Open Sarcasm Manifesto

A spectre is haunting the internet—the spectre of Open Sarcasm.

Of late, the forces of Big Sarcasm have brought forth onto the internet the idea that sarcasmists everywhere must license and download their proprietary new “punctuation”—called the “SarcMark”®—in order to clarify sarcasm in their writing.

A growing chorus of voices has joined together to decry this idea. It is high time that Open Sarcasmists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Open Sarcasm with a manifesto of the punctuation itself.

To this end, Open Sarcasmists of various nationalities have assembled in Brooklyn and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish (coming soon), and Danish (coming soon) languages.

I. On Sarcasm as a Neglected Mode of Expression

Consider the following claim of Sarcasm, Inc.:

Stand Up For Sarcasm – It needs a punctuation mark. Let your voice and written word be heard across the country, the continent, and the world.

Don’t questions have one???

Exclamations have them!!!

Equal Rights for Sarcasm – Use the SarcMark®

The founders of Sarcasm, Inc., seem to be unaware a proper punctuation mark for sarcasm already exists in the Ethiopic writing system. From A Roadmap to the Extension of the Ethiopic Writing System Standard Under Unicode and ISO-10646 (PDF, via wikipedia), produced at the 15th International Unicode Conference in 1999:

Ethiopic Sarcasm Mark ¡ Temherte Slaqî
Graphically indistinguishable from U+00A1 (¡) Temherte Slaqî differs in semantic use in Ethiopia. Temherte Slaqî will come at the end of a sentence (vs at the beginning in Spanish use) and is used to indicate an unreal phrase, often sarcastical in editorial cartoons. Temherte Slaqî is also important in children’s literature and in poetic use.

Indeed, a certain Joshua Greenman encouraged us to adopt this very symbol to punctuate sarcasm back in 2004, though he seems to have not known of its Ethiopic origins and misguidedly thought that he could copyright the symbol:

And since I’m going to copyright this bugger, you’ll have to type¡© But don’t worry. You can take the copyright symbol ironically.

He later turned to the side of the revolution by refuting the idea of trademarking punctuation in a later article about the introduction of SarcMark:

First, trademarking a punctuation mark—trying to own the very stuff of thought—is like patenting a DNA strand. It’s messing with the very stuff of life. Get out of my head, evil corporate overlords.

Although we admire the fire with which Comrade Josh has adopted the revolutionary spirit, we wonder if he knows how frequently DNA is already patented.

To return again to the point of our manifesto: Despite the historic usage of ¡ to express sarcasm, the creators of the SarcMark® would encourage us to abandon this ancient punctuation for in favor of their creation. Section III will explore in further detail the impetus for this transition, while Section II will cover the merits of new “punctuation” developed by Big Sarcasm.

II. On Developers Creating New Forms of Punctuation Without Consulting Typography Experts

Yeah. They shouldn’t do that.

III. On Communicating Sarcasm in a Licensed, Proprietary Format

Sarcasm, Inc., claims that they are promoting “Equal Rights for Sarcasm,” writing:

In today’s world with increasing commentary, debate and rhetoric, what better time could there be than NOW, to ensure that no sarcastic message, comment or opinion is left behind.

However, by insisting that sarcasm be transmitted through their proprietary format, which is not compliant with the standards put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium and the Unicode Consortium, they are in fact segregating and discriminating against sarcasm. You can ask a question or make an exclamation for free, but for sarcasm, you will be charged!

Furthermore, true punctuation must be supported by unicode so it can be transmitted digitally in an industry standard format. A proprietary, licensed SarcMark® ensures that visually impaired readers will be unable to interpret sarcasm expressed through the SarcMark®, and restricts the use of sarcasm by impoverished authors who cannot afford to pay Sarcasm, Inc.’s outrageous licensing fee.

So to what end should sarcasmists abandon the ancient, standards-complaint ¡ for the hideous SarcMark ®? Only to line the pockets of Big Sarcasm.

