Books

Pilcrow @#*~& Interrobangs – from papyrus to CRTL-P

THISAPPEARSTOBEGIBBERISHSOMETHINGTHATWOULDBETHERESULTOFALIZARD

WOMENSAIDLEARYTIMOTHYKEYBOARDCOMPUTERAONFROLICKINGLSDONHIGH

WHOSEEKTOBEEQUALWITHMENLACKAMBITION

Can you read this? Maybe this will help:

THISAPPEARSTOBEGIBBERISHSOMETHINGTHATWOULDBETHERESULTOFALIZARD

HIGHONLSDFROLICKINGONACOMPUTERKEYBOARDTIMOTHYLEARYSAIDWOMEN

WHOSEEKTOBEEQUALWITHMENLACKAMBITION

This makes things even easier:

THIS·APPEARS·TO·BE·GIBBERISH·SOMETHING·THAT·WOULD·BE·THE·RESULT·OF·A·LIZARD·

HIGH·ON·LSD·FROLICKING·ON·A·COMPUTER·KEYBOARD·TIMOTHY·LEARY·SAID·WOMEN·

WHO·SEEK·TO·BE·EQUAL·WITH·MEN·LACK·AMBITION·

Easier still:

¶This appears to be gibberish – something that would be the result of a lizard high on LSD/ frolicking on a computer keyboard.¶ Timothy Leary said, «Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.»

Finally, replace the ¶ with paragraphs and «» with””, and we get the modern day printed text – easy to read and write. The first example is an all uppercase unbroken stream of letters with lines running alternately left-to-right and then right-to-left across the page in boustrophedon, or ‘ox-turning,’ style, after a farmer driving his oxen across a field (a tractor instead of oxen in the present era).

This, and other such fascinating facts can be found in this gem of a book called “Shady Characters” by Keith Houston.

dsc_1240

One gets to learn about the obscure origins of modern day punctuation marks like the ubiquitous # (the contentiously named octothorpe) and @. The evolution of the ampersand (&), hyphen, dash, quotation marks is detailed in a sassy yet vivid style. The prodigious research that has been done is obvious from the copious foot-notes and bibliography.

Many symbols came into being and died out from disuse like the Pilcrow (¶), Manicule and the Interrobang , many were abortions like symbols for irony and sarcasm.

pointinghand1
Manicule
sarcmark-lg
Sarcmark
tumblr_lpufsb4ycn1qjhzvpo1_400
Interrobang

The advent of new technologies and the impact of religion and various philosophical schools of thought have impacted the way we read and write – the printing press of Gutenberg, Linotype, the typewriter, and finally the digital age have brought revolutionary changes to cultural exchanges within our global village.

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