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Irony punctuation

The meaning of «irony punctuation»

Irony punctuation is any proposed form of notation used to denote irony or sarcasm in text. Written English lacks a standard way to mark irony, and several forms of punctuation have been proposed. Among the oldest and most frequently attested is the percontation point proposed by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s, and the irony mark, used by Marcellin Jobard and French poet Alcanter de Brahm during the 19th century. Both marks take the form of a reversed question mark, "⸮".

Irony punctuation is primarily used to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level. A bracketed exclamation point or question mark as well as scare quotes are also occasionally used to express irony or sarcasm.

The percontation point () , a reversed question mark later referred to as a rhetorical question mark, was proposed by Henry Denham in the 1580s and was used at the end of a question that does not require an answer—a rhetorical question. Its use died out in the 17th century.[1] This character can be represented using the reversed question mark (⸮) found in Unicode as U+2E2E; another character approximating it is the Arabic question mark (؟), U+061F.

The modern question mark (? U+003F) is descended from the "punctus interrogativus" (described as "a lightning flash, striking from right to left"),[2] but unlike the modern question mark, the punctus interrogativus may be contrasted with the punctus percontativus—the former marking questions that require an answer while the latter marks rhetorical questions.[3]

In 1668, John Wilkins, in An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, proposed using an inverted exclamation mark to punctuate ironic statements.[4] In 1841, Marcellin Jobard, a Belgian newspaper publisher, introduced an irony mark in the shape of an oversized arrow head with small stem (rather like an ideogram of a Christmas tree). The next year he expanded his idea, suggesting the symbol could be used in various orientations (on its side, upside down, etc.) to mark "a point of irritation, an indignation point, a point of hesitation".[5]

The irony point (French: point d'ironie) was proposed by the French poet Alcanter de Brahm (alias, Marcel Bernhardt) in his 1899 book L'ostensoir des ironies to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level (irony, sarcasm, etc.). It is illustrated by a glyph resembling, but not identical to, a small, elevated, backward-facing question mark.[3] The same mark was used earlier by Marcellin Jobard in an article dated June 11, 1841, and commented in an 1842 report.[7]

Hervé Bazin, in his essay "Plumons l'Oiseau" ("Let's pluck the bird", 1966), used the Greek letter ψ with a dot below for the same purpose ().[8] In the same work, the author proposed five other innovative punctuation marks: the "doubt point" (), "conviction point" (), "acclamation point" (), "authority point" (), and "love point" ().[9]

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