Column: Starting off 2018 with an interrobang


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Welcome to the golden age of outrage. If you’re just finishing a 3-year social media cleanse, I’ve got some bad news for you: People are ticked off.

People are royally ticked about pretty much everything: Guns, kneeling, not kneeling, walls, refugees, Starbucks (in general) and anything that remotely resembles a political stance. And, if you’re not outraged about any or all of the above, there’s an outrage for that, too.

Because of this, I’d like to put forward a controversial idea (no, I’m not talking about the all-emoji newspaper again): the interrobang.

The interrobang () is the passionate love child of the question mark and the exclamation point. And, while it is currently considered a nonstandard form of punctuation, it simultaneously questions your competence and yells at you. How dare you take ______ position on _____ issue Who do you think you are You put pineapples on your pizza What’s wrong with you The interrobang is distinctly American: insulting, yet efficient. And I think it fits our time perfectly.

Conceived by Martin Speckter in 1962, the idea of the interrobang actually gained some popularity for a hot second. Although most of our computer fonts don’t support it, the interrobang was available on select typewriters in the late 1960s into the 1970s. And, while you will find the word interrobang in the dictionary, you won’t find the symbol on your keyboard.

I think we’re living in the midst of the interrobang era; therefore, it’s time to bring it into the mainstream. But in order to type it easily, we’d have to vote off one of the characters on our standard computer keyboards. What symbol gets the boot? How about the tilde (~)? Or maybe the little upside down v thing above the 6 (^)? When’s the last time you used either of those? Probably never.

In the same way that the Merriam-Webster dictionary adds words based on popular usage (and not necessarily critical approval), what does it take to get a punctuation mark added to common usage? If listicle and humblebrag made their way into the dictionary last year, the interrobang should receive serious consideration as an addition to our bag of punctuation options in 2018.