I began to notice an odd phenomenon about ten years ago: the simple word “question” had mysteriously come to be replaced in many spoken and written contexts by the phrase “question mark”.

Here are one or two examples: “At a time when companies are making people redundant, there is a major question mark over the morality of increasing the pressure on businesses and families…” letter, Daily Telegraph, July 2009. And, the other day, in an interview on LBC radio: “There’s a big question mark over the sudden dismissal of several hundred employees by P&O Ferries …”.