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In online fandom communities, I've noticed a not-uncommon convention (though I'm not sure it's the prevailing convention; more common seems to be a simple space or a hyphen) of using an exclamation mark to attach modifiers to distinguish between different versions of a character from different adaptations of a work.

For instance, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones fans might talk about the differences between the characters of Book!Tyrion and Show!Tyrion, if they wish to refer to the differences in his character between adaptations.

What is the origin of this? Does it have something to do with Usenet and bang paths? It's quite a tricky thing to Google for.

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    examples...examples...most of here haven't the foggiest what you are asking. Jul 30, 2021 at 18:23
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    I keep reading it as "not." So, the book without Tyrion would be... very different, at least in some storylines.
    – DavidW
    Jul 30, 2021 at 19:09
  • angelfire.com/falcon/moonbeam/terms.html#! doesn't explain wherefrom.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 30, 2021 at 19:23
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    I think it is a programming thing, but possibly from spreadsheets - eg you use Sheet1!A1 to refer to cell A1 on sheet Sheet1. I think Microsoft Access has a similar usage. Jul 30, 2021 at 19:36
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    TV Tropes also defines these but doesn't have a history, but it does suggest they might derive from the old convention of bang paths, presumably by way of Usenet fandoms.
    – Cadence
    Jul 30, 2021 at 22:16

1 Answer 1

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You may have better luck Googling the term "exclamation compounds" which is the term at least one linguist uses

https://allthingslinguistic.com/post/46453848763/exclamationcompounds The linguist is Gretchen McCulloch, author of "Because Internet" (which also discusses "Exclamation Compounds")

Quote from the link above:

If you spend time on certain linguistically innovative corners of the internet, you may have noticed a new way of putting words together, with as the title suggests, exclamation marks. I’m going to call this construction exclamation!compounds, for obvious reasons.

History of Exclamation!compounds

My first memorable encounter with exclamation!compounds came from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a webseries in which many characters act out other characters in costume theatre. When a character is acting another, the resulting character-within-a-character is referred to by exclamation!compounding maincharacter!actedcharacter. For example, Jane playing Darcy is Jane!Darcy, and likewise for Lizzie!MrsBennet and Charlotte!MrBennet.

Fanlore traces this usage back to 1997.

The adj!noun format is purported to have started in X-Files fandom. Good examples for this are Wombat's Spotter's Guide to the Common Krycek and the accompanying Spotter's Guide to the Common Mulder where several Krycek sub-species such as Bad to the Bone!Krycek, Bad but Lovin'!Krycek, Hot'n'dirty!Krycek or Misunderstood!Krycek and Mulder sub-subspecies such as Angst!Mulder, Basketcase!Mulder, HappySlut!Mulder, Sensitive!Mulder and WellAdjusted!Mulder are described. The first usage was Action!Mulder, referring to canon scenes where Mulder suddenly went all actiony (instead of talky), followed by Saint!Scully. Eventually they lost the initial capitals and the canon connections; by the time it hit other fandoms, it was being used to describe fannish things.[4]

Another X-Files mention, this one from the FAQ for OBSSE in 1997: "'Where did "!Scully" come from?' This is a sort of shorthand for describing our favorite characters, depending on what they were doing (such as Action!Scully or Kickass!Scully). It's sort of a designation for hypothetical action figures. For more information on some of the Order's favorite hypothetical action figures, see the October 1997 OBSSE Newsletter Poll." [5][6]

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    This is pretty close to a link-only answer, which are discouraged, as links break. A short summary of the history (but longer than "first use in 1997") would improve this answer a lot. Feb 14 at 1:39
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    Upvoted but not yet accepted. Ping me once you've edited in a short summary of the link and I'll accept it :)
    – Muzer
    Feb 14 at 13:13
  • The fanlore page in particular has a lot of useful historical information, such as it most likely originally coming from the X-Files community, being used to refer to different ways certain characters were sometimes written/sometimes behaved.
    – Muzer
    Feb 14 at 13:39
  • @Muzer: Edits made.
    – Andrew
    Feb 15 at 0:26

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