What is a Pilcrow?

I think there is a technical term for everything.

I’m sure you’re familiar with this symbol:  ¶    If (unlike me) you’ve ever wondered what it is, it’s a pilcrow and it has a long history.

According to Wikipedia, it can be used as an indent for separate paragraphs or to designate a new paragraph in one long piece of copy.  It was used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilcrow).

It originally came from the Greek word paragraphos (para, “beside” and graphein, “to write”), which led to the Old French paragraph, which evolved into pelagraphe and then pelagreffe.  Somehow, the word transformed into the Middle English pylcrafte and eventually became the “pilcrow,” as described by the Smithsonian website  (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-origin-of-the-pilcrow-aka-the-strange-paragraph-symbol-8610683/?no-ist)

If such items interest you, try the book  Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston.

 

 

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