Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks
If you fancy yourself an etymologist, then I’m guessing you’re already an expert on the origins of many words. But what about the ampersand (&)? The pilcrow (¶)? Or even the octothorpe (#)?
Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston is a book that uncovers the origin stories of several punctuation marks, from common to obscure. Each of the 11 chapters covers a different mark specifically, with side-stories about other marks thrown in along the way.
I don’t want to give too much away, but the ways in which these symbols came into being are sometimes humorous and often surprising. This isn’t some dry book about type; it’s a fascinating and entertaining ode to the many ways culture and history can shape our language, even down to the tiniest details.