Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed

From: Gregg Reynolds (
Date: Wed Sep 07 2005 - 10:27:11 CDT

  • Next message: John Hudson: "Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed"

    John D. Burger wrote:
    > John Hudson wrote:
    >> My objection to the interrobang remains that it ambiguates that which
    >> the independent question mark and exclamation marks expressly
    >> disambiguate. But perhaps this amounts to my saying that not making
    >> clear whether an utterance is a question or an exclamation is poor
    >> rhetoric.
    > I mentioned this before, but received no reply - do you insist that no
    > utterances can be both questions and exclamations?
    > For what it's worth, here are the relevant (to my mind) definitions from
    > Webster:
    > question
    > 1 a (1) : an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge
    > (2) : an interrogative sentence or clause
    > exclamation
    > 1 : a sharp or sudden utterance
    > 2 : vehement expression of protest or complaint

    I think it would be useful to distinguish between form and intention. A
    declarative sentence (in form) can easily be conveyed to indicate a
    question by varying intonation. Similarly, what is a question in form -
    e.g. a sentence beginning with "who" - can be conveyed as an exclamation
    or maybe even declaration, not a question, by varying stress, pitch,
    etc. Context even counts: "will no one rid me of this troublesome
    priest?" may have been a question in form and intonation, but it was
    clearly an order or suggestion. Punctuation marks are just useful but
    imperfect ways to try to convey this "illocutionary force" in writing.

    Whether or not there is some kind of ontological independence to
    questions and exclamations, John H's point about ambiguity is right on
    the mark. Send me a message using interrobang and I can only guess what
    on earth it means. It can't mean the same as "?!" or "!?", because the
    latter are well-known and understood, so I must conclude the writer must
    have had something else in mind, some other purpose in choosing not to
    use standard punctuation.

    Auditioning for a play in college once I was asked by the director to
    deliver the following line with as many different readings (meanings) as

            "you never did the kenosha kid"

    which is from Gravity's Rainbow if I'm not mistaken.

    E.g.: "You? Never! Did the Kenosha Kid?"

    I forget how many I came up with but I'm sure there are at least a dozen
    different readings, many of which cannot be directly conveyed in print.


    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Sep 07 2005 - 10:30:26 CDT