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A need for new punctuation?
December 22, 2004 4:19 AM   Subscribe

Josh Greeham argues on Slate that we're in need of the Sarcasm point. In this new internet world of smilies and bad grammar there seems to be a need for new ways to express oursleves. So much so, that people are even patenting the questioning comma. Even the humorists are getting in on the act.. And whatever you do, don't tell interrobang.
posted by seanyboy (48 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
? ? ?

[this is good and bizarre]
posted by moonbird at 4:28 AM on December 22, 2004


The strange part was, the parts that were supposed to be sarcastic weren't, and the parts that weren't, seemed to be. The beauty of online sarcasm is the uncertainty¡
posted by iconomy at 4:42 AM on December 22, 2004


Great idea¡
posted by Wolfdog at 4:57 AM on December 22, 2004


What Wolfdog said.
posted by grouse at 5:20 AM on December 22, 2004


I like the idea of a sarcasm mark; very practical.
posted by effwerd at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2004


Oh, this thread is just wonderful.

(shit...don't know how to make the sarcasm mark)
posted by davidmsc at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2004


I suspect widespread adoption of a "sarcasm mark" would mostly serve to reveal how few people actually understand the concept of "sarcasm." See also "Alanis," "ironic," and other difficulties.
posted by pnh at 6:03 AM on December 22, 2004


Good post¡
posted by nthdegx at 6:07 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]


The best part would be if this would be adopted for use in communication via the internet: email, newsgroups, this site. Sarcasm, as the author points out, does not work without visual cues.

I remember from my newsgroup days that the one constant was a flamewar every two weeks over the misreading of a sarcastic comment.

The current accepted character for indicating sarcasm seems to be the smiling face or the winking face: [ :) ;) ]
posted by sleslie at 6:11 AM on December 22, 2004


zefrank make the point much better. :)
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2004


:head explodes:
posted by 31d1 at 6:24 AM on December 22, 2004


Reminds me of that Kids in the Hall episode where Dave Foley can't stop talking sarcastically. But no one understands his malady, and everyone hates him by the end. He turns to the camera and says "I'm sooooooooo lonely."
posted by fungible at 6:43 AM on December 22, 2004


My friends an I have been doing this for years. We use ¶.
posted by Cyrano at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2004


Yeah, this is not a new idea at all. And I noticed the same thing iconomy said - the only line that had the frisson of delicious sarcasm was the part about telling his girlfriend he loved her. And that one didn't come with a mark.
posted by soyjoy at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2004


I started doing this back in 1996 with a small group of friends. We use a "~" to denote sarcasm in sentences. It's nice because you can place the tilde right before the word with the sarcastic emphasis...

"Oh ~great, it's raining again."
"Don't you just ~love shopping the week before Christmas?"

It never caught on outside my circle of friends, but it's quite useful.
posted by evoo at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2004


I love that we're already corrupting the sarcasm mark by using it sarcastically when we do in fact mean exactly what we're saying but just want to hint that we don't.

Fuck. We need a new punctuation mark for thatz
posted by nthdegx at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2004


This isn't a new idea at all.
posted by braun_richard at 7:20 AM on December 22, 2004


Sarcasm works just fine without visual clues, sleslie. There are these things called intellect and comprehension.
posted by scruss at 7:27 AM on December 22, 2004


"Oo! Run! It's sarcasm!"
posted by ticopelp at 7:32 AM on December 22, 2004


nthdegx, it sounds to me like you're saying that you find it hard to believe that I'm not a nice person. I'm really flattered!z
posted by iconomy at 7:35 AM on December 22, 2004


iconomy, that's precisely what I'm sayingor is it?
posted by nthdegx at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2004


It really helps clarify his intent in the article¡<sarcasm> Since everyone knows html, this one works great.</sarcasm> I do think something could be done to improve clarity of communication online, though. It's one thing reading in a book, where there's charactrer development, but reading comments from someone you absolutely don't know can be difficult.

Lojban has a class of words called attitudinal indicators that are meant to convey how the speaker feels about what they're saying. They all have ascii representation and most make some sense by intonation as well (fear is pronounced kind of like "eeee!" happiness is close to "whee!"). Maybe english could use something like this?
posted by nTeleKy at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2004


I heard someone one the CBC recently talking about road rage and that fact, although we have lots of body language for saying 'fuck you' to other drivers, we don't have any that says 'sorry, my mistake'...
posted by 327.ca at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2004


¡Oi! ¡No puedes usar este simbolo! It'd make Spaniards look ~so sarcastic!
posted by benzo8 at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2004


Sarcasm "doesn't work without visual cues"? The things you learn on the internet.
posted by pnh at 8:07 AM on December 22, 2004


i, for one, am outraged

the whole point of irony and sarcasm in literature is to appeal to the reader's intellect, by way of her sense of humor or absurdity. one of the most wonderful things about reading older literature (from shakespeare to as recent as fitzgerald) is when you realize that something is being said ironically, and you're suddenly linked across the decades in a common unspoken knowingness. to put it another way, the Buddhist believe that the moment you understand a joke, you experience enlightenment (to a small degree)

sarcasm works on an idea of unspoken self-conscious and self-awareness that crosses time and language barriers. inserting that malnourished little collin into a dostoevsky novel or say, the canterbury tales, would bludgeon the text.

why should we want to ruin our jokes for future generations?
posted by es_de_bah at 8:15 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]


I suppose there's a serious case to be made that English could use a diacritical mark here and there.