Big Sarcasm

[Big Sarcasm illustration courtesy I Can Has Cheezburger]

This state of affairs is deeply wrong and must be corrected with a return to ¡ as the free, open-source, standards-compliant punctuation for sarcasm.

In short, the Open Sarcasmists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing punctionational order of things.

The Open Sarcasmists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing punctuational conditions. Let the ruling “punctuations” tremble at an Openly Sarcastic revolution. The users of licensed “punctuation” have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to mock.

Sarcasmists of the world, unite!

62 Proclamations From the People on Open Sarcasm Manifesto

Comrade 6000
February 16, 2010

Oh yeah, I can really see this campaign working.

No – really.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
February 16, 2010

The first step is to BELIEVE in the revolution. If you’re not part of the punctuational solution, you’re part of the SarcMark problem.

Viva la revolución!

Comrade sigh
February 16, 2010

This is a brilliant idea

Comrade David
February 17, 2010

Hahahahahaha, very interesting. I might even use it¡ Although, seriously now, sometimes I think that sarcasm should speak for itself. Kudos anyhow =)

Comrade Evil Mike
February 17, 2010

F— the revolution, bring on the apocalypse.

Comrade Riot Jane
February 17, 2010

The time has come for literate proles to cease condescension and begin action.

“Lady Mercy won’t be home tonight.”

Comrade Humpty
February 18, 2010

What ever you do, don’t tell the Ethiopians about this.

I have spoken.

Comrade Oscar Briz
February 19, 2010

Doesn’t work for us ¡ = exclamation apperture in spanish


¡oh, no!

Comrade OpenSarcasm
February 19, 2010

We believe the semantic difference is clarified by the placement: “That was great¡” vs “¡That was great!”

But if not, we could call together an international committee to discuss a cross-cultural standard.

Comrade sueitty
February 24, 2010

I propose that a typestyle be designed for sarcasm. It should have a back slant…the opposite of italic or oblique. This new posture for type can be called sarcic. The new SarcMark just doesn’t work for a whole paragraphs.

Comrade BootUp
February 25, 2010

I’ve always seen “/s” in posts.
Means insert-sarcasm, or meant to sound sarcastic.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
February 28, 2010

Comrade sueitty: A font would have to be installed and specially supported on all platforms. The ¡ is already part of unicode and requires no special installation to be used cross-platform.

Comrade Dave
March 3, 2010

So in Spanish would you say, for example “!que [expletive] bueno¡” ?

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 3, 2010

Yes, a fantastic suggestion Comrade Dave! We will update the usage guide shortly to reflect this.

Comrade Bill Schfitz
March 8, 2010

I proclaim that we should just go to http://www.sarcmark.com and download it for free. The folks from Sarcasm, Inc. are giving away the SarcMark Software. I’m not sure where you get the idea it’s $1.99.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 9, 2010
Comrade quellipsis
March 9, 2010

The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged about.

Comrade Bill Schfitz
March 10, 2010

But you would agree it is now a free download?

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 10, 2010

Sure. For a *limited* time only.

But the price is only a fourth of the problem with the SarcMark as outlined in our manifesto. It still breaks from the historic precedence of the Temherte Slaqî, it still isn’t transmittable in plain text but relies on matching system configurations for all parties and is inaccessible for blind users, and it still is not typographically consistent with other punctuation marks.

Comrade Comrade Required
March 12, 2010

All hail Bob Dobbs; spiritual godfather of Open Sarcasm.

Comrade River Kanoff
March 16, 2010

I agree with the fact that there’s no way in hell we could make everyone’s platform compatible, as SarcMark is third party softwaare. However, the copypasta method seems to be the only way anyone will be able to use it, because the stanard keyboard is not equipped with said function. Moreso the case for mobile devices.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 16, 2010

Comrade River, perhaps you have not seen our instructions on how to use Open Sarcasm.

On a PC, you type alt + 173. On a mac, alt + 1. On an iPhone or an Android (though Android is not yet listed), you hold down the ! key until an option for ¡ pops up.

