An enchanting new e book has revealed how punctuation and symbols have developed over 1000’s of years.  

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Claire Cock-Starkey’s new non-fiction Hyphens & Hashtags explores how punctuation akin to full-stops, commas and exclamation marks have come to be a part of our day-to-day writings.

Whereas the query mark is believed to return from Historic Egypt, the place they selected to make use of the form of an inquisitive cat’s tail, the hashtag has its origins within the shorthand utilized by medieval scribes for the Latin libra pondo, which interprets as ‘pound by weight’.

Right here, in an extract from Hyphens & Hashtags, which is out now, Brits can get a brand new understanding of the on a regular basis symbols and the reality behind their origins…

No spaces, no punctuation: Latin was originally written in upper case with no spaces between the words, as seen in this example above. Slowly, symbols and punctuation evolved

No areas, no punctuation: Latin was initially written in higher case with no areas between the phrases, as seen on this instance above. Slowly, symbols and punctuation developed

In an apocryphal story which first appeared in William S Walsh’s Helpful-book of Literary Curiosities (1892), Victor Hugo was stated to have instigated essentially the most concise literary correspondence in historical past. 

On the publication of Les Misérables in 1862, Hugo was determined to know the way the e book fared, so he despatched his writer a telegram studying merely: ‘?’ The writer, happy that the e book had offered greater than 6,000 copies in its first few days and was due for a reprint, replied: ‘!’

Hyphens & Hashtags by Claire Cock-Starkey (Bodleian Libraries Publishing, £12.99) is out now

Hyphens & Hashtags by Claire Cock-Starkey (Bodleian Libraries Publishing, £12.99) is out now

Symbols convey an idea succinctly. They hang-out the margins of our keyboards, and form our understanding of the world. With out punctuation, glyphs and mathematical symbols, all texts would run in infinite unbroken strains of letters and numbers. 

The story of those characters is one in all ebb and circulation, from handwritten manuscripts principally created for the devotion of God, via enterprise data with their want for calculations, through the event of the printing press and the dawning of mass media. 

Usually it was not the unique author of a piece who selected an emblem, however the scribe who was copying their phrases. Likewise, because the printing press developed, it was ceaselessly the typesetter who chosen which image could be forged into kind and subsequently thrust into well-liked utilization. 

Within the literary world it was usually editors and proofreaders who formed how a textual content would attain the general public, to the chagrin of writers akin to Mark Twain, who wrote in 1897: ‘I give it up. These printers pay no consideration to my punctuation. 9-tenths of the labor & vexation put upon me by Messrs. Spottiswoode & Co consists in annihilating their ignorant & purposeless punctuation & restoring my very own.’

Not each image has a linear route from invention to widespread utilization. Some, just like the ‘percontation mark’ proposed by Henry Denham in 1580, a back-to-front query mark to determine a rhetorical query, did not catch on. Some coexisted for tons of of years; others, like # and @, noticed their authentic that means misplaced, just for them to be subbed in for one more objective – proving, at the very least, you can’t preserve image down.

House

By the eighth century, English and Irish scribes had at last begun to copy texts with dots, then (realising it was easier) spaces between the words, to make Latin easier to decipher for non-native speakers. Pictured, an example of Latin separated by dots, known as an 'interpunct'

By the eighth century, English and Irish scribes had finally begun to repeat texts with dots, then (realising it was simpler) areas between the phrases, to make Latin simpler to decipher for non-native audio system. Pictured, an instance of Latin separated by dots, generally known as an ‘interpunct’

Latin was initially written in higher case with no areas between the phrases. By the eighth century, English and Irish scribes had finally begun to repeat texts with dots, then (realising it was simpler) areas between the phrases, to make Latin simpler to decipher for non-native audio system.

Full Cease

There was nonetheless the issue of separating out concepts, or indicating the top of a thought – in rhetoric generally known as a periodus – and so the monks started utilizing a bunch of three dots collectively to mark the shut of a sentence. Isidore of Seville (AD 560–636) popularised the one excessive dot, or distinctio finalis.