But I'm not sure that teenagers OF THE FUTURE (aside: before a sarcasm diacritic, English needs a monster truck rally commercial reverb-effect mark more. That may just be me, though) modifying their signoffs of lolololololol with sarcasm-marks will improve matters at all.
posted by Drastic at 8:19 AM on December 22, 2004


This is idiotic. If the problem is that people can't be sure when they are reading something sarcastic, then we need to train our young readers to be more perceptive and discerning, not invent new punctuation.

The post by nTeleKY above, however, is more close to the mark. I find the most basic html tags (italics, bold, etc), and the general scheme of html tags (angled brackets with the backslash to indicate a closing) everywhere. I saw it on a billboard yesterday, on a road trip. A billboard.
posted by eclectist at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2004


Too many people today do not understand conventional punctuation so that adding some new marks will only give us further abuse of any system used for pointing (punctuatuon).

In essence the people for whom an expanded system appeals seem to need help in reading that which is ironic, sarcastic etc.
posted by Postroad at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2004


I've been saying this for years. I can't tell you how many misunderstandings I've had through email and IM because the other person didn't know I was being sarcastic. Text is flat, and unless the other person knows your sense of humor, the sarcasm is very often read as sincere.
posted by coldon at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004


Ironic the way this thread is going. I agree with what you're all saying -- of course a punctuation point would destroy the humour in sarcasm. That's why IT ISN'T A SERIOUS SUGGESTION. In short, you missed the unpunctuated sarcasm in the sarcasm points themselves. Funny.
posted by nthdegx at 8:52 AM on December 22, 2004


I totally didn't miss that.ii
posted by Wolfdog at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2004


although we have lots of body language for saying 'fuck you' to other drivers, we don't have any that says 'sorry, my mistake'...

Really? You mean the shrug-and-wave is not universal?
posted by milovoo at 9:00 AM on December 22, 2004


I have to say I think a lot of people like the plausible deniability that 'flat' text gives them. (The same folks who, IRL, fall back on `Awwww, guys, I never meant it, caintcha take a joke?')
posted by Wolfdog at 9:03 AM on December 22, 2004


American with Aspergers, thank you for this useful invention!
posted by dydecker at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2004


I concur with es_de_bah. The best part about sarcasm is delivering it with stealth. When I was once ordered by my boss to apologize for upsetting a jerk at work, I told the jerk "I can't tell you how sorry I am." Win-win!
posted by weepingsore at 9:25 AM on December 22, 2004


...there seems to be a need for new ways to express oursleves.

Well, I suppose that's a start.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:32 AM on December 22, 2004


Oftentimes on instant messenger, my pure and holy friends don't catch my sarcasm and perceive it as sincerity. A simple bout of the devil expressing himself through yet another git.

The demon in me applauds this new literary tool of deliverance.
posted by reflection at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2004


sarcasm is meant to be covert. it is a weapon to be used against those you wish to trample upon the egos of. to make it completely clear that you are being sarcastic would be like wearing a bright orange vest during the vietnam conflict.
posted by angry modem at 11:12 AM on December 22, 2004


(sarcasm)What, we can't just use Sarcasm Tags?(/sarcasm)

I mean, it's XML-compliant...

(they didn't work with angle brackets)
posted by zoogleplex at 11:32 AM on December 22, 2004


zoogleplex: you can use < and > to get angle brackets.
posted by sharpener at 1:53 PM on December 22, 2004


haha, on preview it worked, but didn't notice the edit in the textarea before posting...trying again: use &lt; and &gt; for angle brackets.
posted by sharpener at 1:54 PM on December 22, 2004


this is(n't) (not) awesome.
posted by The God Complex at 2:11 PM on December 22, 2004


Oh, I totally love this idea, really.
posted by interrobang at 2:31 PM on December 22, 2004


?
posted by seanyboy at 4:40 PM on December 22, 2004


Damn you preview.
posted by seanyboy at 4:41 PM on December 22, 2004


This would be perfect for Sarcastro comics. Imagine his stirring battle cry:

Yeah, right, I'm going to fight you¡
posted by Fourmyle at 6:11 PM on December 22, 2004


"Oh! A sarcasm detector! That's really useful!"
posted by Eideteker at 9:30 PM on December 22, 2004


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