THE QUESTION MARK
Once it was proposed that the question mark be declared obsolete. “What purpose does it serve anymore?” was the common objection to the question mark’s continued use in an age that increasingly got by very well with emojis, capitalized acronyms, and the exclamation point—the exclamation point above all else. The comma, semicolon, and colon were on their way out already: curious oddities that fewer and fewer people could either explain or find a use for in the new climate of hyper-emphatic expression. Ideas that required more than a simple sentence were now being crowded out by slogans seemingly intended to convince through blunt-force trauma. Even the period was in trouble; it was saved only by the fact that at some point, all things must end. But the exclamation point, now there was punctuation up to the demands of the day! With everybody engaged in public debate bent on dominating all opponents and any exchange being only a few syllables away from an outburst of expletives, threats, or juvenile sneers, forgoing the exclamation point was a sure sign of not being firm in your convictions. To some, force in punctuation was literally a measure of their expressive vigor, and among these, the flaccid question mark looked like the very symbol of impotence. There were no such concerns about the exclamation point, always standing straight and tall. It was here to stay as the only sure means of demonstrating that one was right about absolutely everything, from personal taste to social issues to religious conviction and so on. When the intent was to avoid betraying the slightest self-doubt amid a swirl of conflicting certainties, nothing else could serve the purpose half so well. The danger of self-doubt, in the end, was the very reason the question mark should be abandoned. Any admission that you didn’t already know as much as you ever needed to know, that what you were absolutely certain about yesterday might not be so clear today and even less so tomorrow, that abiding enigmas might form as much of our inner workings as those of the cosmos at large—acknowledging any of these possibilities was a sign of weakness to be avoided at all costs. Clearly, the question mark must go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans