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Shady Characters: The Secret Life of…

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other…

by Keith Houston

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3141235,548 (3.99)5
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Started strong and while interesting, not terrifically gripping. Easily put down and picked up so good reading when there's lots of interruptions. ( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
I'm a typography nerd, so a book about the history of punctuation would have appealed to me, regardless. However, Keith Houston's work stands out because his research is extremely thorough (including debunking several widespread myths about the origins of various symbols) and because of his witty and engaging writing style.

If you have a passing interest in the topic, this book is worth picking up. If you have a deep interest in the topic, you will find this book to be a rare gem. ( )
  Katya0133 | May 30, 2017 |
The discussions of the pilcrow, interrobang, octothorpe, ampersand, dash and hyphen, manicule, quotation marks, and various proposals to mark irony (the 19th C's two different points d'ironie and the 21st C's ironieteken, as well as Levin's ironics script) and sarcasm (like the SarcMark) were delightful--informative and amusing. ( )
  kewing | Dec 29, 2016 |
This is a highly entertaining look at the history of various punctuation marks and symbols, from the ubiquitous period and comma to the recently resurgent at-sign and octothorpe, with detours for the more unusual symbols such as the pilcrow and the manicule. Houston takes in ancient history and the present day, with clever use of footnotes and other punctuation (of course) to illustrate the book. Images of ancient texts using various symbols, such as the Tironian "et" (a competitor of what eventually became the ampersand) or early quotation marks, are provided throughout the book. However, the images are in black and white and can be grainy on occasion, making it difficult to figure out where exactly the punctuation mark under discussion is located. Some highlighting in the form of a circle, an arrow, or even a manicule, would have helped this reader identify the symbols more quickly. But overall, this book is recommended for language and writing enthusiasts. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Shady Characters makes a pleasurable contribution to type history, particularly for readers who haven't considered the ampersand in any detail.
added by Katya0133 | editNew Criterion, Carl W. Scarbrough (Dec 1, 2013)
An unusual triumph of the human ability to find exaltation in the mundane.
added by Katya0133 | editKirkus Reviews (Aug 1, 2013)
[F]or anyone interested in the quirks of English punctuation without a lecture about how grammar is dead, this book satisfies that curiosity nicely.
added by Katya0133 | editPublishers Weekly (Jul 8, 2013)
This book will reward the reader who is less interested in finding the answers to specific questions than in learning about the topic in general.
added by Katya0133 | editLibrary Journal, Robert Mixner (Jul 1, 2013)
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Chapter 1   The Pilcrow

This is the pilcrow: ¶. They crop up with surprising frequency, dotted about websites with a typographic bent, for instance, or teaming up with the section symbol in legal documents to form picturesque arrangements such as §3, ¶7. The pilcrow also appears in Microsoft Word, where it adorns a button that reveals hidden characters such as spaces and carriage returns.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393064425, Hardcover)

From ancient Greece to the Internet—via the Renaissance, Gutenberg, and Madison Avenue—Shady Characters exposes the secret history of punctuation.

A charming and indispensable tour of two thousand years of the written word, Shady Characters weaves a fascinating trail across the parallel histories of language and typography.

Whether investigating the asterisk (*) and dagger (†)—which alternately illuminated and skewered heretical verses of the early Bible—or the at sign (@), which languished in obscurity for centuries until rescued by the Internet, Keith Houston draws on myriad sources to chart the life and times of these enigmatic squiggles, both exotic (¶) and everyday (&).

From the Library of Alexandria to the halls of Bell Labs, figures as diverse as Charlemagne, Vladimir Nabokov, and George W. Bush cross paths with marks as obscure as the interrobang (‽) and as divisive as the dash (—). Ancient Roman graffiti, Venetian trading shorthand, Cold War double agents, and Madison Avenue round out an ever more diverse set of episodes, characters, and artifacts.

Richly illustrated, ranging across time, typographies, and countries, Shady Characters will delight and entertain all who cherish the unpredictable and surprising in the writing life.

2-color; 75 illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:59 -0400)

Revealing the secret history of punctuation, this tour of two thousand years of the written word, from ancient Greece to the Internet, explores the parallel histories of language and typography throughout the world and across time.

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