Does your insufferable sarcasm plague your online conversations?

by Rebecca Lang

We get lots of weird stuff in the mail. "Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist" gumball machines, "Indiana Jones" whips, a bottle of dirty brown water (to symbolize moonshine, it turned out), but occasionally some baffle me. Today, it’s a post-it note pad promoting "The SarcMark," a punctuation mark with a sloppy, marker tip-like circle around it that is supposed to denote sarcasm. On Windows, you can download it for $2 and start using it in your daily conversations (Mac users – we’re too serious for a SarcMark, I guess). While I do think tools like this are going to be more common in the future (gone are the days when careful word choice conveyed content and attitude), there are a  couple challenges the SarcMark is going to have to deal with.

-Shared meaning. For a symbol to work, it has to denote a widely shared meaning. No one knows WTF this circled period means. But hey, maybe that’s what the advertising is for.

-Pre-existing alternatives. Emoticons and the occasional addition of an extra letter (for example, "I love that Free Credit Report guy. Yeahhhh.)" can convery sarcasm already.

-Mass sarcasm: Is America smart enough? Let’s remember that Stephen Colbert was invited to speak at George Bush’s White House Correspondents dinner. Many chalked this error up to Bush’s people not figuring out that the anchor who addresses his viewership as "America" was actually mocking Bill O’Reilly. But on the other hand, maybe America’s occasional deaf ear to sarcasm makes the SarcMark even more necessary. They could put one around the entirety of SNL, to remind you that it’s actually trying to be funny.