The Interrobang

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. —Alfred Hitchcock

Harper, our middle grand-girl

Harper, our middle grand-girl

Interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination";
Bang is printers' slang for the exclamation mark.


Symbols—those little marks that represent something, that tell a bit of a story, that create identity.

For example, if you see a little stylized fish on the back of someone’s car, you assume that they (or the car’s previous owner) professed to be christian. You don’t assume though that the person’s religious convictions extend to more courteous driving or less road rage than their non fish bearing counterparts. And to be fair, we can’t really ask “WWJD” when it comes to driving, because we don’t have any record that Jesus ever drove anything (except the occasional evil spirit—from a person to a pig).

I like symbols. I think they’re interesting. I’ve yet to find a symbol however, that I was so affiliated with that I would have it tattooed on my person, but I have held allegiance to a few symbols over the years, enough at least to wear them as jewelry.

The Peace Sign was one. (Or, as it was called by “rednecks” back in the day: “the footprint of the American chicken.”)

For me, the symbol probably had something to do with my adolescent need to “belong.” It was like the brand of the 60s counter-culture movement and a tribe that was very accepting. Maybe I wore it out of wishful thinking—hoping that somehow if we rallied around the dream of peace I might not get drafted and end up in a jungle in Southeast Asia fighting in a war I didn’t understand.

When that war finally ended, I put the peace sign in a box with my “McGovern for President” button, and my idealism. I still have that box and occasionally drag it out and remember the old days “better than they were.”

Today, if I were to wear a symbol or give serious consideration to symbol-style tattoo, it would be an interrobang. The interrobang has an interesting history. You should Google (v.) it. The interrobang is a punctuation mark that actually appeared on Remington typewriters briefly. It really never made it’s mark though. (Although it is still included in many fonts on your computer.) It was a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point.

As I hinted at the beginning of the post the interrobang would be used at the end of a hypothetical question, being asked with a sort of gusto, like: “Wow, did you see that?!” or “What the what?!” You get the idea, right?!

Just as the peace sign was a good symbol for me in my first coming-of-age, the interrobang serves me well now, in my second.

There was once a day of youthful confidence; swagger, if you will. Today it seems like everything I used to feel certain of, in an exclamatory kind of way, also has a certain question to it. For example, say we’re trekking across country, my Amazing-Missus might ask, “Do you have any idea where we are?” And I reply, “Of course I do! I think?” Or the doctor asks, “How are you doing?” “Great!” I exclaim. “Aren’t I?”

That picture at the beginning of this post, of our middle grand-girl, Harper; her dad took that and commented about her “eye of the tiger” look. She will be 3-years old Saturday. I hope she always keeps her eye-of-the-tiger, strength-of-her-convictions swagger. Some will see it and call it "strong-willed". Her Pops will see it and will remember a day when he had it. A day when he thought Peace was attainable. A day when he was less squishy about his certainties.