Aldus Manutius, the best printer in Venice in the 1490s, invented a new symbol: the comm

Aldus Manutius, the very best printer in Venice within the 1490s, invented a brand new image: the comm

Comma

The comma was initially an assist to studying devotional texts aloud. 

Scribes used a dot over the phrase to point the place a breath must be taken. Then, within the twelfth century, Boncompagno da Signa, an Italian scholar, started utilizing the slash or virgule. 

The daybreak of the printing press noticed a lot of marks competing for the position of comma. 

William Caxton got here down on the aspect of the slash within the 1470s, however Aldus Manutius, the very best printer in Venice within the 1490s, most well-liked to invent a brand new image: the semicircular comma. 

Such was its magnificence and ease that it quickly unfold north and started showing in English texts from 1520.

Colon

The phrase derives from the Greek kolon, that means limb. This origin signifies how the colon was perceived as separating the sections, or limbs, of a sentence into clauses. 

It was George Puttenham who first used the phrase colon in English in his The Arte of English Poesie (1589) as a option to describe the size of pauses when studying poetry aloud – the comma being the shortest pause and the colon being twice as lengthy. 

Query Mark

One proposed origin is from Ancient Egypt, where they chose to use the shape of an inquisitive cat's tail, although there is no proof to support this theory. Pictured, hieroglyphs

One proposed origin is from Historic Egypt, the place they selected to make use of the form of an inquisitive cat’s tail, though there is no such thing as a proof to assist this concept. Pictured, hieroglyphs

One proposed origin is from Historic Egypt, the place they selected to make use of the form of an inquisitive cat’s tail. 

One other concept derives it from Latin, and supposes that scribes would use a shortened model of quaestio (that means query) on the finish of a sentence to point that it was a query. 

Over time this was shortened to qo, after which the qo bought additional shortened, till the q was written over the o, later morphing into the now acquainted query mark. Neither story is absolutely backed up by the textual file.

Exclamation Mark

The origin of the eye-catching mark is unclear, however essentially the most generally repeated story is that it developed from the behavior monastic scribes had of asserting pleasure of their devotional texts. In Latin the phrase for pleasure is io, which was written with a capital I above an O. It’s stated this shorthand for pleasure slowly morphed into the ‘level of admiration’, utilized in early printed texts to suggest wonderment.

HW Fowler’s A Dictionary of Fashionable English Utilization (1926) cautions: ‘Besides in poetry the exclamation mark must be used sparingly.

‘Extreme use of exclamation marks in expository prose is a positive signal of an unpractised author or of 1 who needs so as to add a spurious sprint of sensation to one thing unsensational.’ 

Equally, Elmore Leonard asserted that writers ought to solely use an exclamation mark two or 3 times for each 100,000 phrases.

But Leonard himself, as Ben Blatt reveals in his statistical evaluation of the novels of well-known writers, Nabokov’s Favorite Phrase Is Mauve (2017), makes use of the exclamation mark a mean of 49 occasions per 100,000 phrases throughout his 45 novels. Jane Austen makes use of it at a charge of 449 per 100,000 phrases throughout her six novels. Prime of Blatt’s evaluation, nevertheless, was James Joyce, who within the house of simply three novels manages to make use of the exclamation mark 1,105 occasions per 100,000 phrases.

Hyphen

The origin of the hyphen can be traced to Johannes Gutenberg (c1400-1468), father of the printing press. Pictured, early wooden printing press, depicted in 1568

The origin of the hyphen could be traced to Johannes Gutenberg (c1400-1468), father of the printing press. Pictured, early picket printing press, depicted in 1568

In 1962 NASA was launching an interplanetary probe, Mariner 1, with the mission to fly by Venus. Sadly an important hyphen was omitted from the coding, which specified its velocity and trajectory, inflicting it to blow up on take-off. Arthur C Clarke known as it the ‘costliest hyphen in historical past’.

The origin of the hyphen (or, extra particularly, a tender hyphen – one which hyperlinks phrases in printed textual content that are damaged by a line break) could be traced to Johannes Gutenberg, father of the printing press. 

When printing the primary books, Gutenberg was eager to create pages that appeared as shut as attainable to these produced by scribes.

