Thursday, March 18, 2010
Well, What Do You Know [Insert Punctuation Mark Here]
The New York Times begs to inform us that a new punctuation mark has made its way into the books. It’s called a sarcmark, and its function is to identify sarcastic comments, especially in email messages, where context may be slight. Without a sarcmark, the danger is that your sarcasm in such statements as “I really love my boss” or “We had a delicious meal at Michael Pollan’s dinner party, didn’t we?” might be lost on the recipient. This new punctuation mark has been developed by a Michigan company known as Sarcasm, Inc., which seems genuinely sincere when it offers software to imprint a sarcmark for $1.99.
The sarcmark can now take its place alongside another little-used punctuation mark, the interrobang, which was invented in 1962 by an advertising man named Martin K. Specter. It’s a combination question mark and exclamation point (which is known as a “bang” in printer’s slang), to be used at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question, such as “How am I supposed to take a shower when you’ve used all the hot water” or “What do you mean that’s cranberry sauce on your shirt collar”
Specter proposed the new mark in an article in the magazine TypeTalks and asked readers to suggest a name for it. Other contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest. In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued a font that included the interrobang as one of the characters. By 1968, an interrobang key was available on some typewriters. Over the years use of the interrobang has fizzled and now it is difficult to find in most type fonts—although Miscrosoft Word offers it as a Wingding.
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, who is a self-styled font (of specious wisdom), suggests the following additional punctuation marks, and to represent them, he proposes employing some of the weird symbols in the Microsoft Webding catalog whose actual usage he does not know.
Gloomaloop - to express extreme sadness or distress:
My computer crashed, and I lost the 200,000-word autobiography that I’ve been working on for thirty years [gloomaloop here]
Sneeracle - to express utter contempt:
So you thought Robert Downey Jr. was a better Sherlock Holmes than Basil Rathbone [sneeracle here]
Geewhizzer - to express astonished disbelief:
You have won a Nobel Prize for your chocolate chip cookie recipe
Dubitab - to express maximum uncertainty:
Try plugging this prong into that socket and see if it works [dubitab here]
Other suggestions are welcome, but no prize of any kind will be awarded.