Miscellany № 53: Dinner ampersand drinks

Are you thirsty? I'm thirsty. (Image courtesy of @Monotype on Twitter.)

Are you thirsty? I’m thirsty. (Image courtesy of @Monotype on Twitter.)

I don’t mind telling you: I could use a drink. Work on the The Book continues apace — if all goes according to plan, the manuscript will be delivered to Mr Brendan Curry by the end of this year and the book published by the end of 2015 — and my thoughts are turning to how I might celebrate its completion. A tasty beverage would hit the spot.

Punctuation-related cocktails have been on my mind since I came across today’s header image a few months back on the Twitter feed of Monotype, the type company. The “Type Ice Tea”, “Ampersand Fizz” and “Pilcrow Fashioned” were all on offer at the Design Week Awards in London back in May; and though I missed the boat on that particular conjunction of punctuation and alcoholic beverages, I console myself with the knowledge that these heady concoctions are really just rechristened versions of the Long Island Iced Tea, the French 77, and the Old Fashioned. What would really get the juices flowing is a cocktail with its roots in punctuation; something novel, and hitherto passed over by the cocktail cognoscenti, just as the marks discussed here have been unduly ignored over the years.

Something like the Ampersand Cocktail.

As J. K. Grence of the Phoenix New Times explains, this venerable drink was invented (or at least first recorded) at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel sometime before prohibition forced discerning drinkers underground. Its name apparently comes from the ampersand in the name of Martini & Rossi, the Italian drinks company that produces the sweet vermouth necessary to make the cocktail. Speaking of which, the Ampersand consists of equal measures of three constituent liquors — cognac & Old Tom gin & sweet vermouth — along with a dash of orange bitters, and it is simplicity itself to make. According to Mr Grence’s recipe, take the following ingredients:

  • ¾ ounce cognac
  • ¾ ounce Old Tom gin
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 or 2 dashes orange bitters

Stir these together with ice cubes until chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, et voilà! Enjoy. I was excited to try out the Ampersand for myself, only to find that the Shady Characters drinks cabinet is currently absent any sweet vermouth.

How helpful, then, that I should discover not only that there is such a thing as artisanal vermouth, currently enjoying a renaissance in the USA, but that one of its proponents is a man named Karl Weichold who makes Interrobang Vermouth in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Karl provides a few recipes at the website for Interrobang Vermouth, and, given the symbol’s origins on Madison Avenue, it seems only fitting to share his “Interrobang Manhattan” with you. Take the following:

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part Interrobang Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 dash of Bitters

Mix together and shake with plenty of ice, then strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. This is, I grant you, nothing more than a conventional Manhattan made with Weichold’s own vermouth, but I find it hard to judge his recipe too harshly: it has the work “interrobang” in it, for heaven’s sake.

And if neither the Ampersand Cocktail nor the Interrobang Manhattan take your fancy, perhaps an Asterisk would be in order? Doug Ford at Cold Glass describes this variant on a cocktail called The Last Word as containing:

  • ¾ ounce brandy
  • ¾ ounce Green Chartreuse
  • ¾ ounce cherry liqueur
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice

To make an Ampersand, mix all its ingredients together and shake until cold, then strain twice into a chilled cocktail glass.

Taste tests of all these cocktails will be forthcoming — right around the time that I finish work on The Book, I imagine — and I will be sure to report back once my wits have returned afterwards. In the meantime, what punctuation-related cocktails have I missed? Let us know in the comments!

Miscellany № 52: Eric Gill gets handsy

Gill Sans Manicules courtesy of Dan Rhatigan and Vernacular Type.

Eric Gill’s Gill Sans manicules, courtesy of Dan Rhatigan and Vernacular Type.

A visual treat this week!

Our header image (above) depicts a pair of manicules as drawn by celebrity pilcrow-user, type designer, and all-round reprehensible human being Mr. Eric Gill. The picture here was taken by Molly Woodward (aka @VernacularType) at a lecture given by Dan Rhatigan of Monotype. There’s little more to say, except look at those manicules! Gill Sans has its idiosyncracies, certainly, but to the casual observer it remains an exercise in geometric forms and yet these expressive manicules are cut from a quite different cloth.

Sadly, Monotype’s digital version of Gill Sans lacks manicules entirely, much as Linotype’s digital incarnation of Americana lacks its signature interrobang. Plus ça change! Perhaps one day some type designer with an affinity for shady characters will reunite Gill’s manicules and Richard Isbell’s interrobang with their estranged digital families.

Thanks to Molly and Dan for providing the image!

A type specimen demonstrating a series of oversized manicules, as captured by Nick Sherman at the Flickr ☞ Manicule Pool. (CC-BY-NC-SA image courtesy of Nick Sherman.)

A type specimen demonstrating a series of oversized manicules, as captured by Nick Sherman at the Flickr ☞ Manicule Pool. (CC-BY-NC-SA image courtesy of Nick Sherman.)

Examining Eric Gill’s 1920s-era manicules reminded me of the Flickr ☞ Manicule Pool, a collaborative collection of manicules snapped in myriad settings and across different times. There are digital manicules; analogue manicules; relief manicules; intaglio manicules; sculptural manicules; type specimens; signposts; advertising hoardings; and much more. The pool is a great place to browse, and it drives home just how indispensible this simple sign was to signwriters, advertisers, and businesses — and how sharply it fell from favour. The arrows that have replaced it (← →) just lack the same degree of panache, do they not?
This was to be a longer entry, but unfortunately my tardiness has got in the way. Twitter user @dheadshot pointed me in the direction of a BBC radio programme presented by Simon Armitage, a poet and writer, entitled Marginalia, which purported to look at the history of writing in the margins in books — including the not inconsiderable role of the manicule. It was, by all accounts, a fascinating examination of these hinterlands of books, where readers intrude on writers’ territory, and I was very much looking forward to listening to it. And to passing it on to Shady Characters’ readers, of course.

Unfortunately, I am too late. The programme has expired on the BBC’s iPlayer platform, so we’ll have to wait for it to be rebroadcast another time. I’ll be sure to post it here when it reappears.

And with that anticlimax, thanks for reading!

Miscellany № 51: a new-old-stock irony mark

A grab-bag of miscellaneous links for you this week; I am knee-deep in nineteenth-century printing history at the moment, courtesy of The Book. Enjoy!
After writing about irony marks again recently (specifically, Michele Buchanan’s project to introduce an irony mark along with two other marks of punctuation), I was simultaneously happy and dismayed to come across yet another irony mark on Twitter recently. This one, however, is something of a blast from the past.

18th-century irony mark from A clear and practical system of punctuation by Joseph Robertson. (Image courtesy of Tim Cassedy and The Library Company of Philadelphia.)

18th-century irony mark from A clear and practical system of punctuation by Joseph Robertson. (Image courtesy of Tim Cassedy and The Library Company of Philadelphia.)

Now this is interesting. Readers of the Shady Characters book will recall that a very similar proposal was made in 1668 when John Wilkins, one of the founding members of the Royal Society,[1] published a book entitled An essay towards a real character, and a philosophical language.[2] This “real character” and its associated “philosophical language” were a kind of ontological experiment designed to represent literally anything under the sun by means of a single, unified written and spoken language.

We all know how well that went.

Almost as an afterthought, Wilkins suggested that ironic statements might be punctuated by an inverted exclamation mark, or ‘¡’. This, too, was a flop, though the idea has had a bit of a resurgence in recent years, as we’ve seen here. What makes Joseph Robertson’s mark interesting, then, as mooted in his 1792 book A clear and practical system of punctuation,[3] is not just that it represents another use of ‘¡’ for irony but that it comes just 124 years later. It closes the gap quite betwen the seventeenth and twentieth centuries quite considerably — is this part of a longer, unbroken chain, perhaps? Any evidence of this would be very much appreciated.

The editors of the OED recently announced that the word “hashtag” is to be added to their hallowed pages.[4] This is, arguably, less interesting than recent French moves to re-brand the hashtag as the mot-dièse, and still less so than the vexed question of where the ‘#’ got the name “octothorpe”, but we can be happy at least that this venerable mark continues to enjoy a new lease on life.
And finally, via the BBC, an exercise for the reader: how does one write about a poem consisting only of punctuation?

Thanks for reading!

  • [1] R. Chambers and R. Carruthers, “Dr John Wilkins.” Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1847. <http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2cUiAAAAMAAJ> Bibtex

      author = {Chambers, R. and Carruthers, R.},
      keywords = {irony,shady\_characters},
      mendeley-tags = {irony,shady\_characters},
      publisher = {Gould, Kendall and Lincoln},
      title = {{Dr John Wilkins}},
      type = {Book part (with own title)},
      url = {http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2cUiAAAAMAAJ},
      year = {1847}
  • [2] J. Wilkins, An essay towards a real character, and a philosophical language., Printed for S. Gellibrand [etc.], 1668. <http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/4088592> Bibtex

      author = {Wilkins, John},
      keywords = {irony,shady\_characters},
      mendeley-tags = {irony,shady\_characters},
      publisher = {Printed for S. Gellibrand [etc.]},
      title = {{An essay towards a real character, and a philosophical language.}},
      type = {Book},
      url = {http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/4088592},
      year = {1668}
  • [3] J. Robertson, A clear and practical system of punctuation : abridged from Robertson’s Essay on punctuation : for the use of schools., Boston: I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1792. Bibtex

