You may be wearing a face of complete incredulity at the moment, but I promise I’m not going to get into a spiel on the improper use of quotation marks or semi-colons. Instead, I’m going to launch into interesting bits of punctuation. Ones that, for whatever reason, almost made their way onto a QWERTY keyboard, but somehow missed out.
You may think that we have enough dots and squiggles to contend with to be able to express ourselves well enough. But imagine if there were punctuation marks on hand that were able to describe the exact mood that something was intended to be expressed?
This was a conundrum that kept French poet Alcanter de Brahm aka Marcel Bernhardt (“ah him,” you say) awake at night. He wanted to create an Irony Mark so that you could write a sentence and let people know that you were obviously being ironic (ironically). His artistic mind decided that the best way to express this was via a backwards question mark, something like this ؟
You may think this is as unnecessary as the squiggle that our pinkies all have access to on the right side of our keyboards (~) seeing as we can already express irony with an elipsis, as in, “England has great weather…”
But some people on the other hand, thought this idea just didn’t go far enough. One such man was Hervé Bazin, another Frenchie trying to revolutionise everything in sight, including punctuation. He proposed that our written ability to express ourselves was encumbered by us not having the following punctuation marks in wide circulation:
I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves at the end of a few love points in our time…
The first issue that comes to mind with these expressive points, is that there’s no room for subtlety anymore. If you’re trying on a bit of delicate flirting via text message, you’ve suddenly had all air of mystery stripped away from you by ending everything you type with a Siamese question mark.
But before we can really judge on whether these extra points of contention could add value to our emails around the office, let’s see them in action.
I’ve gone for the obvious here, and chosen a paragraph from Bram Stoker’s Dracula؟
(Chapter 7 if you’re wondering)
At midnight I went to relieve the man at the wheel and when I got to it found no one there The wind was steady, and as we ran before it there was no yawing I dared not leave it, so shouted for the mate After a few seconds, he rushed up on deck in his flannels He looked wild-eyed and haggard, and I greatly fear his reason has given way He came close to me and whispered hoarsely, with his mouth to my ear as though fearing the very air might hear. “It is here. I know it now On the watch last night I saw It, like a man, tall and thin, and ghastly pale It was in the bows, and looking out I crept behind It, and gave it my knife, but the knife went through It, empty as the air“
If nothing else, the text looks a whole lot prettier now, and I’ve managed to bring out the gay sailor undertones that Bram may or may not have been gunning for.
But that’s the beauty of having our stock standard punctuation marks that don’t indicate that you’re furious, unsure, or in love with your sailing mate. You can read to a full stop and put in your own emotion, allowing you to take away what you want from a text.
We already have a ready range of superfluous punctuation marks on hand anyway. What are we supposed to do with this ¬ ?