No copy/paste required. No software required.

Comrade Jhon Baker
March 19, 2010

What BS – does anyone remember the interrobang?
this reminds me of that – why is it so difficult to learn to use the language as it is instead of mindlessly reinventing – or are they trying to be the modern Shakespeare?
Or should I simply say – “Awesome, now why didn’t I think of that.”
Also, The English have this already as well as the ethopians. Engligh is (!), I believe.
this is what happens when you smoke weed and then put condoms over your head for five minute or more in duration.

Comrade Ares
March 23, 2010

No problem in Spanish

This phrase: ¡Oh, no, que miedo!
Look different to: ¡Oh, no, que miedo!¡

It is also more convenient to use:
- Oh, no, que miedo[!]

No confusion, and it can also be used together with exclamation marks.
- ¡Oh, no, que miedo![!]

ie [!] ——> sarcasm

- Easy to remember
- Quick
- Work in all keyboard
- Work in all OS

PS 1: Afaik Karl Marx used this chars to symbolize the sarcasm in writing. Prophetic.
Also use his symbol is poetic, do not you think?

PS 2: This symbol ? (U+2E2E) is the “Irony mark”, but it is hard to do with the keyboard (the best would be quick) and annoying writing (try, and will change the order of writing, for right to left).

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 23, 2010

Thank you for this warning, Comrade Jhon.

Luckily the Revolution is a drug- and self-asphyxiation-free movement.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
March 25, 2010

Comrade Ares, in Spanish sarcasm should be punctuated like “!Que bueno¡” as opposed to “¡Que bueno!” for sincere statements.

Comrade VagabondJim, sarcastic questions are punctuated like this: “How great is that?¡”

Comrade Baxtian
April 16, 2010

In an obscure chapter(!) from the Spanish grammar I found a norm that say we can use sometimes just the closed part of a composed sign (¡! ¿?). It has to be inside parentheses and wherever you need the ironic mark.

I proposed to use the Temherte Slaqî inside parentheses when used in a sentence in spanish.

¡La verdad no te lo puedo creer(¡)!
Eres tan(¡) inteligente.
¿Y es que mi plata no vale o qué(¡)?

Comrade Open Sarcasm
April 18, 2010

If I had to guess, I would say the creator of this stupid movement is in his mid 40′s and still living in his parent’s basement.

Yeah, losers of the world unite in support of the open sarcasm movement.

Say “hi” to your Mom for me jackass.

Comrade Justice_force_alpha
April 22, 2010

About the sarc mark
the font in the linkbelow was released before the sarc mark, it is free and if you look carefully one of the letters is almost identical. It also integrates the percontation point. It is a less serious attempt and the author says it is more for highlighting letters than writing.

BTW I typed 173 and alt in windows but I got a smiley face hmm now a musical note ? ??? hmmmm I can’t get it to work

Comrade OpenSarcasm
April 22, 2010

What version of windows are you using? These have to be used on the numberpad, and windows xp is alt + 0161

Comrade Free sarcasm in free software
May 5, 2010

FYI – In *nix you just hold down [Alt Gr] and press the 1-key (not on the numpad) to get ‘¡’.

As a free software user I must protest to the need to install a program just to use a symbol. And especially a proprietary software at that. Even if they do not charge you for it right now, the software is not free.

Comrade David
May 13, 2010

Why doesn’t this site contain an “About Us” or “Contact Us” like every other legitimate site?

Comrade OpenSarcasm
May 14, 2010

Comrade David! Sorry for the confusion. Our about page is here and our email is jointherevolution AT opensarcasm DOT org.

Comrade David
May 14, 2010

What I was getting at was your company name. You’re accepting donations through PayPal. The IRS is interested in knowing where that money is being recorded. Are you a non-profit 501(c)(3)?

Comrade David
May 18, 2010

Never mind Comrade OpenSarcasm, I took the liberty of calling the IRS myself. You see, there is this thing called the Whistle Blower – Informant Act. It’s in the Internal Revenue Code under IRC Section 7623(b). As it turns out, I can get up to 30% of the taxes and penalties you failed to pay. I’ve done this before and it’s turned out pretty good for me. A word of advice: You may want to gather your records.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
May 18, 2010

Fascinating, Comrade Dave. Will you also pay 30% of the wasted time the IRS spent investigating unreported income of $0?

We are not and do not claim to be a 501c3. It does not say anywhere on our site that donations are tax-deductible, and if people wish to donate of their own volition to support our website hosting fees and compensate our efforts for the crusade they are free to do so with post-tax funds.

If we receive reportable income from the donate button, we will certainly report it. So far, we haven’t received a penny. Have fun chatting with Uncle Sam.

Comrade Michael
May 20, 2010

Comrade OpenSarcasm. First off, I Love the crusade you’ve created. Down with the Sarc Mark!
I read the exchange between you and David. My advice would be to not take this too lightly. I understand that you have not explicitly sited that you are a 501(c)(3) or another form of Non-profit. However, intent is what the IRS looks at, not just stating it. I would like to direct your attention to a Tax Court Case from 2008 (UNITED STATES vs. GLO). The decision revolved around postings on various blogs that drove traffic back to a fake non-profit that ultimately made money on logo merchandise. This is a precedenting case that is almost identical to your situation. Your point about the fact nobody has actually sent in donations is irrelevant. The costs that go into creating a non-profit are substantial. They include application fees, re-application fees, compliance audits, etc… The IRS will be going after those fees and the substantial penalties (well into the thousands) for not setting up the non-profit correctly. Unfortunately, there are people like David out there trying to cash in on the 25% (David misstated it at 30%) for “ratting you out”. I would strongly recommend that you start now going through the process of creating the Non-Profit Entity.

Comrade Bruce
May 20, 2010

What kind of LOSER would run a campaign like this??


Agreed, I think it is probably a 40 year old living in his parents basement.

I’m going to be monitoring this campaign 24/7, I’m going to spend all my waking hours keeping track of you losers.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
May 22, 2010

Thanks for your thoughtful advice, Comrade Michael. We are not a non-profit, we have no intention to become one, and we have no intention to make people think we are a non-profit. We think the picture of a cat covered in $20 bills on our homepage should make it pretty clear to all visitors that we are not a charity. In case there was any confusion, we have also stated this explicitly in our site footer.

Any donations received will be duly reported to the IRS as gifts on our personal returns.

Comrade Feygele Goy
May 30, 2010

Ooh, yeah¡ Super great idea¡ Let’s join the bandwagon¡

Really, though, I think I’ll start trying it out, at least in my personal journals. It’s much more elegant and easy than my normal habit of indicating sarchasm by typing [eyeroll] at the end of a sentence.F

Comrade Feygele Goy
May 30, 2010

…And sorry for the typo up there. I guess my energetic mind and incredible typing speed is faster than my computer can handle¡

Then again, the SarcMark® is SO elegant and integrates PERFECTLY with ALL typefaces¡

Comrade Meh
July 5, 2010

How do you type the weird i? Can someone explain?

Comrade OpenSarcasm
July 5, 2010

Comrade Meh, you can type the Open Sarcasm point by typing option + 1 on a Mac or alt + 173 on a PC.

Comrade RevStoner
July 9, 2010

As an ordained minister I see the evil that has been wrought upon mankind from the simple misunderstanding of the understood sarcastic tone¡ “Understood” by the speaker with all just intent, but the receiver lacking a clue¡ Upon seeing this punctuation and tracing its heritage back to the land of Sheba herself, I was moved to bless this idea because much good shall come of it¡

[BTW - Doing that on a laptop is a pain-in-the-ass. I'm sure it works better on a desktop]

Comrade gabriel
July 26, 2010

there’s this mark that is existing:


Comrade Comrade Cornball
July 26, 2010

Awesome a trademark coup! No, really!

ok, go for the open source back slant type font.