    @book{Robertson1792, address = {Boston},
      author = {Robertson, J},
      publisher = {I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews},
      title = {{A clear and practical system of punctuation : abridged from Robertson's Essay on punctuation : for the use of schools.}},
      year = {1792}
  • [4] “hashtag,” in OED Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/389023#eid301493073> Bibtex

    @electronic{OED-HASHTAG, address = {Oxford},
      booktitle = {OED Online},
      month = jun, publisher = {Oxford University Press},
      title = {hashtag},
      url = {http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/389023\#eid301493073},
      year = {2014}

Miscellany № 50: interrobangs in space!

I exaggerate for effect. Although thanks to Martin von Wyss, an Australian geographer, cartographer and punctuation enthusiast, we’re on the cusp of interrobangs visible from space even if they aren’t technically in space. I came across a tweet of Martin’s a few weeks ago, and if you take a second to click on that link you’ll see exactly why I was keen to get in touch.

Martin has painted an interrobang on the roof of his house.

Martin von Wyss' rooftop interrobang. (Image courtesy of nearmap.)

Martin von Wyss’ rooftop interrobang. (Image courtesy of nearmap.)

I sent Martin a message to ask him why he had undertaken this noble task and his answer, to paraphrase George Mallory’s famous justification for tackling Mount Everest, was joyously simple: because he could. Martin writes:

Ever since Google Maps (or was it Mapquest?) came along with their free images in 2003(?), I’ve been conniving about orthophoto art. But it wasn’t until recently that I had roof access! And in the meantime I learned to love the interrobang.

As a cartographer, typography and fonts matter a great deal to me. In my work I usually end up using sans serif fonts that are legible at very small sizes and lend the map an air of impartiality. But I knew that no one would get a headache from reading one character in all of greater Melbourne’s roofs, so I went for an expressive serifed interrobang. Since I’m on Twitter and since they’ve chosen such a fine specimen for their logo, I used the logo of the State Library of NSW as my model when sketching out my character on the roof.

We used a pink chalk for the outlines on the metal deck and whatever paint it is we found in the garage for painting our character. An added benefit to the project is increasing our albedo!

Amazing. Martin’s house is both literally and metaphorically cooler as a result of his endeavour.

The von Wyss interrobang in progress. Martin's son does the honours. (Image courtesy of Martin von Wyss.)

The von Wyss interrobang in progress. Martin’s son does the honours. (Image courtesy of Martin von Wyss.)

Readers of the Shady Characters book will find that Martin’s interrobang is familiar; it does indeed mirror the one used by State Library of New South Wales, although that august institution took the conventional route of placing its emblem on its walls rather than its roof. (The NSW interrobang, coincidentally, was the product of Vince Frost of Frost Design, who explained the reasoning behind the logo to me back in 2011.)

The von Wyss interrobang at roof level. (Image courtesy of Martin von Wyss.)

The von Wyss interrobang at roof level. (Image courtesy of Martin von Wyss.)

The image at the top of the page comes courtesy of nearmap, an Australian company that transforms aerial photographs into images suitable for use in mapping. Martin tells me that he awaits the next overflight of a Google Maps satellite so that his rooftop interrobang will finally be imaged from space and available for all to see. Perhaps it’s time for a Google Earth Alphabet of unusual marks of punctuation.

I can’t thank Martin enough for posting his picture to Twitter and for all his help in preparing this post. Check out his website for Australian Wine Maps and more!

Reader Angus got in touch after my recent post about the “quasiquote” to explain that he has been using a mark of his own invention with a similar meaning. He sent in an image to illustrate his symbol, a “broken” quotation mark in contrast to the underlined quotation mark we saw last time, that he uses in written correspondence:

An alternative form of the quasiquote. (Image courtesy of Shady Characters reader Angus.)

An alternative form of the quasiquote. (Image courtesy of Shady Characters reader Angus.)

I must thank Angus for getting in touch and for sending in a custom-made demonstration of his mark. Have you come up with any alternatively renderings for marks discussed here? An alternate-universe interrobang, perhaps, or an improved ampersand? Let us know in the comments, or drop me a line via the Contact form!

Quasiquotes: too good to post only once

Did you catch last weekend’s post on the “quasiquote”? I sincerely hope so, because Ned Brooks and Sandra Bond helped me uncover the history of a truly interesting mark of punctuation, and one that sparked a flurry of comments.
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