What Exactly is Meant by "(!)"?

from Cecil Adams, Straightdope Classics.

As you can see, Cecil uses it sometimes too: (!)

The first time I ever saw it used was by a British author. But after I saw Cecil’s use of it, I began using it myself, mostly for irony and to show mock surprise and shock. But I have to confess, I never found out exactly what it means. What exactly is meant by “(!)”?


I think it’s used most commonly in a quoted passage, to indicate that the author believes that particular piece of text may suprise or shock the reader. That’s my take.

I have always taken it to mean either something like mock surprise or something like> :eek: ; if the writer inserts a naked exclamation mark, the only way to read it really is as genuine (often surprised) emphasis, bracketing it makes it more of a comment in its own right.

It is a juxtaposition of the common use of a parenthetical (to add information that is not immediately necessary) and an exclamation point, expressing surprise or amazement. It’s equivilent to saying,

It’s just a way of puttin in an exclamation mark, without having to end the sentence or interrupt the flow.

AND interrupt the flow, that is.

How is it pronounced?

I vote for “BANG!”

It may come from chess notation. When there’s a report of a chess game, after unusual moves the editor sometimes inserts (?) to indicate a questionable move, and (!) to indicate an unusual, unexpected move.

… and here I thought it was a symbol for naughty bits…

FWIW, your various comic strips will occasionally have a word bubble with “!” in it to indicate surprise on the part of whoever is exclaiming the exclamation point.

Yeah. It’s a female bending over.


Could be, but I’d wager that you’re tranposing cause and effect.


MOre fun naughty bits:

Bum: ( | )
BIG bum: ( | )
Boobies: (.)(.)
BIG boobies: ( . )( . )

What kind of women are you dating? It’s a woman on her back with her feet raised. Very effective when combined with the tongue smiley:

=P( ! )

I vote for the sound of one jaw dropping

I always imagined it as sounding like the high pitched “ting!” of a triangle, or the similar sound you might hear when turning on a CRT monitor. Unpronounceable by a human, of course, but it always seemed appropriate.

(Of course, there’s always “¡xo”)

its often means “no really, thats what I was trying to write” if someone writes something factual that sounds absolutely untrue.

like if you were summerizeing a news story and you hd to write

“man eatten by flying octopus while swimming in a pool of mt dew(!)”

Remember in The Matrix where Morpheus shows Neo something really cool, like he can jump between two skyscrapers, and Neo just says “…whoa.”? That’s the (!).

I disagree…in this instance, at least. I think it’s meant to point out the irony or ludicrousness of a statement. In the case of the original passage, I’d recast it thusly:


And this boys and girls is why I love this place…