I came across the Twitter feed of a new, UK-based design agency recently, and I couldn’t let them go by without a mention: Interabang founders Adam Giles and Ian McLean have chosen a name close to my heart. I was able to chat with Adam over email about their reasoning, and he was good enough to let me post his words here:
Ironics notwithstanding, the irony mark lay dormant for much of the latter part of the 20th century. As had been the case with many other previously obscure marks of punctuation, however, the click-to-publish ease of the web well and truly resusitated its fortunes: more new irony marks appeared in the decade from 2001 to 2010 than in any period before.
The irony marks proposed by John Wilkins, Alcanter de Brahm and Hervé Bazin proved stubbornly resistant to putting down roots, and Bazin’s 1966 point d’ironie would be the last to be publicly promoted for some decades. Before the Internet reinvigorated their cause, though, the hunt for a foolproof method of conveying verbal irony took an abrupt detour: if a self-contained irony mark was not enough, perhaps an entire alphabet was the answer. And whereas the concept of an irony mark had exerted a strange pull on a select few French writers, the idea of signalling verbal irony with a different typeface altogether was instead the preserve of English-language journalists.
If the multiplicity of irony marks created over the centuries suggests anything, it is that irony must be peculiarly tricky to communicate in writing. And if the subsequent failure of each and every one of those marks to gain anything approaching mainstream acceptance is anything to go by, it is unlikely to get any easier.