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You learn something every day

September 17, 2012
Posted at 2:16 pm

Now I know some of you are going to laugh at this, but then I believe laughter is good for you, so go ahead. Those of you laughing are already aware of the tidbit of information I learned only today.

I was listening to NPR the other day. I'm actually a conservative Republican, as surprising as that might seem to some, but I also have a brain, and realize that no party has a lock on the truth. A lot of people in my party think NPR is a left wing puppet for the Democrats. The people who think that are good Republicans, like the Taliban are good Muslims. They don't want to be confused by the facts.

But this blog entry isn't about politics. I just wanted you to know where I heard about this thing in literature called an "interrobang". A guy they were interviewing about his book tossed it off like it was a regular word. So, today, I looked it up.

This is where those of you who know what it is laugh, and say something like "What? An author who never heard of the interrobang?"

Well I'm an amateur author. I don't know everything. I admit that.

Now the freaky part is that I used to use interrobangs, and didn't even know it.

So for those who, like me, had never heard of this literary tool ... what is it?

Well, technically, this keyboard won't make one, though some typewriters in the sixties actually had the key on them. It is a question mark with an exclamation point superimposed on the bottom part of the figure. If you have a dirty mind, it looks like a question mark with an erection. It was invented by somebody - you can google it and read all that yourself - in the sixties and is nowadays represented by this coupling: ?! You can also reverse it, making it !?

Can you believe that?!

In the old days, when I wanted to make something into an incredulous question, I simply put two or three question marks. Somebody pointed out that made me look illiterate, so I stopped doing it. I started using an interrobang instead, even though I didn't know that's what it was called. Of course multiple punctuation of any kind is frowned upon. So, trying to be all professional and stuff, I stopped using that combination too.

Now, because English majors frown so terribly on multiple punctuation marks in a row, and because the interrobang only got half absorbed into the American English system, it is classified as an "unauthorized" or "non-standard" punctuation mark. But when I write westerns and Thu pardner ahm a talk'in bout sez things lahk thiyus, that's non-standard too.

But these things convey information to the reader that (I think) is valuable.

So I'm going to start using the interrobang in future books. And I just wanted to head off all the English majors out there who read my stuff and write me nice notes about how illiterate I am.

Now that last sentence may give the impression that I don't wish to receive corrections. Oh Contrair, which isn't spelled that way but this keyboard also doesn't type French, so deal with it. The fact is I most assuredly do wish to receive them. Corrections make my writing better.

But in this case it's intentional. The only thing I've abused in the past ... is the ellipsis ... which is near and dear to my ... heart ... because it's so much better at suggesting a thoughtful pause ... than a simple comma.

At least as long as you don't overuse it ... don't you think?!

Thanks for reading.