The discussion and desire for an irony/sarcasm mark is one that has been making the Twitter rounds lately, and I may have accidentally stumbled upon the answer.
It seems the backward question mark, also called the rhetorical question mark or percontation point, has been the historic favorite, having been proposed by English printer Henry Denham back in 1580.
It’s an odd coincidence — but NOT ironic — that a 430-year-old mark may just find its usage in the 21st century, thanks to modern technology.
The problem is that twitterers and emailers have had a hard time denoting sarcasm, irony, and eye rollable statements. We’ve tried the :-| and the </sarcasm> marks, but every extra character takes up valuable space in a 140 character tweet.
So in our quest to show that we’re being snarky and sarcastic, social media people have been looking for a way to show their sarcasm in as few keystrokes as possible, which is why the irony mark can solve a lot of problems.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get to at the moment.
If you’re a Mac user, there’s no easy way to do it. The best way to get it is to open up the Characters box (usually command-option-T). Then search for character 061f. When it comes up, insert it or copy and paste it.
If you’re a Windows user, I believe you can type the mark this way:
- Press and hold down the Alt key.
- Press the + (plus) key on the numeric keypad.
- Type one of these:
(Windows users, if this doesn’t work, please let me know. I haven’t done Windows for about 4 years, and I don’t remember how to enter Unicode.)
If you’re a Linux user, I didn’t think you guys got humor, so I don’t know if it’s even available to you. (Kidding! Just kidding! Some of my best friends are Linux users.)
Or you can just copy it here and save it somewhere else, like an Evernote document.
I understand that the SarcMark is making its way into use, but unfortunately, as a Mac user, I can’t use it. Right now, it’s a Windows-only app that lets you use the SarcMark with a few keystrokes. The SarcMark looks sort of like the @ symbol, but with a period instead of the letter ‘a’ inside.
I also prefer Denham’s backward question mark because it’s historic. It’s over 430 years old, even though it was never widely used. Because of its longevity, it’s the one that many “we need an irony mark” proponents are already suggesting.
This may help people understand what irony truly is. It’s not an “odd coincidence” or “misfortune.” And it’s certainly not rain on my f—ing wedding day! Irony is when a statement conveys the opposite meaning of what you said.
So — according to Dictionary.com — if I say “that’s nice” when you tell me you got a flat tire, that’s irony. It’s not irony when you got a flat tire going to lunch.
And now, thanks to the irony mark, when I tweet you and say “that’s nice؟” you’ll know what I really meant.