The English language has been around for a long time and there are a lot of things that we do not know about it. This language is extremely fascinating and interesting to study, it is like a box full of strange historical facts and information. The language itself dates back to the 5th-7th century and is a West Germanic language. For years, it kept adopting new ideas, and around 15th century it went through some major changes. Who knew one day it would become the world’s second largest native language. One of the most beguiling things about the English language is its grammar and punctuation. Punctuation has not been a part of the language since the beginning, but it’s only a later addition to it. The oldest document that has any traces of punctuation is the Mesha Stele, 9th century BC. Punctuation has some mind-boggling history attached to it. We all know about the 14 punctuation marks. We know the use of punctuation marks. We know that we should not mess with punctuation, if we want to avoid being a laughing stock. But the thing we don’t know is the crazy history that is attached to some of the punctuation marks. So, let’s look at the interesting side of grammar and punctuation. Understanding the history of grammar and punctuation, and looking at the fun side of it, will certainly make your day brighter and sunnier.
Trust me when I say, punctuation isn’t as boring as we imagine it to be! There are some mind-boggling facts about the history of grammar and punctuation, and we are going to take you through that journey today. So, hop on and enjoy this ride of interesting facts and history of punctuation.
Fact 1- Exclamation Mark’s quest for identity
If you are having a hard time finding your true identity and establishing yourself in this society, then don’t worry, you’ll succeed one day because the exclamation mark did too. The exclamation mark is around for a long time, but it had a really difficult time getting a space for itself on the keyboard. The idea of the exclamation mark was generated around middle ages, and it came from the Latin word oi, which translates to joy. In the middle ages, people used to add oi at the end of a sentence to express their joy. In 15th century, exclamation got a symbol, a full stop point with a vertical line above, and it was called the “sign of admiration or exclamation”. But it was only in the 1970s, that the exclamation mark got a space for itself on the keyboard. Till then, one typed a period, backspaced, and typed an apostrophe, which was certainly a pain to type.
Fact 2- The full stop used to fly
Today, the full stop is a lot more down to earth than it used to be, literally. The original full stop symbol used to fly in the 3rd century BC. Today, a single full stop mark is used for several purposes, one is to mark the end of a sentence. But it was not the same case in the 3rd century.
Full stop mark is derived from the Greek punctuation, and initially, full stop mark had a series of dots whose placement determined their meaning. It was placed as a high dot ⟨˙⟩, if used at the end of a completed thought or expression, and was called the “terminal dot”. The “middle dot” was a dot in the middle ⟨·⟩ of a sentence and it signified a division in a thought, occasioning a long breath. The low dot ⟨.⟩ was called the “underdot”, and was used to mark a division in a thought, occasioning a shorter breath. Today, a full stop is used for various other purposes and it has been pretty much remained the same for 2,300 years now, but its origin is definitely interesting.
Fact 3- A comma can potentially save lives
The idea of a comma and a full stop were invented by the same man. The comma was discovered to take over the place of a “middle dot”⟨·⟩, which was used in the middle of a sentence to tell where the speaker had to take pauses. A comma can be a scary punctuation mark. It can be a tiresome task to understand the properties and usage of a comma, but there’s something that can be scarier than a comma- a misplaced comma. There have been several instances in the past where a misplaced comma has created extreme trouble for people. A Lockheed Martin contract cost the company $70 million because of a misplaced comma mistake. And believe it or not, a woman once saved her husband’s life by moving a comma around in a sentence. Now that sounds bizarre, we know, but once Czar Alexander III had sentenced a man, a certain death sentence by writing- “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia”, and his wife changed the sentence to- “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia”. That is one smart woman and we’re sure her husband and English language will be indebted to her, forever.
Who knew grammar and punctuation could be that interesting? Well, we’re in shock too!