The punctuation mark is a storied character. Its family tree extends all the way back to the second century BC, when its earliest ancestor sprang into being at the ancient Library of Alexandria. The so-called diple, or “double,” was an arrow-shaped character (>) named for the two strokes of the pen required to draw it, and it was just one of a clutch of proofreading marks devised by a librarian named Aristarchus to help edit and clarify the library’s holdings.
More about this in Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks
Writing and punctuation were fundamentally and permanently changed by the invention of movable type. Time-consuming luxuries such as hand-painted illustrations and elaborate, decorative marks of punctuation fell victim to the economies of scale enabled by this new means of production.
Quotations were rendered in alternative typefaces, enclosed in parentheses, or called out by means of non-typographic methods such as verbs of speaking.
Of late, Britain’s contrarian speech marks seem to be reverting to the once and future norm, and perhaps its ‘technical’ terms will one day do the same. Until that day arrives, take heart that whether you prefer single or double quotation marks, someone, somewhere, will be in agreement with you. The quotation mark, in both its guises, is still in rude health.
For decades, corporations have turned to creative people for their naming needs, with varying results. In 1955, a Ford Motor marketing executive recruited the modernist poet Marianne Moore to name the company’s new car. The marketing department had already created a list of 300 candidates, all of which, the executive confessed, were “characterized by an embarrassing pedestrianism.” Could the poet help? In a series of letters, Moore proposed dozens of notably nonpedestrian names — Intelligent Whale, Pastelogram, Mongoose Civique, Utopian Turtletop, Varsity Stroke — but the marketing team rejected them all, instead naming the new car (in one of the great disasters, naming and otherwise, in corporate history) after Henry Ford’s son, Edsel.
Today roughly 500,000 businesses open each month in the United States, and every one needs a name.
Who was your first kiss? Not the actual, physical kiss — that is really none of my business — but a witnessed meeting of two mouths on-screen? Was it the smooching pooches in “The Lady and the Tramp,” their lips serendipitously joined by a strand of spaghetti? Jack and Rose in the boiler room of the Titanic? Jack and Ennis in “Brokeback Mountain”? Cher and Nicolas Cage in “Moonstruck”? Or was it an older, more canonical osculation, from the era when a kiss was as far as an on-screen pair were allowed to go, with or without the benefit of clergy? Bogey and Bergman in “Casablanca”? Bergman and Cary Grant in “Notorious”? Grant and Eva Marie Saint or Grace Kelly or Katharine Hepburn?