The interrobang, also known as the interabang, //, ‽ (often represented by ?! or !?), is a nonstandard punctuation mark used in various written languages and intended to combine the functions of the question mark (also called the "interrogative point") and the exclamation mark or exclamation point (known in printers' and programmers' jargon as the "bang"). The glyph is a superimposition of these two marks.
A sentence ending with an interrobang asks a question in an excited manner, expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asks a rhetorical question.
- Say what‽
- She's pregnant‽
In informal English, the same inflection is usually notated by ending a sentence with first a question mark and then an exclamation mark, or vice versa. Many people are unfamiliar with the interrobang, and would be puzzled when first seeing it, although its intention is usually self-evident. The interrobang can be hand-written with a single stroke plus the dot. One common application is in cartoons, as a stand-alone symbol of surprise.
Many writers, especially in informal writing, have used multiple punctuation marks to end a sentence expressing surprise and question.
What the...?! Neves, Called Dead in Fall, Denies It (headline from San Francisco Examiner, May 9, 1936)
Writers using informal language may use several alternating question marks and exclamation marks for even more emphasis:
He did what?!?!?!
Like multiple exclamation marks and multiple question marks, such strings count as poor style in formal writing.
The combinations "!?" and "?!" are also used to express judgements of particular chess moves through their use as punctuation in chess annotation. "!?" denotes an "interesting" move, while "?!" denotes a "dubious" move.
American Martin K. Speckter conceptualized the interrobang in 1962. As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark. He proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks. Speckter solicited possible names for the new character from readers. Contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination"; bang is printers' slang for the exclamation mark. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.
In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued the Americana typeface and included the interrobang as one of the characters. In 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. During the 1970s, one could buy replacement interrobang keycaps and typefaces for some Smith-Corona typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, with the word interrobang appearing in some dictionaries and the mark itself featuring in magazine and newspaper articles.
The interrobang failed to amount to much more than a fad and it has not become a standard punctuation mark. Although most fonts do not include the interrobang, it has not disappeared: Lucida Grande, the default font for many UI elements of Apple's OS X operating system, includes the interrobang, and Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set (on the right bracket and tilde keys on US keyboard layouts) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in several fonts, including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri, the default font in the Office 2007, 2010 and 2013 suites.
A reverse and upside down interrobang (combining ¿ and ¡, Unicode character: ⸘), suitable for starting phrases in Spanish, Galician and Asturian is called an "inverted interrobang" or a gnaborretni (interrobang written backwards). In current practice, interrobang-like emphatic ambiguity in Hispanic languages is usually achieved by including both sets of punctuation marks one inside the other (¿¡Verdad!? or ¡¿Verdad?! [Really!?]). Older usage, still official but not widespread, recommended mixing the punctuation marks: ¡Verdad? or ¿Verdad!
Entering and display
The interrobang is not a standard punctuation mark. Few modern typefaces or fonts include a glyph for the interrobang character. The standard interrobang is at Unicode code point U+203D ‽ interrobang (HTML:
‽). The inverted interrobang is at Unicode code point U+2E18 ⸘ inverted interrobang. Single-character versions of the double-glyph versions are also available at code points U+2048 ⁈ question exclamation mark and U+2049 ⁉ exclamation question mark.
Depending on the browser and which fonts the user has installed, some of these may or may not be displayed or may be substituted with a different font.
On a Linux system supporting the Compose Key, an interrobang can be produced by pressing the compose key followed by the exclamation point and the question mark; reversing the order creates the inverted interrobang. On Mac OS X, it is found on the Character Palette, obtained by pressing the key combination ^ Control+⌘ Cmd+Space.
The interrobang can be displayed in LaTeX by using the package textcomp and the command \textinterrobang. The inverted interrobang is also provided for in the textcomp package through the command \textinterrobangdown.
Punctuate! Theatre, an Edmonton, Alberta not-for-profit theatre company, uses the Palatino Linotype interrobang in its logo.
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