Interrobang: The History of this Hip and Odd Punctuation Mark


**Original post on my website:

Do you know what this obscure punctuation mark is (image below)?  It’s called the interrobang (sometimes called the “bang”) and is a typographical character that superimposes the question mark and the exclamation point.  It was created to fill a gap in the puctuation system for writers who found it unwieldy to place the question mark and the exclamation point next to one another. While you don’t see ?! often, you see the interrobang even less frequently.

The interrobang was created by Martin K. Speckter in 1962.  He was the head of an advertising agency and thought that ads would be more effective if copywriters provided surprised rhetorical questions using one mark instead of two.  Speckter first introduced the idea in a magazine called TYPEtalks and asked for opinions as to what it should be named.  Some of the ideas were: exclamaquest, exclorative, rhet, and interrobang; the later of which was chosen.  Interrogatio is the Latin for “a rhetorical question” and bang is a slang term for the exclamation mark.

American Type Founders created a metal typeface called Americana in 1966, issued by Richard Isbell, that included the interrobang.  It was also featured in several dictionaries in the 1960s and Remington Rand had a key on their 1968 typewriters for the odd mark.

More recently, the interrobang was among one of the Wingdings characters set from Microsoft, as well as Arial Unicode MS, Lucida Sans Unicode, and Calibria (which was in Office 2007 default font).

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