Here's A Secret That's Been Hiding In Your Keypad All Along

What secret? One which may help us see our zeitgeist in a better context. In effect, see how the-way-it-is has not always been the-way-it-was.

Here’s the secret: [ ! ]

I’m suggesting one of the secrets to figuring out our times is that exclamation mark [ ! ] on your keypad. Really! You see, before the 1970s it usually wasn’t there. I checked with Underwood and Smith-Corona typewriters, and they didn’t have any satisfying explanation. So let me submit my own for your bright consideration now that the winter solstice has passed and our days together are growing brighter.

For most of the history of writing, punctuation was to clarify not glorify the narrative. Maintaining a civilization was a serious somber business, and writing/printing reflected that reality. But by the 19-20th C the serious was gradually being overtaken by the romantic. The classicism of a Bach and Mozart was now rivaled by the romanticism of a Beethoven and Brahms, painters like Michelangelo and Giotto by the flourishes of Monet and Picasso.

Here in America many of the old Victorian norms of behavior gave way to the post-war Twenties and Sixties in which rules seemed more to be bent and broken than heralded and honored. Crosby and Como gave way to Elvis and the Beatles. Virgin brides gave way to the morning-after-pills. In turn , entertainment morphed into an age where solo singing is incidental to collective showmanship, film dialog is incidental to flaming fireballs. Everything bigger, badder, more bodacious.

So by now in the 21st C, virtually everything is an exclamation mark…!!!

Authors, actors and anchors….celebrities, coaches and congress….science, studios and salespeople alike are pitching and puffing 24/7 with all the exclamatory dazzle they can muster. Nothing is average, everything is spectacular; nothing comes in second or third, because somehow everything is the first-est and the best-est.

Living in an exclamatory culture is, well, it’s sometimes exhausting more than its exhilarating. Or is there a difference anymore? All I know is everyday I dare step outside my front door, bam!!! the whole damn world is right in my face.

Which is why, I admit, I often step back inside and lock the door. And you…?

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