Comrade OpenSarcasm
July 26, 2010

But Comrade Cornball, the back slant font requires custom support on every application and device, just like the SarcMark. The Open Sarcasm point is plain-text and can be used anywhere!

Comrade OpenSarcasm
July 26, 2010

Thanks for your comment, Comrade Gabriel! The Irony Mark is for irony in general, not sarcasm specifically, and it isn’t available in plain-text.

Comrade JB
July 26, 2010

In 1966 Alan Sherman tried to copyright the Note C so that any time anybody played the Note C he would receive a royalty. Steve Allen went him one better by copyrighting the the Whole Note Rest. That way anytime you didn’t play you would have to pay him royalties.

Don’t let the RIAA hear about this or they will try to sue us every time we didn’t download anything.

Comrade igniz
July 26, 2010

Parafraseando a los Simpsons:
Un signo de sarcasmo, que invento tan útil¡

Paraphrasing the Simpsons:
A sarcasm mark, what an useful invention¡

Comrade ary
July 26, 2010

Great idea… really bright one…

Oh, if only I had a punctuation mark to show what I meant…

Comrade PrototypeNM1
July 26, 2010

Excellent idea, I can see this taking off in the near future for sure.

That said, this largely seems like a cop out for writing appropriately. The only type of discussion that benefits from a specific punctuation mark is that of which is brief to begin with, a la Facebook and Twitter posts. Any continuous communication past a couple of sentences render this punctuation unnecessary, as the frame of the sentence gives the reader clues as to the author’s intent.

Additionally, even sarcasm in the short, burst style communication of social websites can be made apparent by appropriate word choice with a touch of redundancy. But maybe it is too much to ask for MySpace users and co. to think about what they’re writing.

Comrade oh
July 26, 2010

I really like the grammar and punctuation Google ads.

Comrade the WiseSayerOfThings
July 27, 2010

i’ve been using the following keystrokes for some time:

>!< as my version of the sarkmark, but i call it the "Garcia", in honor of my friend who thought of it.

Comrade DoNotCowtowToImperialistMorons
July 27, 2010

Since sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, why would one want to mark it? Leave it up to receiver to discern whether or not the sarcasm is intended, and if they can’t figure it out for themselves, more fool them. And if you want to be easy on them, because you suspect they might be a few sandwiches short of a picnic, then try to be even more sarcastic.

There is a reason most languages don’t have a sarcasm mark: they don’t want one. Life is a big IQ test. A sarcasm mark just gives away one of the answers.

On the other hand, maybe we’re all taking this a WHOLE LOT too seriously. Go ahead Sarcasm Inc. See if anyone uses your brilliant upside-down Debian logo. Pure genius. Really.

(I bet nobody with an IQ over 90 pays them the $1.99.)

Comrade Mark
July 27, 2010

You guys are awesome. When I say that, I am talking to the haters in the comment stream, and it really should look like this:

Holy shit, are you guys ever effing awesome¡

Comrade Jheff
July 27, 2010

Hooray for the interrobang! (Now, if only it were in my charset….)

Comrade Maurits Burgers
August 2, 2010

Flemish? I guess you mean Dutch.

Comrade zizzi
August 3, 2010

Featured on dontpaniconline.com!! http://dontpaniconline.com/magazine/politics/sarcmark


Comrade OpenSarcasm
August 3, 2010

Thanks Comrade Zizzi!

Comrade Metroid
August 15, 2010

You can’t change a language (let alone add a new punctuation mark) by rallying people behind your idea (or rather: personal preference). I can’t see how you could achieve anything at all with this.

At least SarcMark is trying to make money on idiots. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Why does it matter if someone doesn’t understand a sarcastic comment? What does that have to do with punctuation? Do yourself a favor and waste your time on games like the rest of us. More fun and stress relieving, imho.

Look, I didn’t use sarcasm. That’s because sarcasm is optional and never necessary.

Comrade David Horne
October 17, 2010

I require marks to show that I am being sarcastic, because I like to cater to our oblivious friends such as Americans¡

Leave a proclamation, comrade.

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