Granted this applies to more than English, but I hope it's not off topic.
Recently I wondered when the exclamation point/mark entered our language and how. I did search the site for an answer and didn't find one.
With Googling, I accumulated a lot of interesting tidbits (below), but no good answer. The most repeated story follows.
Smithsonian.com posits that ! has it's origin in the Latin exclamation of joy, io, where the i was written over the o.
I was pretty surprised by this, as I have never seen it that way (given, I don't have a lot of Latin manuscripts hanging around.) They did state, though, that:
...it wasn’t until 1970 that the exclamation point had its own key on the keyboard. Before that, you had to type a period, and then use the backspace to go back and stick an apostrophe above it.*
Wikipedia gives the same origin as Smithsonian.com with a touch more detail:
The modern graphical representation is believed to have been born in the Middle Ages. The Medieval copyists used to write at the end of a sentence the Latin word io to indicate joy. The word io meant hurray. Along time, the i moved above the o, and the o became smaller, becoming a point.
The sources of the above are not easy to access.
Sentence First gave a colorful account of the various names for the exclamation mark, beginning with Ben Johnson's term for it: admiration mark, but, sadly, no history.
The American Bookmaker, A Journal of Technical Art and Information states in the May, 1888 edition:
The popular notion has always been that… the exclamation point (!) owes its existence to the Latin word Io (joy)… This explanation of the origin… is ingenious and one might almost say picturesque. For it, the world is indebted to one Willem Bilderdijk, a Dutch poet and philologist, born at Amsterdam in 1756. This entirely fanciful exegesis… goes to show that, with true poetic insight, Bilderdijk looked to his imagination rather than to scientific investigation for his facts.
I'm inclined to believe the above. Again, however, no actual history is given.
Interestingly, in an unrelated entry about dropped caps, a blogger posts an image of an illuminated manuscript that has what might possibly be interpreted as exclamation points (e.g. see Col. 1, third line from the bottom.)
However, above that, the same mark is found where there is a question in the Latin Vulgate (starting line 8 from the bottom):
Infirmatur quis in vobis (strange mark) inducat presbyteros ecclesiae et orent super eum unguentes eum oleo in nomine Domini: et oratio fidei salvabit infirmum (and here again the strange mark) et adlevabit eum Dominus et si in peccatis sit dimittentur ei...
Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man . (<- Note, no question.) And the Lord shall raise him up...
And even further up:
ecce beatificamus qui sustinuerunt sufferentiam Iob audistis (strange mark) et finem Domini...
Which translates to:
Behold, we account them blessed who have endured. You [have heard of the patience of] Job (strange mark, translation not exact because the syntax is a bit different) and you have seen the end of the Lord...
So, I am no closer to the answer than I was when I began.
Any help would be appreciated.
I actually remember doing this on my dad's Smith-Corona. :(
NYT opinion writer Ben Yagota wrote, "A friend’s 12-year-old daughter once said that in her view, a single exclamation point is fine, as is three, but never two. My friend asked her where this rule came from and the girl said, 'Nowhere. It’s just something you learn.'" Two exclamation marks look strange to me, too.
"They were apparently also casually known by the names shriekmark, screamer, bang, pling, smash, soldier, and control (via About.com); gasper, startler, and dog’s cock (from Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves); the more alliterative dog’s dick; and slammer. Plausible but unverified names include ball-bat, boing, dembanger, eureka, screech, shout pole, smash, spark-spot, and wham."