Word Ways


Louis Phillips


In a recent article in the New York Times, Mickey Spillane -- the creator of that hard-hitting 1950s detective Mike Hammer -- discussed a forthcoming musical based upon his work, Oh, Mike! In the course of the discussion, the best-selling author observed "Any title with punctuation is fantastic." Now, Mr. Spillane is a shrewd man and I think he has a point. Indeed there is a recent trend to add exclamation marks to titles in order to elicit a sense of excitement. Oh! Calcutta!, for example, has two exclamation marks and a number of musicals, such as Fiorello!, Oklahoma!, and Red, Hot, and Blue!, have featured one. Even straight plays have used the exclamation mark -- Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill is probably the most famous example, but we probably shouldn't forget the 1943 production of You Touched Me! by Tennessee Williams and Donald Windham. How much a single or even double punctuation mark contributes to the success or failure of a play is certainly open to debate, but try to imagine how those above-named titles would look without exclamation points. Dull? Indeed!