The Origins of the Question Mark and Exclamation Point

Patrick Foote of Name Explain shared theoretical insight about the origin of both the question mark and the exclamation point in Latin-based languages. It’s entirely possible but highly unlikely that the shape of these punctuation icons came from cats.

One story has them actually coming from the same origin that being cats. …Egyptians worshiped cats as we all know by now after years of being on the internet the idea is that the shape of these punctuation marks comes from the shape of a cat’s tail …if a cat is curious and inquiring about something its tail may curve at the top a similar shape to the question mark. However, if a cat is scared and shocked, its tail might be bolt upright like an exclamation mark.

Foote explained that while that story may be fun, it’s more likely that the marks came from separate origins.

The question mark is seen as coming first, with its origins lying in the 8th Century A.D. It was in this century that a man by the name of Alcun of York supposedly created the question mark symbol  it would be a few more centuries after this that the exclamation mark would appear in the Middle Ages, …This theory explains to us that an Italian poet …created it. There doesn’t seem to be too much evidence as to how he invented it like there isn’t a story explaining why it has that shape but apparently he just whipped it up one day.

Origin of Question Mark Exclamation Point