Questioning the Question Mark?

While there have been a few stories about the origin of the question mark (Inspired by the shape of a cat's tail via the Egyptians? Created by stacking a "q" and "o" on top of each other by the Romans?), the most likely story takes us to 8th century England. A scholar by the name of Alcuin of York  (who is later made a saint in the Catholic Church!) created the "punctus interrogativus" after moving to and writing books for Charlemagne's court and noticing that punctuation was a serious issue! Alcuin's question mark looked like a tilde over a period (as in the picture below)

The original "question mark" as created by Alcuin of York! (Photo from

The original "question mark" as created by Alcuin of York! (Photo from

Alcuin's "punctus interrogativus" was used consistently through the 13th century and selected by scholars in Paris as they began standardizing punctuation for the Western world. During those seven centuries of use, the mark evolved into the look and shape of the question mark we know and use today.



Put the question mark to use! Talk to your kids about the importance of asking questions and exploring their curiosity. If they don't understand something, they should feel comfortable asking more! While some children love asking questions (particularly "Why?"), some may need a little nudge, especially as they get older. A few fun ways to help this process along are:
     - Ask your children to create riddles for you to solve
     - Ask your children to quiz you on a topic or certain object
     - Watch Jeopardy! with your kids
     - Ask your child questions about anything and everything.
Leading by example is great!

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