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Is there an alternative name for the question mark? For example, the exclamation point is often called a bang, the number symbol is called a pound sign or sharp symbol and the asterisk symbol is often called a star.

Is there such an alternative name for the question mark whether it be slang or otherwise?

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  • 1
    Note that "bang" is a very colloquial word -- you shouldn't use it in any remotely formal writing -- and I don't think it's widely recognized. "Star" for asterisk is pretty common. I wouldn't use it in a scholarly paper, but it would probably be acceptable in, say, a a magazine article. We'll see what answers you get on question mark, but I don't think there's any other word that would be accepted in formal writing.
    – Jay
    Feb 14 '12 at 15:40
  • 2
    I remember from copy-editing days that we called it "query," especially when speaking with a compositor. Feb 14 '12 at 16:19
  • I prefer "shriek" for the exclamation mark. I've heard/seen the question mark referred to as "the interrogatory".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 16 '18 at 2:00
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The answer is "query".

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. query, n 2:

A question mark (?), used in writing to indicate a degree of doubt about the accuracy or validity of a following (occas., a preceding) word or statement. Also used in speech to express a written question mark of this kind. Cf. qy. int.

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    Actually, per other answers, there is one exact word: eroteme. Pardon the 'attack', but it's good to note this here, since the accepted answer could be considered not the correct answer. Particularly, 'query' refers to a mid-sentence ? whereas 'eroteme' is the punctuation at the end. Sep 13 '13 at 14:28
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Programmers have been known to call it ‘hook’.


Modern programmers have a lot more hooky things to cope with than just the old QUESTION MARK from antediluvian typewriter keyboards. For example, here are a bunch of characters whose names contain ‘question’, or ‘glottal’, or ‘hook’, or ‘interro’:

Code chr GenCat Script Name
U+003F ? GC=Po SC=Common QUESTION MARK
U+00BF ¿ GC=Po SC=Common INVERTED QUESTION MARK
U+01BE ƾ GC=Ll SC=Latin LATIN LETTER INVERTED GLOTTAL STOP WITH STROKE
U+0241 Ɂ GC=Lu SC=Latin LATIN CAPITAL LETTER GLOTTAL STOP
U+0242 ɂ GC=Ll SC=Latin LATIN SMALL LETTER GLOTTAL STOP
U+0294 ʔ GC=Lo SC=Latin LATIN LETTER GLOTTAL STOP
U+0296 ʖ GC=Ll SC=Latin LATIN LETTER INVERTED GLOTTAL STOP
U+02A1 ʡ GC=Ll SC=Latin LATIN LETTER GLOTTAL STOP WITH STROKE
U+02A2 ʢ GC=Ll SC=Latin LATIN LETTER REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP WITH STROKE
U+02C0 ˀ GC=Lm SC=Common MODIFIER LETTER GLOTTAL STOP
U+02C1 ˁ GC=Lm SC=Common MODIFIER LETTER REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP
U+02DE ˞ GC=Sk SC=Common MODIFIER LETTER RHOTIC HOOK
U+02E4 ˤ GC=Lm SC=Latin MODIFIER LETTER SMALL REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP
U+0309 ◌̉ GC=Mn SC=Inherited COMBINING HOOK ABOVE
U+0321 ◌̡ GC=Mn SC=Inherited COMBINING PALATALIZED HOOK BELOW
U+0322 ◌̢ GC=Mn SC=Inherited COMBINING RETROFLEX HOOK BELOW
U+061F ‭ ؟ GC=Po SC=Common ARABIC QUESTION MARK
U+097D GC=Lo SC=Devanagari DEVANAGARI LETTER GLOTTAL STOP
U+203D GC=Po SC=Common INTERROBANG
U+2047 GC=Po SC=Common DOUBLE QUESTION MARK
U+2048 GC=Po SC=Common QUESTION EXCLAMATION MARK
U+2049 GC=Po SC=Common EXCLAMATION QUESTION MARK
U+2E18 GC=Po SC=Common INVERTED INTERROBANG
U+2E2E GC=Po SC=Common REVERSED QUESTION MARK
U+FE16 GC=Po SC=Common PRESENTATION FORM FOR VERTICAL QUESTION MARK
U+FE56 GC=Po SC=Common SMALL QUESTION MARK
U+FF1F GC=Po SC=Common FULLWIDTH QUESTION MARK

Now that characters have official names that are so tediously long, like LATIN LETTER INVERTED GLOTTAL STOP WITH STROKE, it’s even more likely that short slangy forms will get used, although probably only locally.

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  • "Hook" jumped to mind as something I may have heard/imagined, but I couldn't find any other reference to it. As a programmer, I've used "bang" for "!" and "pound", "sharp", or "hash" for "#", but I've never used "hook" for "?".
    – GeoGriffin
    Feb 14 '12 at 14:23
  • Although it has been mentioned that the "hook" is the inverted question mark, I see to also recall hearing this symbol being called a hook a long time ago. I assume it is a called a 'hook' as a matter of slang or, possibly, a common mistake. This answer is sufficient for my needs. Thank you.
    – RLH
    Feb 14 '12 at 15:09
  • You'll occasionally find old BASIC programmers who refer to it as "print" since it was frequently used as an abbreviation for that. 10 ? "Hello World" 20 GOTO 10 Feb 14 '12 at 15:33
  • @tchrist A lot of the marks that you refer to are "glottal stops". While these share some physical characteristics with a question mark, they are functionally nothing like question marks. Glottal stops are a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. and not punctuation marks like those that are listed.
    – GeoGriffin
    Feb 14 '12 at 16:56
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    @SeanDuggan It's another matter that in BASIC, "?" really sent the output to the console not the printer.
    – Kris
    Feb 15 '12 at 9:24
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I am a fan of Asterix (also Obelix), and what you should call * is asterisk. :)

It is called star because it looks like one, and also aster- is a Latin root for star, viz. astral, astronomy, astronaut, astrology etc. So, in essence it is just a formal name of the same sense of a term.

As for ?, you can call it interrogation point, interrogation mark, question point, query or eroteme Check this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Question_mark

Hook should be more appropriate for the inverted '?'.

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    +1 for Hook should be more appropriate for the inverted '?'.
    – Kris
    Feb 14 '12 at 14:50
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source

?
Common: query; ; ques . Rare: quiz; whatmark; [what]; wildchar; huh; hook; buttonhook; hunchback.

source

question mark
question, query, whatmark, what, wildchar (UNIX), huh, ques, kwes, quiz, quark, hook, scroll (NetHack), interrogation point

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  • The ASCII list is a nice page to bookmark. "Huh" is an interesting one. I don't think I could ever get myself to call a question mark a "huh".
    – RLH
    Apr 26 '18 at 15:49
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I've never heard of a question mark referred as anything else, with the possible exception of just question (dropping the mark)

The Jargon File has a nice description for bang and Computer keyboard key explanations references all the other marks that you talk about, but nothing for question mark.

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Some symbols, such as question mark and comma, are read by simply stating their names, whereas other symbols, such as ampersand and apostrophe, have a separate reading ("and", and "prime", respectively, in this case).

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erotem: noun; The symbol used in writing known as a question mark...?

This is my resource: http://english-grammar-mistakes.blogspot.com/2008/03/read-and-read.html

Although I searched the word online, I only found variations of it. I found no other sites to back up the claim that erotem is a synonym for question mark.

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