It’s punctuation Jim – but not as we know it.

This post is by way of a share of a rather interesting article from the Huffington post about 5 punctuation marks that have changed beyond all recognition:

Did you know that: “The comma is one of the oldest marks of punctuation. It was created over 2,300 years ago by a Greek scholar named Aristophanes, head of the fabled Library of Alexandra, in a punctuational big bang that also gave us the colon and the period.”

Back in the day of ancient scrolls they were written with no punctuation of any kind. Even spaces between words were light years away. Imagine having to proofread such a thing?

Anyway “eventually it all got to be too much for Aristophanes and he created a series of marks for readers to annotate their unbroken texts. Each mark took the form of a simple punctus, or “point,” a dot placed on a line of text to signify a short, medium, or long pause. The shortest pause, called the comma, was represented by a dot at the middle of the line (•); the longer colonand periodos were at the bottom (.) and top (˙) respectively. The idea was that the reader, not the writer, would punctuate their scroll with these little dots to help them read it aloud.

Over the centuries Aristophanes’ dots moved up and down the line: the period dropped to the bottom (.) and has stayed there ever since, while the colon gained an accomplice (:). The modern comma, however, despite its visual kinship with Aristophanes’ original, is not the same mark at all. In the twelfth century, as the Renaissance gathered steam, an Italian writer named Buoncompagno da Signa took a crack at inventing his own system of punctuation. He proposed only two marks: the suspensivus, or slash (/), represented a pause and the planus, or dash (–), marked the end of a sentence. By the fifteenth century Buoncompagno’s slash was being used interchangeably with Aristophanes’ ancient comma: gradually, the newer mark dropped to the bottom of the line and acquired a slight curve, and when it took on the name of the older mark the comma we recognize today was born.”

To find out about quotation marks, the question mark, the octopthorpe & the Ampersand go here:

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