Wandering Among Words No 9: Exclamation

I came across an interesting neologism the other day which, as usual, had me musing — and I thought, again as usual, I would share them with you.

Here it is, courtesy of the popular BBC TV panel show QI and its busy QI elves on Twitter: Bangorrhea.

Hint: it’s not a kind of flightless bird from the town in North Wales or its counterpart in County Down, Northern Ireland.

So, this turns out to be a combination of bang, slang for an exclamation mark, plus the final element found in diarrhea or diarrhoia, defined by the Online Etymology Dictionary as “morbid frequent evacuation of the bowels. ” Coined many, many years ago by Hippocrates, it literally means “a flowing through”.

Hence bangorrhea would be something like this 👉 !!!!! Inelegant, admittedly, but so is its overuse.

Now, this neologism didn’t meet the approval of all the twitterati:

This made me laugh (haha!!) as, of course, bangorrhea is demonstrably not a portmanteau word (“word blending the sound of two different words”), as invented by Lewis Carroll’s Humpty-Dumpty:

“Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

Modern examples of portmanteau words that are usually cited are motel and brunch and, possibly, Brexit. Bangorrhea decidedly doesn’t fit this mould.

The Latin root of ‘exclamation’, by the way, is clamare, to shout, cry or call. Hence ‘clamour’ and ‘claim’. Related to clamare is the Old English hlōwan, to low or moo like a cow. Food for thought!

Now, given that one of the meanings of bang — there are several, some more rude than others — is for an exclamation mark (¡En espanol there are two!), I imagine that as an onomatopoeic word it requires little further explanation. As a punctuation mark the origins of the bang are a little more obscure, however. It’s become very familiar from its regular appearance in comic books and other popular culture: an apogee was its prominence in Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam! (1963), now in the Tate.

In European road signs the red triangle with a bang in the middle indicates a hazard ahead—perhaps a warning of the possibility of vehicle accidents involving, er, bangs.

Finally, we’re highly likely to come across a surfeit of exclamations—a bangorrhea—on social media. The more the merrier!! Is it true women use them more than men, as I’ve seen claimed? Or is it related to our emotions, whether anger or excitement, anxiety or enthusiasm, regardless of gender? Is it commoner on Facebook or Instagram, on Twitter or blogs? You be the judge!!!

33 thoughts on “Warning!

  1. I’m so glad you explained this as I’ve never heard an exclamation mark being called a bang – is that a generational thing? I confess to using too many ‘bangs’, especially on social media or texts , but I only ever use one at a time – two is overenthusiastic, three or more shows signs of mania 😉 Great post Chris

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t remember in which context I’d heard the term before, Lynn, but it goes back a few decades at least. However, I’d never come across bangorrhea until this QI tweet, certainly an inelegant word to describe an inelegant practice! I like your grading and interpretation, it should become mandatory for determining one’s fitness for communicating on social media—three bangs and you’re out. 😁

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ?! is two keystrokes. One of these days some Smart Alecs are going to cotton on to making the interrobang available for texting, and a dreadful epidemic of interrobangorrea will inevitably follow.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Interrobangorrea‽ Oh, I do hope not—perish the thought, any Smart Alecs out there! Don’t you agree it’s dreadfully ugly, Col? Wouldn’t you agree that always looks better as?!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Another thing: although it is usually ?! signifying a question with a violent reaction, there are occasions when !? could be more appropriate, as the shock arrives first giving rise to the question. Also, the interrobang invariably looks as though someone was going to make it a question but changed their minds by crossing it out.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Exactly. I wonder too if a more elegant way of expressing ?! or !? might be using the Spanish Option. For example:

              ¿Can you believe we’re going to hell in a handcart!

              ¡The handcart, have you just broken it?


    1. Please don’t tell me she also a habitual user of what I think of as the interrogative statement (otherwise known as the high rising terminal or upspeak, where the voice rises at the end? I understand that’s because the speaker craves acceptance or approval from the listener? I always thought it was an Aussie way of talking but it’s also common in California? (Ooh, it’s catching…)


  2. Funny that the Latin root still exists in the English word of exclamation 🙂 But the word bangorrhea is truly hideous – maybe the word “bang” was used to indicate the illicit multiplication of the exclamation marks?! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aha! An issue over which our opinions part ways: I think the interrobang is a lovely creation — the mark itself, as well as the term. And who cares if “bangorrhea” is part Latin, part Old Norse? (cf other mixed hybrids: psychobabble and dozens of others). One website (https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/the-monstrous-indecency-of-hybrid-etymology/) lists several of these and then points out a quote from a Tom Stoppard play, “The Invention of Love”: ‘Homosexuality? What barbarity! It’s half Greek and half Latin!’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😄 Interrobang aside, I have no problems with hybrid terms either, Lizzie, certainly not in principle; and, with several, their beauty, aptness or sheer joyousness appeals.

      You mention ‘psychobabble’, I’m rather taken with ‘omnishambles’ (especially as there’s a lot of it about at the moment).

      The enforced Latin-Greek marriages that you draw attention to are all around us and accepted without any concern for their lack of niceties, witness ‘television’ for example. Language? We love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love these posts, Chris.

    O the mighty !!!!

    I was guilty of this in texting. I say, ‘was.’ I have only had a smart phone for a year and a half. Once I got one, I traded in my !!! for 🙂 ❤ and so on. I can carry on whole text conversations without writing a word.

    Do I now have a case of emojorrhea?

    Liked by 1 person

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