Open Sarcasm Picks a Bone With SarcMark

By  |  Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

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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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Samuli of Doom Says:

    And the alt/character code for this wonderful new punctuation is..?

    Yes, yes, I know. I’m just saying you should have put that in there.

    Cheers!

  2. Mike Cerm Says:

    ¡ = Alt+0161 in Windows. Depending on font and other factors, it kind of just looks like a lower-case “i”. I think, if there’s going to be a standard mark for sarcasm, it should be a little more visually distinct.

  3. Leonardo Says:

    To use “¡” is ridiculous. In spanish, people use both punctuation marks. The “¡” and “!” in a sentence. Same with question marks.

    Example: “¡Hola!”, “¿Cómo estás?”

    This is not universal and will not succeed outside the US.

  4. OpenSarcasm Says:

    Yes, we’re aware of the conflict with Spanish.

    The semantic difference is easily distinguished by its placement in the sentence and has historic precedence in Ethiopic. If you don’t believe us, just ask the Unicode Consortium: http://yacob.org/papers/DanielYacob-IUC15.pdf (see page 6).

  5. Alan Gerow Says:

    Leonardo:

    “This is not universal and will not succeed outside the US.”

    The punctuation was created outside of the U.S. … it’s of Ethiopian origin … an African country. So, it succeeded before getting to the U.S. And as a punctuation mark its already a part of the Unicode international standard. So, it is universal.

  6. Leonardo Says:

    Alan: I get your point, but consider that in many countries this will not be used, that’s what I ment by not being universal. If someone in Spain or Argentina or another country reads that, they won’t understand it, and I think they would probably consider it a typo. “Oh, he ment to write an exclamation point.” I don’t see many people using this, honestly, in my opinion.

  7. NickAVV Says:

    That’s a great idea¡

    (jk, haha)

  8. Choz Says:

    http://www.thesnark.org/

    The snark can be made in plain text, is keyboard accessible, visually distinct, comes after the affected comment, and can be dressed up in typefaces for more formal use. IT can be used in more languages, and it is really easy to remember. And it's free too.

4 Trackbacks For This Post

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