Question Mark

Yes… I’ve thought about this a lot.


Question MarkWe learn about questions early in life. In fact, many of the “terrible two’s” are full of questions as the young child begins to understand what they do not know, and query whoever will listen to find out the answer. It seems the biggest question is “Why?”

The one thing I never remember hearing about is the source of question marks. Where did they come from?

There are many thoughts about language that I reflect on, think about, and then research. Today it is easy to find the answer to such questions. A simple Internet search reveals many answers!

If I want to know something, I understand there is a way to write the sentence in such a way that the resulting logic could produce an answer. In my programming days, or even in the modern research of databases we often call this a “query.” This happens whether I speak or write. If I speak, then it’s relatively simple for the hearer to comprehend that a question is being asked, but without interrogative notations it might be harder to determine if the sentence is asking a  question.

Very young we learned the simple words of language that tells us the sentence is a question:

Who, What, When, Where, Why are the “W’s” and How is the oddball one because it ends with a “W”

Original languages did not look formatted as they do on the printed page today. From what I understand most languages did not start off with capitalization or punctuation. There was no such thing as a paragraph. In fact, some writings begin at the back of a normal book and read forwards to the front of the book – there was nothing established about which direction to start at!

Think about it! You may not even know where to start reading the book from! Which way do sentences run? Which way do you turn the pages of a book? Where do you start? How do you recognize where one sentence begins and another ends if you have no way of noting the start, or the ending?

Over time, and according to one source, as educational institutions grew in popularity, order began to show up in the written word. Writers began to insert notations to separate thoughts and ideas into structure that makes it easy to read and follow the thoughts. This was a huge stepping stone in the written language!

The Latin word for “question” begins with “q” and ends with “o” and over time it simply emerged into the notation we commonly use today. The picture above reveals the process.

Maybe it is as simple as this answer, but the question mark has only been around in its recognizable form since the 13th century. That’s a short time! Not even a thousand years!

This led me down a different path of thought.

So much of what we know and how we communicate has only been around for such a short time! Beyond the shadow of a doubt I know that we would struggle with writings just over 100 years ago. Language has changed. Writing styles are different. Some words have different meanings. Even fonts have dramatically changed that makes ti easier to read today. Books are different. Ebooks are the vogue. The original printed KJV Bible did not have punctuation or even verse numbers.  It was more difficulty read than all the versions we accept as normal today.

Everything changes! Nothing stays the same!

The Apostle Paul wrote something to the church at Corinth that gets me thinking about the changes of life.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  (1 Corinthians 13:8 ESV)

Prophecies pass way, tongues will cease and knowledge will pass off the scene. But love never ends. We can not grow comfortable with the way things are today, it is a constant changing process. But the one thing that will never change is Love.  It is the one thing constant that will cross through the years and will be recognizable no differently than today. True love. Never changing. Always the same.