Curiously Excited

The word “interrobang” just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it‽ This funny bit of punctuation (a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point, aka an interrogative mark and a bang in typographical lingo) was invented in 1962 by Martin Speckter, editor of the magazine Type Talk and head of “a New York advertising agency” (while two sources use that exact phrase, and another leaves out the “New York,” not one that I’ve found seems to know the name of the agency.) Speckter wanted a punctuation mark that could be used to signify exclamatory and rhetorical questions in advertisements. To this end he wrote an article for his magazine requesting designs for the new mark, as well as a request to name it.

The result was this ‽ rather awkward symbol, and name suggestions such as the unwieldy “exclorative,” the delightfully silly “exclamaquest,” the humble “rhet,” as well as the final victor, “interrobang.” In 1967, Richard Isbell created the Americana font for the American Type Founders which included the interrobang. The interrobang also appeared on some Remington typewriters. In the end, however, the interrobang fell out of use as quickly as it had entered it. Apparently, the even more awkward punctuation was“?!” and “!?” was good enough for advertisers after all.


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