In the early eighties of the last century we lived in a house near the German border where we could watch TV channels from both Netherlands and Germany. Well, you know our neighbors where not worldfamous for their sense of humor then. Most of them were very serious, which was shown by the following ‘incident’. We where wathing a very funny German political cabaret program, when suddenly a banner was running on the centre of the screen, reading “ACHTUNG SATIRE !!”. The German officials obviously thought that they had to warn te public that the Sendung was humor, to prevent unrest, general unhappiness and damage to the brains of the population. As if the people are not able to perceive themselves the difference between kinds of broadcasts and can judge themselves what they think of it. And as if the rest of the broadcasts judged te be fit for public consumption, are not full of nonsense, lies and crap?!
This arrogant concern for the consumers is not dead in the world, and in some cases they can have a point that selfjudgement can fail. Communication between people is not flawless since sender and receiving party have to share a lot of context, background and culture, to understand eachother well. And in some cases of Social Media the channels of communication are so narrow that the extra hints which determine the message meaning are lacking. For instance on Twitter you can not see the facial expression of somebody expressing an ironic remark or hear from the tone of voice that it is meant as a joke. No, ‘smilies’ that might have clarified the intent, are often forgotten and are so diverse that they also can lead to misunderstandings. The gravest examples of such miscommunications are from messages on Twitter or Facebook that resulted in raids of Police SWAT teams and shootings.
My proposal to prevent such disasters is to include in TEXT messages like in Email, Twitter, Facebook etc. clear start: (i and stop: !) brackets of the part of text that is meant to be understood with IRONY like in the following example:
(i That guy Sanatorium, is he realy trying to run for President?? !)
This can save us all a lot of misunderstandings and confusion. Yes seriously.
PS august 28 2012: On Twitter somebody suggested the IronySign ( NL: ironieteken ) should be as follows :-)P As if you stick out your tongue after the ironic sentence.
PS2 febr 2013: the NL newspaper NRCnext introduced a sign for SARCASM, which has overlap with IRONIC but is not the same: they started a sentence with a § (paragraph sign.