At the heart of Shady Characters’ recent redesign are the text and display typefaces of Satyr and Faunus, both designed by Sindre Bremnes of Norway’s Monokrom type studio. Shady Characters, of course, is all about unusual marks of punctuation, and I was glad to see that both typefaces came complete with a handy selection of special characters. Even so, there were a few marks missing: the interrobang for one; the numero symbol I use in many post titles for another. As I chatted to Frode Helland of Monokrom about the minutiae of web fonts, though, he suggested that he and Sindre might be able to add some new characters to help Shady Characters live up to its name.
Or rather: Facebook gets irony perfectly well, but its users don’t trust themselves to catch it.
Sam Machkovech of tech news site Ars Technica has discovered that certain news stories posted Facebook now come prefixed with the word “[Satire]”, square brackets and all. Machkovech determined that this happens to links in the set of “related articles” box presented to you, the Facebook user, when you click through to the original news article and then return to Facebook. Of course, it goes without saying that the tag is only applied to satirical articles — for now, it appears that only The Onion is being targeted — but this may yet prove to be the thin end of the wedge.
If the multiplicity of irony marks created over the centuries suggests anything, it is that irony must be peculiarly tricky to communicate in writing. And if the subsequent failure of each and every one of those marks to gain anything approaching mainstream acceptance is anything to go by, it is unlikely to get any easier.
The interrobang’s arrival on the keyboard of Remington Rand’s Model 25 typewriter brought with it a new wave of interest in the character. In common with its appearance in Richard Isbell’s Americana,1 the mark’s transition from hot metal type to the typewriter keyboard was the result of a happy coincidence: a Remington Rand graphic designer saw ATF’s sample brochure for the font2 and lobbied in turn for its provision on his company’s typewriters. The Model 25’s replaceable key and typehead3 allowed different characters to be installed as required, providing the perfect vehicle for promoting this as-yet unproven mark of punctuation. Remington Rand entertained ideas of effecting a revolution in punctuation with its new interrobang key, and said as much in an internal newsletter: