Obscure Punctuation #1

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On the Snark

I think that it is only fitting to start this blog off with the punctuation mark that compelled me to start the blog: the snark or snark mark. This is a form of punctuation used to denote the irony or sarcasm within a sentence. It was first proposed by French poet Alcanter de Brahm in the 19th century. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have caught on, being that many writers would argue that if the irony or sarcasm in a sentence cannot be detected, then adding a mark isn’t going to make the situation any better. Furthermore, it’s seen as an insult to the reader: “Just in case you didn’t get it the first time, I’m going to make as obvious as possible.” The point of sarcasm is to send a cold stab at someone or something. It’s the brain child of a quick wit and some malice, to add a mark to denote its existence takes away from its subversive form. Similarly, if the snark is used to denote irony, again, it takes away from the power in making something ironic.

However, the snark is something that I think should sneak its way into the ever-changing and evolving set of English colloquialisms. The only reason I argue this is because it seems that, often times in the cyber world, there are amateurs who do not grasp sarcasm and require the use of snark, which will in turn result in being trolled as viciously as they would with or without the presence of snark. But in the presence of snark, they will probably learn a lesson on how sarcasm or irony work in the written world. . . or at least they will be compelled to educate themselves to avoid further trolling. A snark might also be very useful in the context of forming new relationships with people: dating, making friends and — in some rare instances — speaking with employees and bosses.

Why would somebody play with sarcasm when making new friends, unless of course they want to repel them? Well, often times people don’t intend this; they play at sarcastic remarks to appear witty or funny. In that instance they are being facetious, not sarcastic— still withholding to a certain level of deception that may be perceived as hostility or offensive if read incorrectly. Being that facetiousness is sarcasm’s friendly, not-so-intrusive cousin, the snark would be used in such a situation to help an individual through that rocky, uncomfortable time.

Personally, when my sarcastic or facetious remarks get me into an argument, I usually pick up the phone and cut off cyber communications with that individual. But alas, the world is never that simple. Sometimes the damage is irreparable and most times my darling peers are too crippled with their addiction to written communication that they will not ever pick up the phone. Unless the call is made repeatedly and that’s bad for karma, so I better have a damn good reason to call-spam those treasured few I’m close enough to to risk such poor behavior.

I think an example is necessary at this point.


It’s a sunny day outside, the birds are chirping mindlessly away and the sun blares brightly into Celeste’s room. She went to bed at 2am and now with the sun she inevitably rises, as per usual. However unfortunate it is, she hasn’t found a cure yet for this ailment. Just as she’s starting to loll back to sleep after hours of miserably rereading Silas Marner one more wretched time, there is a loud, abrasive sound. The ringing of a bicycle bell jolts Celeste from her enthusiastic involvement in the third page of descriptions about some gold objection she has already forgotten. It is a text message.

“Good morning! How are you?!?!?!” The message reads. It’s from a contact named PandaMan, a recently acquired pledge sibling. This would have been cute, perhaps creepy if she had received it much later, but instead it was simply annoying since she had forgotten to silence her phone since 5:32am when she first awoke. She is already awake and will forget to text him later if she does not respond now and that will be require more energy later, so she painstakingly responds: “I am just wonderful.”

This is obviously not a serious statement, it is unavoidably sarcastic. And given that the sentence ended in a period, not an exclamation mark, that should have been enough to tip PandaMan off. However, he is clueless and does not know the force of Celeste’s character and will therefore not understand the context of this situation.

A snark mark would be unnecessary for literary standards, but in real life this for the sake of avoiding excessive awkwardness in the beginnings of this strange relationship it may make life easier.

— Deirdre McCormick, Poetry Editor

Editor’s Note: Deirdre McCormick is a third year Biology Major with a minor in Creative Writing.  She is deeply passionate for both topics and that is evident in much of her writing endeavors.  She was also recently published in Lewis University’s own Windows magazine.

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