In 1962, Manhattan ad man Martin Speckter wanted a punctuation mark that would “express that hard-to-capture middle state between excitement and inquiry: incredulity.” He merged the question mark and exclamation point into one symbol, dubbing it the “interrobang,” a portmanteau of “interrogate” and “bang” (printers’ jargon for an exclamation point). The symbol never caught on, as most typewriter companies were hesitant to add a new key.
But technology has evolved, and the interrobang could finally have its day as the punctuation mark for the twenty-first century. “Spekter can even be said to be a pioneer, anticipating our present predilection for shorthand and abbreviation,” writes Paloma Friedman in Maisonnueve. “The very technology that allows for the interrobang’s wider dissemination–e-mail, text-messaging and online games–is also the ideal medium for it.”
Friedman champions the interrobang, noting its “capacity to pique interest and reinforce the effect of frenzied sentences” such as “She said what!?” or the ubiquitous “WTF!?”