All of the things we've tried over the centuries
For years, posters on forums like Reddit have used “/ s” at the end of a post to indicate sarcasm. However, the history of sound display is much older.
In her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, the grammar historian Lynne Truss describes how a British printer named Henry Denham created a punctuation mark called Percontation Point in 1575 to indicate that a question was rhetorical. ("It didn't catch on," writes Ms. Truss.)
A century later, the Anglican clergyman and philosopher John Wilkins suggested in his 1668 work "An Essay on Real Character and Philosophical Language" that ironic statements should be marked with a reverse exclamation mark.
"Wilkins' choice of ¡seems most appropriate," writes Keith Houston in his book "Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Characters." "The presence of an exclamation mark already changes the tone of a statement, and inverting it to get an i-like sign suggests both the implicit i-rony and the reverse of its meaning."
That also didn't catch on. "Wilkins' invention was not only the first of many suggested signs of irony, but also the first to fail," Houston writes.
In 2010, a Michigan company called Sarcasm, Inc. published "SarcMark," essentially a point within a circle. It was marketed as an "official, user-friendly punctuation mark for highlighting a sarcastic phrase". Originally sold as a font download for $ 1.99, it's now available as a free sticker pack for iMessage.
In a 2001 post, blogger Tara Liloia suggested using Tildes to point out sarcasm.
"The closest thing to a sarcasm mark is the winking smiley – and it's not a really professional tool. You can't write a letter to a business partner with cute little ASCII faces. It's just not finished," she wrote. "And nobody can argue that sarcasm is not professional. If the level of sarcasm in the American workplace is any indication, sarcasm is nothing but professional! "
“My solution,” she concluded, “is the tilde. ~ ”
While the tilde never reached a critical mass, cute emoji faces gained global dominance even among business partners. It's been around almost as long as internet communication itself: the smiley emoticon ":-)" is commonly attributed to a message from Scott E. Fahlman, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in 1982 after a misunderstanding arose A colleague who posted on the Proto Internet service ARPANET made a dry joke about mercury contaminating an elevator shaft.
The usefulness of emoticons for sound indicators quickly spread off campus: a few months later, a researcher named James Morris sent a message entitled "Communication Breakthrough" to his colleagues at the Xerox Parc research laboratory.
"Since you can't see the person who is emailing you, sometimes you are unsure if they are serious or joking," he wrote in a message that would likely result in a very sincere cancellation today. “Recently, Scott Fahlman at CMU developed a message commenting scheme to solve this problem. When you turn your head to the side to look at the three characters :-), they look like a smiling face. So when someone sends you a message titled "Did you stop beating your wife? :-)", you know they are kidding. If they say "I need to speak to you :-(" be prepared for problems. "