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A Lost Glyph

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Proposed interrobangs from Type Talks, March-April 1962, drawn by Jack Lipton of Martin K. Speckter Associates, Inc. (Image courtesy of Penny Speckter by way of Shady Characters.)

Today, we at ST8MNT took a moment to be inspired by some of the books around the office. Always lovers of type, we picked up “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield for a good skim. Lo and behold, we rediscovered a long lost character; one that seems extremely relevant, yet surprisingly absent from most of our glyph panels. The interrobang.

A combination of the question mark and exclamation point, the interrobang was first introduced by the Madison Avenue marketing executive Martin K. Speckter in the year 1962 as a solution to copywriter’s exhausted tendancy to employ “?!” as a punctuation mark. The new symbol was meant to replace this double punctuation and convey the particular mixture of surprise and doubt that the copywriters were searching for[1]. Here at the studio, we know this combination of feelings all too well when we experience an unexpected Photoshop malfunction…

But the question we all had after being reminded of this rare symbol was, ”Where did it go exactly?” Yes, why is this interesting and, most importantly, efficient mark not a standard part of today’s typefaces? The short answer, it was too genius, too soon.

Unfortunately for our Mad Man Martin, his contribution was subject to painstaking production without the ability of a computer. Typewriters were not meant to support the plethora of glyphs that can easily be stored in a single digital file. To try and simulate an interrobang on one of these ancient machines was near to impossible without some serious maneuvering and over-typing. It wasn’t a pretty process. Although, there was hope for the new mark when Remington Rand began to offer the Interrobang as part of their line of replaceable keys and typeheads on their latest typewriter, the Model 25. The Globe of Joplin, Missouri declared that “We can hardly wait for it to be installed on the regular typewriter keyboard, for it fits the times and comes none too soon when there’s a new crisis or calamity almost every day.”[2] But sadly, through all of the excitement that was to be had around the first new punctuation mark in three hundred years, “the six-year delay in clearing the new character’s way from composition to printing, the sheer inertia of punctuation practice, doubt as to the grammatical necessity for a new symbol” and possibly the “shortness” of a mark meant to convey a double emotion all sped the interrobang out of popularity and out of service.

But what about now? What about today? We at ST8MNT believe this mark is a sight for sore eyes. Help us give the interrobang one more go! Interrobang fontfaces include Palatino Linotype, Calibri, Arial Unicode MS, Code2000, Helvetica and Unicode.

 

1. First, access this blog post via your iPhone.

2. Select and copy the interrobang to the right:   ‽

3. Go to the keyboard settings located in your general settings panel. (SETTINGS >> GENERAL >> KEYBOARD)

4. Touch “Add a New Shortcut”.

5. Paste the copied interrobang into the “Phrase” field.

6. In the “Shortcut” field below it, type ?! or !?, which ever combo you use most (or you can just make two shortcuts).

7. Click “Save” and you’re done!

 

Congratulations! Now, every time you type ?! or !? from your keyboard, your iPhone will automatically correct your punctuation to an interrobang.

 
 

Documentation: Shady Characters

[1]“Mercury (space project),” in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/375884/Mercury> (Bibtex)

[2]“Handy “Interrobang”,” in Joplin Globe. Joplin, Missouri: 1968. (Bibtex)

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