The question mark is a highly regarded being in the world of punctuation. Its curly-but-not-too-curly-and-also-there-is-a-dot-there nature gives it that aura of superior breeding that ampersands can only wish for.
Of course, things weren’t always so easy for the question mark. It made its first appearance in the Shetland Isles, where it was created and raised to pull carts and plow farmland. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, as carts and farmland were pretty much everywhere at that time, and the question mark got free food, shelter, and protection from panthers. Then the Shetland Pony came around and botched that all up, didn’t it?
Wait a second.
I…Can we use it for sen—
Can we use it for sentences like that one?
Or that one?…Or this one??
From that point on, the new use of the question mark was obvious. Or was it? Well, well! There’s another use! Doubt is always a fun bonus.
After this discovery, the question mark still had some opposition. People were uncomfortable asking questions (and statements of uncertainty?) in a written manner, it gave everyone one more dot to dot, and all the silly kids were annoying all the mature individuals by making that “mmmMMM?” noise whenever they wrote the mark.
That all changed (of course?) with the invention of the keyboard, where the question mark was paired up with the slash. Folks back then figured they’d put the slash as far away from the escape key as possible, because they didn’t want any chance of an action movie being named Slash Escape. The question mark had convinced the slash that it would never be called Backslash again if they teamed up. The question mark really had no solid plan to put this in place, but it had the best of intentions. Something about “If you’re questioning whether to look back, then it’s probably not a good idea, and the furthest right is what is also in the back, and maybe you should pipe down [it was in this general area that the question mark kept getting distracted by the WASD revolution taking place, and this whole slogan really didn’t get much farther]…”
Because of all this, the question mark and slash ended up being right next to the shift key. Slippery keyboards were (probably, we really don’t know) a huge fad back then, and the question mark was accidentally typed quite often. Typists were soon thinking, “Oops…hm…yeah…yeah, that could be a question. Yeah. Why not? Ha, that was also a question.”
Today, the question mark is all over the place, an essential part of our doubt, curiosity, double takes, feedback, tests, slogans, and it’s also a delicious part of our concluding sentences as well, isn’t it? Sometimes it is. Sometimes.
This article is part of a series on punctuation. It’s pretty much all made up. Don’t underestimate the prowess of a panther, though. You’ve been warned.