I’m afraid the third article in the series on irony and sarcasm marks will have to be be delayed until next weekend. I’ll be discussing modern irony and sarcasm marks — chiefly those which have been proposed and promoted via the Internet — but unfortunately I’m having trouble reaching the creators of the SarcMark. If any Shady Characters readers have had any success in contacting them in the past, it would be great if you could put me in touch with them!
The irony marks proposed by John Wilkins, Alcanter de Brahm and Hervé Bazin proved stubbornly resistant to putting down roots, and Bazin’s 1966 point d’ironie would be the last to be publicly promoted for some decades. Before the Internet reinvigorated their cause, though, the hunt for a foolproof method of conveying verbal irony took an abrupt detour: if a self-contained irony mark was not enough, perhaps an entire alphabet was the answer. And whereas the concept of an irony mark had exerted a strange pull on a select few French writers, the idea of signalling verbal irony with a different typeface altogether was instead the preserve of English-language journalists.
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.