There are a lot of great punctuation marks, but if you ask me, the asterisk is the star.
One of the most intriguing books that’s come out recently is called “Hyphens and Hashtags,” and the author, Claire Cock-Starkey, writes about where all our punctuation marks have come from.
Some of them, like the highly versatile asterisk, have been around for thousands of years.
Ancient Sumerians used a star symbol, though they wrote in pictographs so even if that was the same shape as the modern asterisk it wasn’t quite the same thing.
But there are records that say the ancient Greek Aristarchus used an asterisk symbol of some kind in his plays.
He lived until 143 BC, so the idea of using a little symbol to mark a side note, disclaimer or caveat is thousands of years old.
The word itself comes from the Greek word for “little star,” asteriskos.
One the asterisk’s other early jobs was to let the reader know when a passage in a text was likely from another book.
That hasn’t really stayed with us, but using the little stars to blot out some of the letters in curse words certainly has.
And these days the asterisk gets used a lot when we send a text message with a spelling mistake, so we send a second text with an asterisk and the correct spelling.
All of which means there’s a very good chance the asterisk will add a few more uses to its already impressive repertoire in the years to come.
Halloween is still a few months away, for all the haunted house fans out there.
But if you’ve had the kind of week that makes you want to scream, some entrepreneurs in Japan have a solution.
The Screambulance is a socially-distant haunted house delivery service that, for about 9,000 yen, will drop by where you live, take you for a ride and scare the heck out of you.
A Star Is Born (Lapham’s Quarterly)