On the use of the typo to signal irony on Twitter

Irony, clearly labeled

One of the problems with rhetorical irony is that sometimes people don’t get it. That’s also a major source of its appeal. When irony works, the reader sees it but holds out the possibility that someone else does not. This effect is a big part of the fun, even though plenty of satirical writing cheats it by deploying irony in a way few readers could miss. The trick is to maintain a sort of plausible deniability. Irony doesn’t have to actually fool anybody, but we as knowing readers must be able to fool ourselves into believing it might. Satire can therefore be pretty heavy-handed, so long as the irony is not explicitly signaled. I mention this to introduce a convention of irony Twitter that has bled over into other sub-comunities: the practice of signaling irony with typographical errors. For example:

Is it cheating to explicitly signal irony in this way? Consideration after the jump.

Continue reading

The sarc mark is a terrible idea [absence of sarc mark]

The sarc mark, which indicates sarcasm and itself contains the registered trademark mark. This picture will irreparably damage your eyes.

The good people at the Michigan-based company Sarcasm, Inc. have invented something called the “sarc mark,” a punctuation mark that indicates sarcasm in written correspondence. For only $1.99, you can download the sarc mark and use it in your emails, text messages and Facebook status updates, so that people will finally stop thinking you’re so glad your flight got delayed. The problem of conveying irony in text can be especially vexing, as anyone whose girlfriend has an attachment disorder will attest. We have a tendency, when we are hastily tapping out half-funny text messages at red lights, to simply transcribe what we would say in speech, and our sarcastic speech is augmented by tone of voice, rolling eyes, the jerkoff motion and other flourishes that keyboards don’t have. That being said, a punctuation mark that indicates sarcasm is an awful idea. At best, it will point out at the end of each sentence what dicks we all are. At worst, it will gradually destroy our ability to think. Normally I’m happy to pay $1.99 for that service (episode of Jersey Shore on iTunes) but dammit, some things are sacred, and the western tradition of written irony is one of them.

Continue reading