This time, I’ll get right to the point and conclude our look at unusual punctuation marks, some of which were doomed from the start and all of which have yet to make it into common usage.

One of the most prolific creators of such glyphs was Herve Bazin, a French writer who penned the 1966 essay “Plumons l’Oiseau” (“Let’s Pluck the Bird”). In the piece, Bazin suggests six new punctuation marks beginning with the doubt point, which sort of looks like a “Z” with a droopy tail and was meant to express skepticism about what the reader had just encountered.

Two of Bazin’s more positive suggestions were:

  • the love point, which was made up of mirrored question marks that formed a heart, and was intended to help the writer express his or her emotion.
  • the acclamation point. Composed of two exclamation points that formed a “V” and shared a period below them, “like those two little flags that float above the tour bus when the president comes to town,” it was meant to convey welcoming and goodwill.

The Frenchman’s next two symbols were similar in both their meaning and the fact that they were based on the good old exclamation point.

  • The certitude point (also called the conviction point) was an exclamation point with a line through it, making it resemble a cross. It was meant to convey the writer’s conviction about his or her topic. Proofreadnow.com’s Phil Jamieson allowed that it “would best be used instead of writing in all caps.”
  • Meanwhile, Bazin’s authority point turned the exclamation point into a tall umbrella and was meant to indicate that the sentence preceding it should be taken seriously because it had been written by someone who’s an authority in that particular field.

Finally, Monsieur Bazin came up with yet another glyph whose job was to loiter at the beginning of a sentence to ensure that the reader understood that what followed was meant to be ironic. It looked like the Greek letter psi with a dot below it.

The fact that none of Bazin’s marks ever caught on was probably his own fault: The tone of “Let’s Pluck the Bird” was too playful to ever be taken seriously, not to mention the fact that none of them could be typed on a standard typewriter.

Despite the fact that the use of personal computers was exploding in the early 1990s, new punctuation marks were still having a tough time catching on. Take for example the question comma and the exclamation comma, which were like regular question and exclamation marks except that they had commas below them instead of periods. They were meant to be used “between words as a comma, but with more feeling.”

In 2007, both the snark mark (a period followed by a tilde: .~) and the sarcastrophe (which is really just a caret: ^) popped up. ^Yeah, that was a great idea.^ You were a big help.~

Three years later father and son Paul and Douglas Sak cornered the market on sarcasm when they trademarked the SarcMark. Best described as a backward 6 with a dot in the middle, the SarcMark was marketed as “The official, easy-to-use punctuation mark to emphasize a sarcastic phrase, sentence or message.”

Most recently, writer Ellen Susan gave us a break from all that sarcasm stuff when she created the ElRey. Looking something like an exclamation point with a dot above it and another below it, the ElRey is intended to indicate positivity or joyfulness, but not excitement.

According to Susan’s husband, Rob Walker, the ElRey, which means “the king” in Spanish, “connotes a comfortable mastery of protocol and politeness, intertwined with a steadfast refusal to raise one’s voice unless something is on fire.”

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.”

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