Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Today, my friend Brandon sent me an e-mail containing one symbol. It was this:


Wow, I thought. An opportunity to learn more about this ubiquitous symbol! (I didn't think that. I thought a smaller word, but it sounds fancier to say it that way.)

My very next thought was, "Is it exclamation point or mark?" I guess both are OK.

Now this is something I didn't know:

"The exclamation point was introduced into English printing in the 1400s, and was known as the 'note of admiration' until the mid 1600s."

Talk about fancy! One can't help but feel a little lofty using the phrase "note of admiration." And I'm all about loft.

I was also surprised to learn this: "Exclamation marks can also be placed mid-sentence and function like a comma."

Wow, I never! knew that. Which! I'm pretty sure! is not proper usage.

Of everything I learned about the exclamation point/mark, this was the most alarming:

"One study has shown that women use exclamation marks more than men do."

I guess this means women do more admiring than men. Or maybe they just exclaim more than men. Yeah, no kidding.

I think I like the exclamation point when it's part of an interrobang. Don't you agree?! (An interrobang is a combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark.) I've been "banging," to use printer jargon, for years, and I didn't even know it.

I don't suppose interrobangs are all that welcome in formal writing, but to me, there's nothing quite like the one-two punch of a question mark AND an exclamation mark to give one's question the appropriate amount of curiosity AND urgency.

More exclamatory tidbits, I say!

"There is a town in Quebec called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, spelled with two exclamation marks."

Now, that's just too cool. How could I have not come across that little gem before now?

This one's a bit more of a baffler, probably because my knowledge of math is about as extensive as my knowledge of gym.

"In mathematics, the exclamation mark represents the factorial operation. For example, 4! is 4 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 24."

Who knew? If I had seen "4!" somewhere, I probably would have just thought someone was really enthusiastic about the number four. And who isn't, come to think of it?! You kidding?! Four?! Why, I interrobanged four times in one night back in college!

This one took me from baffled to entirely lost:

"In computing, the exclamation mark corresponds to ASCII character 33 (21 in hexadecimal)."

Oh, well. One can't know everything, or one would be God. And that job's already taken.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn more about this very! exciting symbol, Brandon?!


Brandon Muller said...


Chris Robinson said...

Brandon is a really symbol-minded person.

The Jen said...

Have you seen the Seinfeld episode with the subplot of Elaine using too many exclamation marks?

It was okay.