A post from Shady Characters

Miscellany № 23

A short entry today, I’m afraid. I’m in the middle of responding to the copy-edited Shady Characters manuscript (you’ll be glad to hear that there are relatively few punctuation-related corrections), so things will have to be necessarily brief!


A couple of weeks ago, Rudi Seitz wrote to let me know that the Shady Characters comment form was broken. He was right; it was, but it is no longer. Please take a moment to test it out, and let me know via the Contact page if you have any problems. More interesting than my technical tribulations, however, was the rest of Rudi’s email, in which he explained:

On another note, I’ve just today undertaken my own series of experiments with the sarcasm mark, unfortunately ending in frustration:
http://rudiseitz.com/2013/01/02/irony-mark/

Also, I have a proposal for distinguishing ironic questions from ironic statements by giving them separate marks:
http://rudiseitz.com/2013/01/02/punctuating-ironic-questions/

Have I reinvented the wheel here?

As an avowed interrobang booster, I might have to lean in the direction of “yes”; I suspect that Martin K. Speckter’s mark already fills that niche. Even so, Rudi’s experiments in punctuation are a bracing reminder that the technological constraints that stymied many early attempts at creating new marks have now all but disappeared: we can design, disseminate and discuss new marks in a way unthinkable only a few decades ago. It begs the question: where are all the new marks of punctuation?

I must say thanks to Rudi for his email, and do hop over to his site for more on punctuation, music, photography, and a host of other topics.


Cover artwork for Tusk's Interrobang EP. (Image courtesy of Tusk.)
Cover artwork for Tusk’s Interrobang EP. (Image courtesy of Tusk.)

As promised in a previous post, I got in touch with Tusk, a Newcastle band about to release a new EP entitled Interrobang, to ask about their choice of name. Tusk bassist Andy Cutts wrote back to explain:

We think it’s a underused and underrated piece of interesting punctuation and is due a comeback. We like how it asks a question with exclamation – we’d like to think the music will do similar.

So there you are! Thanks to Andy for fielding my questions.

4 comments on “Miscellany № 23

  1. Comment posted by Fitoschido on

    Well, if this comment shows up, then you did a great work fixing the form :-) Thanks for the update, as always.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Excellent. Thanks! It is still a little slow, however — I’ll see if things can be tightened up.

  2. Comment posted by Rudi Seitz on

    Congratulations on your progress with the manuscript! Interesting question: where are all the new marks of punctuation? I suppose people are more inclined to rely on emoticons in the online world than to think of new marks or explore the less common available marks. Is it fair to say the “smiley” steals some of the attention that might otherwise fall on the irony mark and others? You mention that technology facilitates the rapid design of new marks. I agree, but I wonder whether technology complicates the matter in another way. If an obscure mark is printed on paper anyone can see it, but if it appears as text online, a reader will only see it if their device “knows” how to render it. Even though the irony mark is in the Unicode Standard it’s not rendered with any consistency on common platforms today, and so it’s tough to use in practice (unless you rely on images or font embedding). In any case, I hope your work with Shady Characters builds interest in less common marks and inspires type designers to experiment.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Rudi,

      Thanks! It’s nice to see the publication process in action at last.

      For me, the emergence of web fonts is the final link in the chain: it’s now possible to design and deliver a custom character or typeface to all modern web browsers. Martin K. Speckter needed both Remington and ATF to make the interrobang available in a single font, but the modern punctuation reformer has all the (free!) tooling required to do the same thing for any typeface they like. Granted, it’s not exactly a streamlined process just yet, but the possibility is there.

      As for the smiley getting all the attention; well, it’s certainly easier to type than an interrobang! I think it’s high time that some effort was expended on standardising the entry of non-keyboard glyphs. Windows in particular is a bear on this, especially when it comes to laptops without a numeric keypad.

      Thanks for the comment!

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