Tag Archives | Emoticons

Open Sarcasm Picks a Bone With SarcMark

A month ago, a company called SarcMark began selling a special punctuation of the same name, intended to denote Sarcasm. As some of our commenters pointed out, punctuation shouldn’t cost money, and SarcMark was charging $2 for the privilege.

Now, a group called Open Sarcasm is staging a protest to crush SarcMark and replace it with an upside-down exclamation mark (¡), which text fields already recognize and doesn’t cost a dime. Open Sarcasm’s organizer even came back to our original blog post to let us know about it.

The group says “¡” is graphically indistinguishable from Temherte Slaqî, an Ethiopic symbol that comes at the end of a sentence, used to indicate an unreal phrase or a sarcastic tone in editorial cartoons. No joke, Open Sarcasm pulls the idea from Wikipedia’s page on sarcasm, which sources a document (PDF) from the 15th International Unicode Conference.

Despite the subject matter, Open Sarcasm appears to be dead serious, writing a manifesto that specifically calls out the SarcMark, starting a Twitter page and opening an online merch store. Of course, the group is also accepting donations, for what I’m not sure.

I still don’t think punctuation for sarcasm is necessary — words alone leave plenty of room for nuance in tone — but a movement to liberate sarcastic punctuation from commercial gain is admirable, at least.


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My Beef With SarcMark

Period, question mark, exclamation point — the written word has done just fine with these three sentence-ending punctuations, but Sarcasm, Inc. reckons there’s room for one more.

The SarcMark aims to make sarcasm easier to express online, essentially by beating the reader over the head with it. Add the squiggly and dot to the end of a sentence, and you’ll know your words won’t be interpreted as genuine. Make no mistake, the SarcMark is a real product, selling for $2 if you want to type it on your Mac, Windows or Blackberry keyboard by holding Ctrl and pressing “.”

If you can’t tell from the tone of my words alone, I’m not convinced the world needs a SarcMark. For that matter I’m not certain the very concept isn’t a work of sarcasm.

The problem with SarcMark is partly technical. Unless the idea catches on in the mainstream, you’ll have to explain its meaning to everyone who sees it. So you’re explaining a punctuation that’s explaining sarcasm. That’s not redundant or anything.

But the bigger issue is that sarcasm doesn’t deserve the easy pass, even if the problem it’s trying to solve is genuine. There are plenty of emotions that are tough to convey in words alone, such as dejection, skepticism, urgency and calm. Why should sarcasm, above all, get its own punctuation?

Let’s just give sarcasm an emoticon and call it a day.


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Gmail Enters the Emoticon Wars, Inevitably

STOP THE PRESSES! The big news in tech this morning is that Gmail has introduced a feature I’m surprised it didn’t have already: emoticons. Lots and lots of emoticons. In two styles: squarish-headed and roundy-headed.

Here they are:

That’s a total of 148 emoticons, some of which are animated. (And yes, the last one in each set is…er, a pile of crap: I didn’t know that Google had a slightly off-color sense of humor, and I’m not sure if I’d want to be presented with that emoticon each time I wanted to insert a simply smiley, frowny, kissy, or weepy into my e-mail.)

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