Re: Interrobang

Subject: Re: Interrobang
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 18:21:58 -0500

"J. Ressler" <JRessler -at- ewa-denver -dot- com>wrote:

>Last week during trivial conversation I stumbled upon the interrobang, and
>it seems ever so useful. I have seen it before, but being young in years, I
>don't think I knew how to use it properly.

Can you believe it!? [example of place an interrobang could be used if you had access to one]

In other words, you can use it where the syntax is in the form of a question but the meaning and intended emphasis make the sentence an exclamation instead.

>Is there a way to display this in a word processor, like a series of

Well, in informal usage such as email and Usenet, some combination of queries and bangs works, with a longer series implying greater real or mock shock (!?!?!?!).
>Usually, people suggest some sort of keystroke combination for certain
>symbols (like when my ? key was broke) yet I can't implement them (the
>keystrokes don't work for me). Is there something more I need to do for Word
>2000 to recognize them, or is it an HTML thing?

It's not an HTML entity. And you are highly unlikely to find the symbol in any of the fonts on your computer. However, if it is there in one of them, the Unicode character map widget should show you where it is. You can use the Insert > Symbol dialog in Word to find it, too.
>It came up in a conversation about the etymology of the term "bang" for an
>exclamation point. Does anyone have any educated insight to this?

It is printing argot, but I think it was used more heavily in newspaper composition rooms than in other printing environments. Newspaper printers (compositors, in other words), due to the exigencies of daily deadlines, developed a lot of colorful brief terms of art that were not much used by trade book compositors or other commercial printers. Bang would be understood, though, even by printers who do not use it regularly.

>For those of you who may not know what an interrobang is, here is the
>definition according to Merriam-Webster (
>--Etymology: interrogation (point) + bang (printers' slang for exclamation
>--Date: 1967
>--: a punctuation mark <interrobang> designed for use especially at the end
>of an exclamatory rhetorical question

1967 sounds right. One of the name NYC design studios introduced it with an ad for a new Photo-Typositor face. I don't recall exactly who it was or what font they first inserted it in. Photo-Typositor was a machine used for display type. A film strip with the designed alphabet on it was manipulated with hand cranks, lenses, and mirrors, to project one character at a time onto the target film. The machine could distort, skew, enlarge, reduce, etc., so that only a single "font" could produce all sorts of effects for an advertising headline, book jacket, or other one-off project.


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