If you prick us, do we not bleed‽
If you tickle us, do we not laugh‽
If you poison us, do we not die‽
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge‽
(The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare)
Shylock’s rhetorical questions force us to consider our humanity and the inevitable connections between our often disparate-seeming lives. This is what writers do: explore the similarities, examine the differences, ask the unanswerable.
But what’s that funny-looking punctuation mark at the end of each question above? An interrobang. Invented in 1962 by a Manhattan ad exec, the hybrid exclamation point and question mark indicates “an excited or rhetorical question.”
(Full disclosure: interrobangs do not appear in the original version of The Merchant of Venice.)
At TSR: The Southampton Review, we have decided to call our blog Interrobang‽ because, in addition to being totally excited about writing, we love to ask questions. In fact, we cannot write without questioning. We write because we are questioning. Sometimes we find the answer, sometimes we don’t. For us, the question is like Cavafy’s “Ithaka,”
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
So get out there and interrobang! (Do we daresay that‽) Be bold and daring and excited as you write—never hesitate to question. But don’t forget to enjoy “the marvelous journey” along the way.