90 LANGUAGE AND THE INTERNET
odd combinations of punctuation marks can appear at the end of a
sentence:IsthistrueofYahoo!?(where the exclamation mark is part
of the name). All of these may of course also be found in traditional
Rather different are the symbols borrowed from programming
languages, which appear in hacker-influenced interactions, such
as an initial exclamation mark to express negation (!interesting=
not interesting) or an arrow to express location(dc←holyhead=
‘dc lives in holyhead’). And new combinations of punctuation
marks can be given fresh values, as in the case of smileys (p. 36).
Underbars are usually used to express underlining, as in the name
of a text, though other pairs of marks will be seen:
I’ve been reading Hamlet
I’ve been reading #Hamlet#
I’ve been reading=Hamlet=
I’ve been reading\Hamlet/
A potential contrastivity seems to be emerging, in the use of some
pairs, notably the scope of emphasis indicated by the asterisk. The
following two sentences convey rather different effects:
This is a∗very∗important point.
This is a∗very∗∗important∗∗point.∗
The latter is much slower and more emphatic. However, the asterisk
is still developing a range of other functions, and is at times used
somewhat idiosyncratically. For example, some users mark imagi-
though a more widely used convention is the angle bracket (e.g.
of ways, sometimes as an emphasis signal, sometimes as part of
a more sophisticated convention, such as the∧Hsequence used
in one kind of programming notation to mark an erasure of the
preceding symbol. Hence, if someone typed
Hear what my mad∧H∧H∧Hnice computer has done now.
(^27) For the contrast between formal and informal letters, see Crystal (1995: 402).