The Interrobang

Erik Deckers, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #487

the interrobang


[A humor piece by Erik Deckers.]

The cool thing about being a writer is that you're often given freedom to do unusual things, and you get to care about weird subjects. For example, when I go to a coffee shop, I make sure the logo on the cup and the sleeve both line up with the drinking hole in the plastic lid.

Being a writer also means I have an unnatural interest in language and punctuation that borders on the freakish. By now, my family and friends are used to me complaining about the Oxford comma, or yelling at TV newscasters, "It's 'a historic,' jerk! 'A historic,' not 'an historic!''"

I cringe whenever someone uses certain words incorrectly. I kick and scream when the meaning of other words begins to evolve. Or I just smile and say, "English is an ever-changing tapestry,” when I purposely violate long-held rules just to stick it to grammar sticklers.

Like this: It is actually perfectly acceptable to end your sentences with a preposition. But when I say this to some people, they swear on the grave of their 7th grade English teacher that this is utter nonsense, up with which they shall not put!

And sometimes people will even share new words, grammar rules, and punctuation marks with me. 

A couple years ago, I was introduced to the interrobang, a punctuation mark that combines the function of the question mark (also called the interrogative point) and the exclamation point (called the "bang" in printers' jargon).

The word, just like the symbol, is a portmanteau—a blend of two words.

If you Google the word "interrobang," you'll see a question mark with an exclamation point lying right on top of it.

It's supposed to replace the question mark/exclamation point combination people use in angry questions, like "Who ate all my Cap'n Crunch?!" It could have been a very useful symbol for those people who hate the ?! combo and believe we shouldn't double punctuate.

Like my newspaper editors.

They feel we should just ask the question and let the language show that it's an angry one.

Who appointed them the Arbiters of Punctuation‽

(See how that works?)


About the Author

Erik Deckers, Writing for Grammar Girl

Erik Deckers is a professional writer and the co-author of four social media books, including "Branding Yourself." He recently published his first humor novel, "Mackinac Island Nation," and celebrated his 25-year anniversary as a newspaper humor columnist. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, Florida.

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