The Thing About Today – September 24

September 24, 2020
Day 268 of 366

 

September 24th is the 268th day of the year. It is Independence Day in Guinea-Bissau as they celebrate their separation from Portugal in 1973.

It is also Heritage Day in South Africa, Mahidol Day in Thailand, Republic Day in Trinidad and Tobago, and New Caledonia Day in (you guessed it) New Caledonia.

 

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Cherries Jubilee Day, National Punctuation Day, and Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1761, German composer and conductor Friedrich Ludwig Æmilius Kunzen (often shortened to F.L.Æ. Kunzen) was born.
  • In 1789, the United States Congress passed the Judiciary Act, creating the office of the Attorney General and federal judiciary system, as well as ordering the composition of the Supreme Court.
  • In 1883, businessman Franklin Clarence Mars was born. He founded Mars, Incorporated, home to Mars bars, Milky Way bars, M&M’s, Skittles, Snickers, and Twix (among various other products for humans and pets).
  • In 1890, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounced polygamy. The 1890 Manifesto (also known as the Woodruff Manifesto or the Anti-polygamy Manifesto), was a response to mounting anti-polygamy pressure from the United States Congress, which by 1890 had disincorporated the church, escheated its assets to the federal government, and imprisoned many prominent polygamist Mormons. The Manifesto was canonized as Official Declaration 1, which mainstream Mormons consider as being prompted by divine revelation, but was rejected by Mormon fundamentalists.
  • In 1896, novelist and short story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald was born.
  • In 1906, United States President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower in Wyoming as the nation’s first National Monument.
  • Also in 1906, racial tensions exacerbated by rumors lead to the Atlanta Race Riot. Armed white mobs attacked African Americans based on newspaper reports that four white women had been raped (in separate incidents) by African American men. Two African Americans were later indicted by a grand jury for raping Ethel Lawrence and her aunt. The violence did not end until the Georgia National Guard was called in, and the Atlanta Police Department and some Guardsmen were accused of further violence in quelling the riots. Local histories by whites ignored the riot for decades, but when the riots were publicly acknowledged on the 100th anniversary, the Atlanta riot was made part of the state’s curriculum for public schools.
  • In 1929, Jimmy Doolittle performed the first flight without a window, proving that full instrument flying from take off to landing was possible.
  • In 1930, astronaut John W. Young was born.
  • In 1936, puppeteer, director, producer, and screenwriter Jim Henson was born. He created The Muppets and countless childhood memories.

“Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart.”

  • In 1948, the Honda Motor Company was founded.
  • Also in 1948, Canadian-American actor and screenwriter Phil Hartman was born.
  • In 1957, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce desegregation surrounding the Little Rock Nine.
  • In 1959, puppeteer Steve Whitmire was born.
  • In 1960, USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched.
  • In 1968, 60 Minutes premiered on television.
  • In 1977, The Love Boat premiered.
  • In 2014, the Mars Orbiter Mission made India the first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, and the first nation in the world to do so in its first attempt.
  • In 2019, an impeachment inquiry was initiated by the United States House of Representatives against President Donald Trump. He was formally impeached on December 18, 2019, but was acquitted in the subsequent Senate trial.

 

Since September 24th is National Punctuation Day, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment for my favorite punctuation mark: The interrobang.

Also known as the interabang, which doesn’t sound nearly as cool as interrobang, the punctuation mark was first proposed by Martin K. Speckter in 1962. It’s an unconventional punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of the question mark and the exclamation point.

It is formally represented as ‽, but is often represented by the simple combinations of ?!, !?, ?!?, and !?!. The name comes from the combination of interrogatio (Latin for “rhetorical question” or “cross-examination”) and “bang” (printer and programmer jargon for the exclamation point).

As the head of an advertising agency, Martin Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark, so he proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks.

When he solicited potential names from the magazine’s readers, contenders included exclamaquestQuizDing, rhet, and exclarotive. Thankfully, interrobang won out.

In 1965, Richard Isbell created the Americana typeface for American Type Founders. He also included the interrobang as one of the characters, and by 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, appearing in dictionaries and magazine and newspaper articles.

Most modern fonts do not include the interrobang, but it has not disappeared. Lucida Grande, which is the default font for many UI elements of legacy versions of Apple’s OS X operating system, includes the interrobang. Similarly, Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang in the Wingdings 2 character set. It is also included in Unicode and several related fonts like Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri. The latter is the default font in the Office 2007, 2010, and 2013 suites, making that beautiful glyph front and center for Office users.

There’s also a reverse and upside version for starting phrases in Spanish, Galician, and Asturian, which use inverted question and exclamation marks. The “inverted interrobang” – less frequently known as the gnaborrentni (spell it backward) – combines ¿ and ¡ into ⸘. In modern practice, however, it’s emphatic ambiguity in Hispanic languages is usually achieved by including both sets of punctuation marks one inside the other. For example, Really!?” translates to ¿¡De verdad!? or ¡¿De verdad?!. Older usage also recommends mixing the punctuation marks such as ¡Verdad? or ¿Verdad!

In further reading about this beauty, I also learned about the Irony Mark, a glyph to indicate irony and sarcasm. Among the oldest and most frequently attested versions is the percontation point, proposed by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s, and the irony mark, used by Marcellin Jobard and French poet Alcanter de Brahm during the 19th century.

Both of these versions are represented by the backward question mark: “⸮”.

I mean, it’s cool and all, but the percontation point is no interrobang.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

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