Saturday, October 13, 2007

On The Question Mark



Who invented the question? Who sat down one day and said, "Gee, I wonder how I will ask a question?"

Interrogative sentences are curious? They are not declarative or imperative? They request knowledge of you, or demand facts from others? Aren't they annoying? It seems like everywhere you go you run into a question?

And while on the subject, who invented the question mark? Why does it signify that one is indeed asking a question of another? I'd just like to sit down with the person who invented it and have a nice long chat on their views on modern punctuation? Did they intend for their creation to be used at the end of each and every interrogative sentence in the English language? I'd just like to know, because no one else seems to sit down and think about question marks?

But what if we used them instead of periods? Would that ruin the context or syntax of what is being read? I don't think it would, after a while you would just adjust to it to the point where you'd expect that punctuation at the end of every sentence?

Would you know a question whether it had a mark or not? Can you tell when I'm asking and when I'm telling? How about no punctuation at all?

Then all of our sentences would be one long drivel with no clear beginning or end But really isn't that like an actual conversation Who stands around and says I had a nice day Period No one that's who So hearing a conversation and reading a conversation should be no different You should be able to tell what I am saying regardless of whether I put a period a comma or a exclamation point The words don't change and from the context you can guess my tone without having to see the punctuation at the end

But that's a pain to read? Something is calming and reassuring to see the end of a sentences definitively marked off as officially ended? A mark that sits down and says, "This sentence is officially ended? Here comes a new sentence"? Something like seeing the lights from your house down the street as you're driving down and back from a long long trip, it just is a relief, a finality?

I suppose, when it comes down to it, the reason why we write the way we do is ingrained in us from the moment we start learning how to write and spell? And our teachers learned from their teachers, and it's just a convention that's been passed down from one to another, and never once did anyone think anything more of it? A question mark is for a question, a period for a declarative?

And that, as they say, is that.

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