoing, we propose the quasi-stop.
In related news, there is evidence that Abraham Lincoln, a bearded president, invented the emoticon. In the transcript of an 1862 speech is the first discovered use of a semi-colon next to a parenthesis to indicate a winking smiley-face. So, not actually Lincoln, but whoever was typing up his speech, like the Fourth Earl of Sandwich's chef. Still, it is not incorrect to say that the first emoticon was a caricature of Lincoln's smile & wink


Essąn Dragone said...

You have to admit also that that's a great Lincoln quote which precedes the ;)

earspray said...

no mention of the ¿

how about an apple bottom point?
just turn the love point upside down.

grainne proinseas said...

lincoln was such a charmer. maybe he was being so charming because of all the 'younger gentlemen' he had an impression of. well, they were clapping a lot, so the feeling was probably mutual.

Anonymous said...