While everyone’s heard of a period, question mark, and interrogation point, a lot fewer people have heard of their newest member: the interrobang. The interrobang is defined as “a punctuation mark designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question” (Merriam-Webster). The interrobang is officially symbolized by ‽. However, since most keyboards do not have this specific key, it is also unofficially represented as ?! Or !?.
The interrobang was invented by Martin K. Speckter, an advertising executive, in 1962. He thought of it as “the typographical equivalent of a grimace or a shrug of the shoulders…when a writer wished to convey incredulity” (qtd in Martin K. Speckter). However, the meaning of this punctuation evolved over time. Rather than just a grimace or shrug, it is now used to show surprise and question. Quite literally, it became a mix of an exclamation point and a question mark. Sentences where an author may write ?! or !? can end with ‽. Some sentence examples are:
- You did what ‽
- Are you sure ‽
- Seriously ‽
Why did the interrobang fall out of public use?
It is not an officially recognized punctuation mark- so use at your own discretion. A big point to consider is its relationship with modern keyboards and typewriters when thinking about its history. Was it not included because it was not widely used or was it not widely used because it was not included? The world may never know. Given the limited space available, it was more economical to include the exclamation point and question mark due to their prominence and simply use both of them when the situation calls for it instead of including a third key that was not as popular. Thus, the interrobang was lost and largely forgotten by the world.
“Interrobang.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interrobang.
“Martin K. Speckter, 73, Creator of Interrobang.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1988, https://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/16/obituaries/martin-k-speckter-73-creator-of-interrobang.html?searchResultPosition=1.
Jyoti | 2022