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In North America and the UK, "period" and "full stop" are used as interjections "to indicate that a decision is irrevocable or that a point is no longer discussable" (sense 23, here). For example, "We're done, period" or "We need more people to join IRC, full stop" (here). EDIT: "Full stop" might have broader interjectional use than "period", for example, indicating that a complete thought has been made.

Does anyone have any idea as to the origin of these usages? I am interested in knowing broadly when and where they started. For example, were the (potentially multiple) interjection usages of "full stop" around during the English Renaissance? What about "period"? Or did they somehow mutate off of the Telegram convention of using the word "stop" as proxy for the period?

EDIT: I assume that these uses of "period" and "full stop" are analogous and derive from the names of the punctuation marks ("period" in North America, and "full stop" in the UK). Is this correct for both or either? If not, what's the proof?

I've checked some previous questions on this site (this and this), but they don't address the question of the origin of the usage. I've also googled around regarding use of "period" and "full stop" as interjections, but could find nothing. I also searched for "full stop" on Ngram to see if I could catch a use in any texts, but found nothing.

I am also interested to know whether there are any other examples of this in English, where a punctuation (or, more accurately, the name of a punctuation) is used as an interjection or in some other way. For example, I know that rappers use the word "commas" to refer to large sums of money (a use that's derived from the fact that commas occur on large checks). Can you think of any other similar uses?

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  • The origin??? Obvously, some gal said to a boy, "I not going to go out with you. Period!", or something of that nature. It's merely speaking the "period" at the end of a sentence to indicate "No further discussion". Likely independently "invented" hundreds or thousands of times (though no doubt the telegraphic "stop" helped it along in the Brit "full stop" case).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 0:56
  • I've not actually seen any examples of "full stop" being used as an interjection.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:14
  • 1
    @HotLicks: I have.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:17
  • @Hot Licks, what about the example given here (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/full_stop) and here (books.google.com/…)
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:18
  • Okay, I made the necessary edit (with @HotLicks's blessings) without which my answer would have been nonsensical.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:20

2 Answers 2

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The OED on stop deals at meaning number 18 with full stop. 18a concerns the punctuation mark. But 18b deals with full stop meaning a conclusion. But I do not see any indication of its use as an emphatic indication that no further discussion/consideration will be possible or tolerated - in the sense of We are done, full stop. See below:

b. transf. and fig. in various senses, e.g. a complete halt, check, stoppage, or termination; an entire nonplus. Also = period n. 11b.

1628 J. Earle Micro-cosmogr. xxxviii. sig. G6v, He is the Period of young Gentlemen, or their full stop, for when hee meets with them they can go no farther.

1655 Ornitho-logie 30 She therefore that hath not the modesty to dye the Relict of one man, will charge through the whole Army of Husbands, if occasion were offered, before her love will meet with a full stoppe thereof.

1711 E. Budgell Spectator No. 77. ⁋1 After we had walked some time, I made a full stop with my Face towards the West.

1719 W. Wood Surv. Trade (ed. 2) 233 All Persons depending on the Turkey Trade, were at a full Stop for many Months.

1735 Swift Gulliver Introd. Let., in Wks. III. iii, Seeing a full Stop put to all Abuses and Corruptions, at least in this little Island.

1798 J. Ferriar Eng. Historians 237 The story thus comes unexpectedly to a full stop.

1815 Scott Guy Mannering III. viii. 149 He drew up his reins..and made a full stop.

1861 ‘G. Eliot’ Let. 6 Oct. (1954) III. 456 There is a point of disgust..which one feels must make a full stop, and call for a Finis in friendship.

1923 P. Selver tr. K. Capek R.U.R. i. 10 It was in the year 1920 that old Rossum the great physiologist, who was then quite a young scientist, betook himself to this distant island for the purpose of studying the ocean fauna, full stop.

1962 Observer 1 July 8/5 The controversy has been between those who say yes, full stop, and those who say yes, but…

1971 ‘R. Amberley’ Ordinary Accident x. 92 Once he sends for a lawyer then that will be full stop.

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  • Most of those uses of "full stop" appear to be in the sense of a train or some such, not the punctuation mark.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 0:59
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    "Period" is common for this sense, at least in N.Ame English. (Side question: Do you use "period" for this sense in Br English?). And OED has an entry for period (adv.) indicating that the preceding statement is final, absolute, or without qualification. You can include in your answer.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:01
  • @HotLicks I thought I had pointed that out in my preamble.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:02
  • @Hot Licks, I was thinking the same thing, but couldn't decide on the first one. Maybe I was wrong to assume the use I pointed to derives from the name of the punctuation.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:03
  • @ermanen Well done. Why don't you supply that as an answer yourself, and I will upvote it. No, in Britain we would say full stop, but I suspect it is not so often used. Sometimes people will say ...end of story. I'm not going - end of story.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:03
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The original high dot and low dot were apparently invented by Aristophanes' Byzantine namesake; forgotten for a few centuries; and revived a few years after the invention of the printing press.

Singularly enough, the invention of the modern term full stop is sometimes attributed to Shakespeare:

SALANIO
I would she were as lying a gossip in that as ever knapped ginger or made her neighbours believe she wept for the death of a third husband. But it is true, without any slips of prolixity or crossing the plain highway of talk, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio,--O that I had a title good enough to keep his name company!--

SALARINO
Come, the full stop.

(from The Merchant of Venice)

It's either him or "origin unknown," and we're all too fond of good old Will not to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The full stop thing is not actually the dot at the end of the sentence: it is the mental gap between two thoughts, the syntactic equivalent of "over" in the radio communications voice procedure.

It is unknown why the Americans began to favor "period" over "full stop" in the beginning of the 20th Century. Apparently, it has nothing at all to do with telegraphy.

Thus logically it makes more sense to use "full stop!" rather than "period!" as an interjection.

Now if you use Ngram Viewer and make the year 1600 the starting date, you will see that after multiple reprints of Merchant which would account for the peak of 1650, the frequency of use rises towards the middle of the 18th Century, which coincides with the initial boom of journalism and its favorite venue, i.e. the newspaper. Needless to say, journalists and printers back then socialized a lot more than they do now, for obvious reasons.

It is safe to assume, then, that the printer's slang became part of the journalist's slang, and that's probably how the term entered entered common speech in England and elsewhere.

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  • Did you have anything to add that might actually answer Opie's question?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 0:59
  • @HotLicks: It was an accident. I deleted the concluding paragraphs by mistake.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:17
  • So no clues as to the origin of the interjection?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:19
  • @Ricky, can you provide a source for your statement that "full stop" is not the dot but the "mental gap". Do you mean as Shakespeare is using it? Or as it was used historically? Or as it is used today in the interjection?
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:29
  • @Silenus: Here's an interesting essay: bbcamerica.com/shows//blog/2014/09/…
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 1:50

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