An Agreeable Procrastination – and the blog of Niels Kühnel

Code, the universe and everything

Unicode’s sad lack of intellectual smileys

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Recently amused by the “WTF”-punctuation mark in Unicode (“Interrobang”, U+203D), a quest for exotic punctuation marks on Google led me to some even cooler ones: Henry Denham’s rhetorical question mark, Marcel Bernhardt’s later use of the same symbol as the Irony Point (a reversed question mark) and Hervé Bazin’s doubt point (clip_image002), certitude point (clip_image004), acclamation point (clip_image006),authority point (clip_image008), indignation point (clip_image010) and love point (clip_image012). Even though the latter are from 1966, they demonstrate that smileys were needed long before teenagers got access to emails :); The rhetorical question mark  is from the 1580s and the Irony Point from the late 19th century. Sadly, none of these great symbols have codepoints in Unicode (maybe to leave room for “Snowman” U+3020 and “Postal mark face” U+2368). As a matter of fact, there is a codepoint for a reversed question mark, but thats not the Irony Point. That’s an “Arabic Question Mark” (U+061F).

As I see it, the punctuation marks could have made the world a better place in at least two important ways:

  1. Intellectuals would have had smileys they could use without demeaning themselves (the originators of the marks mentioned were an outstanding English printer and two French poets)
  2. Lojban would probably never have been invented (a ghastly artificial language with constructs to signify, among other things, sarcasm and irony)

So, Unicode Consortium, what were you guys thinkingWTF?.

There is one good thing about the lacking Unicode codepoints, though… This in-joke for a t-shirt:


I’ll get mine as soon as possibleclip_image004[1]


Written by niels.kuhnel

August 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Typography

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