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  • Published: 25 February 2015
  • ISBN: 9780718193881
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $24.99

Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities



The fascinating and unexpected stories behind the typographical symbols we use every day.

What does the hashtag have to do with ancient Romans and Isaac Newton? How did a dash almost bring down the British establishment?Why is the @ symbol called a strudel in Hebrew and rollmop herring in Czech?How do you express sarcasm with a punctuation mark?

This book is all about the symbols we use every day, and the incredible stories behind why they mean what they mean. Taking in ancient graffiti, Medieval shorthand, New York advertising men, great orators, rogues, rebels and pioneers, Shady Characters reveals how a series of strange signs, shapes and squiggles have (often literally) shaped our language.

  • Published: 25 February 2015
  • ISBN: 9780718193881
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $24.99

Praise for Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities

Engaging, colourful . . . Keith Houston brings to life a history of ingenuity and imagination

Rose Wild, The Times

You have a treat in store

Ben Yagoda, author of How to Not Write Bad

Refreshing, fascinating

Jon Day, Daily Telegraph

Might make you look at books - in print or online - in an entirely new way

Andrew Robinson, Nature

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