Hyphens & Hashtags by Claire Cock-Starkey

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Letters are combined to make words and sentences are the lifeblood of our language, but to make sense of things that we write we need those symbols that are scattered or frame the edges of our sentences. But there are far more than the full stops, commas and question marks that we currently use.

In this delightful little book, Cock-Starkey is on the search of the origins of thirty-eight different symbols in our language, mathematics and online world. There are essays on brackets, the copyright symbol, the equals sign and then even on some of those that are now falling out of use now.

I love the fantastically named interrobang, a symbol that is a combination of the exclamation and question marks and could frankly be often used when commenting on social media posts. Most people are aware of the hashtag # now (which as I am writing this on a Mac is always a pain to find). On Twitter and other social media sites is acts as a mini search engine that put you in contact with other thinking along the same lines. One tip I learnt recently is that for multi-word hashtags always capitalise #EachWord as some hashtags can look very rude out of context!

One of my favourite punctuation marks is the little-used semi-colon; I think that they’re great and add in that extra pause in the prose. The ampersand or & is a funny character, it looks like a number 8 that someone didn’t finish properly, but its origins can be traced back to the city of Pompei where an early example was discovered on a wall. Pi is one of those mathematical symbols that is literally infinite it goes on forever without any form of repetition forever and ever and ever… Another thing that I learnt was that I have been looking at the pilcrow for years in word documents and did not know what it was let alone what it is called.

If you are fascinated by languages then this book is a good sideways step to take to learn about some of the symbols that we use in our daily conversations. The essays are light and fun to read, they don’t go overboard with reams of information, but have enough detail to make them interesting.

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2 Comments

  1. Liz Dexter

    I really enjoyed this when I reviewed it for Shiny. I did know what a pilcrow it but it is sort of my job to. I thought this was done really well.

    • Paul

      I have enjoyed all of Claire books that I have read so far

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