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An Incredible Story of the Exclamation Mark!

An Incredible Story of the Exclamation Mark!
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Palina Dolia

In today's reality, you often have to convert all your emotions into text format and express them through emoticons and stickers with screaming cats. But there is a much more proven way to show your interlocutor that you are at the edge of your rope. An exclamation mark! A good old stick with a dot can turn any phrase into a real outcry from the heart. Where did it come from? What incredible story is behind it? And why do we put one or three exclamation marks but never two? There are too many questions in this introduction, so let's look for the answers.

Screaming origins!

It's hard to imagine life without punctuation and spaces now, but they have not always existed. The ancient texts were at first just a continuous stream of letters, which had to be read thoughtfully to make sense out of them all. This style is called scriptio continua.

Such texts were difficult to read, so by the sixth century AD small writing conventions such as punctuation and word spacing had emerged. The readership was growing steadily, and with it the number of people dissatisfied with the insane stream of non-consecutive letters. In addition, with spaces and commas, there was less chance of the text being misunderstood. Overall, a whole lot of advantages.

This is somewhere around the same period that the history of the exclamation mark begins. Here's one version of its origins (certainly inaccurate, unreliable and unconfirmed by anyone, but still interesting). It is thought to have originated as a superposition of the Latin exclamation "Io", which expressed: a) joy; b) pain. But in both cases it was accompanied by an exclamation. The "I" gradually stretched over the "O", which meanwhile shrank into a dot, all of which safely formed the exclamation mark.

The story is almost plausible. One thing is for certain: unlike other punctuation marks, the exclamation mark is a squiggle, embodying an irrepressible emotion. Whether it's sudden good news or a bump on a door with your little finger, everything generates an exclamation in you, bursting out.

Patent time!

So, exclamation mark-like squiggles occasionally appear in some texts, expressing different sentiments. But! They make it without documentation, which means it's time to really reinvent the exclamation mark – in every bureaucratic sense.

At the end of the fourteenth century, the Italian poet Iacopo Alpoleio da Urbisaglia announced: he had invented something. A new punctuation mark, punctus admirativus – "a point of admiration"! The public is enthralled, philologists applaud, the most impressionable faint from overwhelming emotion. Now all grammarians invariably mention the "point of admiration" as an important punctuation mark, occasionally confusing the wording. Thus, the "point of admiration" sometimes turned into a "point of exclamation". Not quite right, but understandable enough.

This confusion, however, still sparked some controversy among rabid letter-writing enthusiasts. For some time, writers even pitted "the point of admiration" against ''the point of exclamation": the former was used to express delight and amazement, the latter was used for anger, grief and other negative emotions. However, both marks looked the same.

By the nineteenth century, these disputes had gradually died down, as the exclamation in the name of the mark overcame admiration. From now on, no more "points of admiration", just an exclamation point.

Fear and hatred of exclamation marks!

It would seem that all passions subsided; now the old new punctuation mark would become a natural and familiar part of any text... Right? Actually, no. The final understanding of this mark as an exclamation has led to a very specific attitude towards its use. Even grammar books recommended that it should only be used in special cases and not abused at all. Francis Scott Fitzgerald thought that exclamation marks were " laughing at your own joke" (insulting). Even the philosopher Theodor Adorno (a very serious man at first glance) stepped into the path of hatred for this mark, calling it "a desperate written gesture that yearns in vain to transcend language". In general, everyone thought that the exclamation mark turned the text into a dubious tawdry. To the point that even a typewriter key with this mark did not appear until 1970.

The epic return of the exclamation mark!

As time went on, people became less and less arrogant, and online communication altogether returned the exclamation mark to its former glory. Now it doesn't always carry a screaming connotation. Just think of all your business letters – you probably wrote "Thank you!" at the end of some of them, without shouting out loud thanks.

The exclamation mark seeps into our messages, reclaiming its old function of expressing admiration and wonder, without any shouting or pressure on the interlocutor. However, don't use more than one in a sentence. For some reason, two exclamation marks are perceived as something unacceptable.

Bring joy back into your life – put your exclamation marks up!

(But don't overdo it!!!)

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