Liam O’Dell: Sarcasm in text messages: Could subtitles hold the answer?

Posted on July 9, 2017



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The misinterpreted text message: we’ve all been there. With the tone of somebody’s voice being hard to understand in text form, we’ve all thought a compliment was sarcastic by accident, or had one of our jokes misinterpreted all because we didn’t include a ‘winking face’ emoticon.

Thankfully, the invention of the annoying yellow faces – or ‘emojis’ – have helped provide some clarity to that sarcastic text we send our best friend.

However, with subtitles having to translate tones and expressions into the written word, could they help develop our text talk in the future?

Of course, the use of italics often do a good job of showing where there’s sarcasm or emphasis in works of fiction. There’s also been talk of a font (which looks like the reverse of italics) and the ‘sarkmark’ punctuation mark doing the job for us.

Yet, with these being unavailable on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s time we use techniques used in subtitles as an alternative. Is it *this*, this (!) or THIS? Either way, there’s no need to shout!

For those in the deaf community who know sign language, we can all name one occasion when a hearing person is keen to learn swearwords so they can sign expletives at their friends.

However, there’s an even better form of British humour which the deafies can show people: sarcasm. Now is the time to introduce the (!) to the world of communication.

After all, if there’s one thing we know about new words and trends which are introduced to the English language, it’s that they become a thing if enough people use them.

In other words, if the deaf community wants to be responsible for the creation of the sarcastic punctuation mark, it’s time for us to be a bit sassier when talking to our friends.

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