TRIVIAL PURSUITS: What is the origin of the question mark?

Most linguists attribute the origin of the question mark to Alcuin of York, a scholar living in 8th century England. Alcuin wrote a myriad of books and poems, and found that an old punctuation system pioneered by the Romans, which used a bunch of dots, wasn’t sufficient. Alcuin created the punctus interrogativus to signal an inflection at the end of a clause. The symbol was a tilde “~”over one of the old Roman dots.

This symbol remained in constant use up until the 13th century when scholars in Paris decided to standardize punctuation. They chose Alcuin’s punctus interrogativus to embody solely the interrogative, but turned the tilde upwards, creating the modern question mark.