Interrobang

From Wikipedia:

The interrobang, also known as the interabang (often represented by ?!, !?, ?!? or !?!), is an unconventional punctuation mark used in various written languages and intended to combine the functions of the question mark, or interrogative point; and the exclamation mark, or exclamation point, known in the jargon of printers and programmers as a “bang”. The glyph is a superimposition of these two marks. The interrobang was first proposed in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter.

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A sentence ending with an interrobang asks a question in an excited manner, expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asks a rhetorical question.

For example:

  • You call that a hat‽
  • You’re dying‽
  • What are those‽

Writers using informal language may use several alternating question marks and exclamation marks for even more emphasis; however, this is regarded as poor style in formal writing

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American Martin K. Speckter (1915 – February 14, 1988) conceptualized 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 exclamaquestQuizDingrhet, and exclarotive, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for “rhetorical question” or “cross-examination”; bang is printers’ slang for the exclamation mark. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.

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Link to the rest at Wikipedia

From The New York Times:

Martin K. Speckter, a retired advertising executive known to lexicographers as the creator of the interrobang, a punctuation mark used to convey disbelief, died of bone cancer Sunday at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 73 years old and lived in Manhattan.

From 1956 to 1969, Mr. Speckter was president of Martin K. Speckter Associates Inc., which handled promotion for The Wall Street Journal, The National Observer, Barron’s weekly and the Dow Jones News Service. In 1962, Mr. Speckter developed the interrobang, since recognized by several dictionaries and some type and typewriter companies.

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The [interrobang] mark is said to be the typographical equivalent of a grimace or a shrug of the shoulders. It applied solely to the rhetorical, Mr. Speckter said, when a writer wished to convey incredulity.

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He was editor of TYPEtalks magazine from 1959 to 1968 and wrote many articles. He was also the author of a book, ”Disquisition on the Composing Stick” published by Typophiles Inc. in 1971.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

From Dictionary.com:

disquisition

[ dis-kwuhzishuhn ]

a formal discourse or treatise in which a subject is examined and discussed; dissertation.

Link to the rest at Dictionary.com

From Type Talks:

To this day, we don’t know exactly what Columbus had in mind when he shouted ‘Land, ho.’ Most historians insist that he cried, ‘Land, ho!’ but there are others who claim it was really ‘Land ho?’ Chances are the intrepid Discoverer was both excited and doubtful, but neither at that time did we, nor even yet, do we, have a point which clearly combines and melds interrogation with exclamation.”

–”Making a New Point, or How About That . . ..” Martin K. Specter, Type Talks, March-April, 1962

Amplitude Wide Bold and Fritz Robusto, both designed by Christian Schwartz, contain different interpretations of the interrobang.

5 thoughts on “Interrobang”

  1. Chess notation adopted the interrobang well before 1962, and the order matters. ?! means a questionable move with interesting, not-well-explored/extremely technical and difficult possibilities; !? means an interesting, usually innovative/unexplored, move with some obvious dangers that might be tolerable.

    • Didn’t know that about chess notation, despite having been a student of world championship matches (many, many years ago). Thank you.

      Of course, that is not really the “interrobang,” which is a single character (Unicode U+203D, U+2E18 for the inverted symbol). It makes much more sense to use the two characters separately in chess notation, for the very reason that C.E. says – it allows the distinction to be made.

      • In specialized chess fonts, ?!, !?, !!, and ?? are all single characters (well, ligatures) in both cold and hot metal. Unicode, however, hasn’t adopted them yet (even though it has goofy symbols for the pieces in the character set). This is a relic of the way that chess games used to be annotated in English, and frequently run in some major newspapers (like Fischer-Spassky 3 in 1972) appearing like this:

        1 P-Q4 N-KB3 2 P-QB4 P-K3 […]

        which risks awkward line breaks trying to fit it into the fewest possible column inches — in Times Roman, to make it worse, which had a spacing problem built into metal type for the interrogative. It’s less of a problem with “modern” algebraic notation, but that didn’t become common in English until the late 1980s.

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