Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Via Arts & Letters Daily, here is a fine article on the revival (and overuse?!) of the exclamation mark. The author suggests that the rise of ! is a creature of the Internet age. He quotes a recent book on the etiquette of email, which notes as a possible explanation that
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I love a good x-mark, though it may have a more robust modern history than the authors allege. I am reminded of 80s R&B pop singer Al B. Sure!, who included the ! as part of his official stage name.
Unrelated, the Japanese convience store chain Famima!! (both !s part of the original name) is making inroads into the LA area, though it doesn't seem particularly popular. The only reason I'm even aware of this fact is the store's use of multiple x-marks.
Posted by: Dave | May 5, 2009 11:31:12 PM
I'd like to suggest a technological contributing cause: Typography, and/or the lack thereof! (NB I'm an old-school computer user; somewhere, I still have my DARPAnet login data, and I honestly believe that if humanity had been meant to use a GUI nobody would have invented punch cards.)
Until recently -- with the rise of a disturbing series of largely incompatible HTML e-mail systems -- e-mail has been plain text. That means that ONE COULD ONLY SHOW EMPHASIS BY SHOUTING (all caps), or by interpolating other symbols _instead of proper italics_ or *bold text*. That took away some of writers' limited ability to express sarcasm, etc. in text... and the evils of HTML e-mail as a spam/virus/trojan paradise keep some of us reading still in plain-text format. The less said about "scare quotes" and what they do to both readability and data-processing systems, the better... although the NYT seems not to have figured out yet that there is an italic font in the typeface, and misuses quotation marks around all titles.
My solution -- such as it is -- has been to introduce the plain-text equivalant of the most shameful omission from HTML: the SARCASM /SARCASM tags. It's usually good for a laugh, anyway, and it beats emoticons. Further, it also makes it just a little bit harder to take sarcasm out of context -- which, in the end, is the real problem with e-mail threads.
Posted by: C.E. Petit | May 6, 2009 11:28:41 AM