Historically, handwritten works have been laid out absolutely justified, with the monks various the phrase spacing or dimension of script to make sure the blocks of textual content remained flush with neat margins. To duplicate this look, Gutenberg assiduously launched a hyphen to hyperlink phrases that, to maintain the textual content justified, have been forcibly damaged by pushing them onto the subsequent line. So enthusiastically did Gutenberg make use of the hyphen that he would shock any trendy typographer – not sticking to syllables as locations to interrupt, and even making a single letter break.

The hashtag, hash or pound signal, because it’s historically identified within the USA, has its origins within the shorthand utilized by medieval scribes for the Latin libra pondo, which interprets as ‘pound by weight’. They used the abbreviation lb, however this was typically misinterpret as 16. As a consequence, by the 14th century scribes took to drawing a line via the highest of the 2 letters, to point that the phrase was itself an abbreviation. This in time developed into the now acquainted #.

The hash signal’s journey into ubiquity started within the Sixties, when it was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a operate key on their newly designed touchtone phone keypad. At the moment the hash signal served no actual operate and but was acquainted as a result of it was arbitrarily included on customary typewriters.

@

The Aragonese @ symbol used in the 1448 'taula de Ariza' registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon. As a result, it became known in English as the 'commercial at'

The Aragonese @ image used within the 1448 ‘taula de Ariza’ registry to indicate a wheat cargo from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon. Because of this, it turned identified in English because the ‘business at’

The primary use of the signal has been ascribed to a letter by Francesco Lapi, a Florentine service provider, in 1536. Lapi used the @ as a shortening of amphorae – a unit of measurement for the wine, grains and spices that have been shipped within the giant clay jars of the identical identify. It went on for use by different retailers to indicate ‘on the charge of’, written out as ’15 apples @ 15p every’. Because of this, it turned identified in English because the ‘business at’.

&

One of many earliest examples of the written ampersand was preserved in graffiti on a wall in Pompeii. Though broadly used, it didn’t formally have a reputation till the nineteenth century. From the 1700s, when British schoolchildren would recite letters aloud for dictation, they have been instructed to make use of the Latin per se (to imply ‘by itself’) earlier than any single letter akin to i or a.

For instance, when spelling out a sentence starting ‘I want…’ the youngsters would chant, ‘i per se, w, i, s, h…’ in order that the listener would perceive that the primary ‘i’ stood alone and was not connected to the next phrase. This meant that, in reciting their alphabet, when the youngsters bought to the top, with a view to incorporate the twenty seventh letter, they might end with ‘x, y, z and per se and’, indicating that the & stood by itself. This blended into ‘ampersand’.

£

The Financial institution of England Museum has a cheque from 1661 with a handwritten pound sterling signal created from an elaborate capital L, with a line via it to point out it’s an abbreviation of ‘libra’, itself brief for ‘libra pondo’, a unit of weight in historical Rome.

This method of making a foreign money image has endured with the image for the Japanese yen, created from a Y with two strains via it, and the euro, an E with two strains via it. Likewise, American cents are proven by a C with a vertical line via it. So why is the greenback signal a line via an S and never a D? Most historians imagine the signal derived from the Spanish peso. When writing out the foreign money, retailers would write a big P with a superscript s. This was later simplified with the pillar of the P superimposed over the S: $.

=

Historically in Europe most arithmetic was written out rhetorically in lengthy type and in Latin, with ‘is the same as’ typically written as ‘aequales’ or typically shortened to ‘aeq’. 

Then in 1557 Robert Recorde, the Welsh mathematician, wrote: ‘And to avoide the tediouse repetition of those woordes: is equalle to: I’ll sette as I doe usually in woorke use, a paire of paralleles, of Gemowe [twin] strains of 1 lengthe.’ He added: ‘Noe 2 thynges could be moare equalle.’ These parallel strains (drawn longer than these we use at present) appeared in his e book on arithmetic and algebra, The Whetstone of Witte (1557).

That is an edited extract from Hyphens & Hashtags by Claire Cock-Starkey (Bodleian Libraries Publishing, £12.99), which is out now



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