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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Why an interrobang?!

Why an interrobang indeed. First, allow a digression or two...

This seemingly forgotten punctuation mark was the brainchild of ad man Martin Speckter who believed that a single punctuation mark that would convey both surprise and disbelief would spruce up their copy. The name interrobang was chosen from a field of less worthy contenders (hello exclamaquest)and derives its name from both the high (interrogatio is latin for cross-examination or rhetorical question) and the low (bang is printer's slang for the exclamation point).

This particular slice of history occurred in 1962, and anyone who has dipped their toes in the world of Mad Men knows that advertising in the '60s required not only brains but a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps what some would label a sixth sense, for selling people things they had no idea they needed.

So would Don Draper, that debonaire and secretive heart beating at the core of Mad Men's vascular system of copy editors, secretaries, housewives and mistresses, be proud to use an interrobang in his copy?!

Probably not.

The interrobang never rose above a fad during it's heyday in the 1960's. Like martini lunches and smoking while pregnant, the interrobang now resides as a humble reminder of a bygone era. Okay, maybe not the martini lunches. Those are still alive and well thank God.

Beyond the genesis of the interrobang an intriguing use is discovered. When used in algebraic chess notations, an interrobang refers to a seemingly dubious move that turns out to be fortuitous.

Beyond it's storied history and eccentric uses, the interrobang still carries a weight of surprise and shock, of disbelief and horror (he did what?!). If a high profile scandal could be summed up in one punctuation mark, I'm sure journalists would be dusting off their Remingtons (on which the interrobang was included in 1968) and heartily apply an encompassing interrobang.

Which brings me to my blog title. This shall hopefully not be a home of complacency. No milquetoast opinions offered, and none expected. All ruffled feathers and rattled cages is my hope. Aiming high? Maybe, in an age where shock and awe are meted out like milk and cookies. But to question something, to hold an idea like an angry hornet in a glass jar that has started to spiderweb with cracks, should be exciting. It should be dangerous. It shouldn't be contained by just one punctuation mark.

Thus my blog.

Thus Interrobang.

Stay tuned, kids. This should be fun.

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