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The Interrobang

By
Erik Deckers, read by Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #487

The Origin of the Interrobang

I first learned of the interrobang after reading Keith Houston's book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks, because I'm a word nerd and we read books like that.

It was created by ad agency owner Martin Speckter, and introduced in the March-April 1962 issue of TypeTalks magazine. After gaining some media attention, it was added to a new font called Americana in 1966, and was added to the Remington Rand typewriter line in 1968. Even today, you can find it on your Mac or Windows computer, if you know where to look.

As I was writing the first draft of this piece on my typewriter — yes, typewriter. I did mention I'm a writer nerd?—I created the interrobang by first hitting the "interro," or question mark, backspaced, and then follow it up with the "bang". (I even said "bang" out loud, and it gave me a little nerdy thrill.)

I worry the interrobang will never catch on, however. We Americans are set in our ways, and it takes a lot to get us to change how we do things, especially if it means adding new ideas and habits.

That's not to say we didn't give it the old college try. Even now, it's seeing a mild resurgence among a new generation of writers. It just never quite caught on, after being labeled a fad by many language snobs who never end their sentences with prepositions ever, no matter how wrong they are.

(Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

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