29 November 2007

Several Forms of Irony

MotherReader hosts the month’s Carnival of Children’s Literature, which has lots of tips on blogging, parenting, and reviewing books. Though I admit my favorite part was her reference to “the ever literary Oz and Ends” a mere four days after I’d featured a comic-book panel of a zombie rabbit.

But just to justify that judgment, I’ll reply to MotherReader’s plea (in the truly useful “Funny Writer Tips”) for “an ironic font — and no, the little winking emoticon isn’t enough.”

As far back as 1793, when William Thornton published Cadmus: or, A Treatise on the Elements of Written Language, authors have expressed a desire for some visual sign of irony within written text. Perhaps earlier writers had stated the same need, but literacy and irony may also not have been widespread enough to create a serious problem before. I hate smileys, too, but must admit they’re the first widely recognized solution to that challenge.

Thornton’s suggestion was:

A mark of Irony should be invented, for its use must be acknowledged, by those who are acquainted with language; and it should, like all the rest, be placed before and after the sentence---(+) this mark may serve.
Putting special punctuation before as well as after sentences (as Spanish typography already does with its ¿) was meant to signal readers about the nuance of a sentence before they plunged into it. Of course, some irony depends on not revealing itself too early. +We may need another two centuries to figure this out.+

Finally, outside the carnival Bottom Shelf Books imagines picture-book superheroes Max and Pinky interviewing for jobs with the Justice League. (No, a mere ahistorical allusion to Robin doesn’t make this our weekly Robin.)


fusenumber8 said...

There was some talk a while back about creating an irony font. And by "some talk" I mean "a conversation in the ladies loo during a librarian conference".

J. L. Bell said...

Well, that makes sense because +only ladies ever want to use irony+.

MotherReader said...

Coming in late just to say thanks for the mention and the support of the irony font. (Though it was certainly not needed in describing your literary stylings.) One day the irony font will make its stand, and no smileys will be involved - Lord help us.