The Register, one of my online hangouts, is a great website concentrating on Tech news, infused with very British humour and some eccentric stories (see Suicide Squirrel In Opera-Hating Kamikaze Bike Spoke Mangle). Because of this combination, El Reg (as it is affectionately known) often receive confused emails from readers who find it hard to differentiate between the serious and the tongue-in-cheek. As for their readers, they say:
This is not to say that they’re thick – just that humour does not always successfully cross international boundaries. Let’s face it, we smarmy and sarky Brits will throw in a bit of ironic drollery at the drop of a hat. And if you don’t get it, well, that’s when unfortunate misunderstandings can occur.
To combat this, they have come up with this ingenious ‘humour tagging’ system when writing online:
- Droll insinuation will be sage green
- Mild sarcasm will be burgundy
- Smarminess will be ultramarine
- Irony will be lavender
- Flippancy will be sunflower orange
- Biting sarcasm will be pillar box red
- Humour liable to cause offence will be in an insipid yellow which you can only read when you highlight it
Let’s hope that this can be adopted by W3C as a standard and we can prevent further sudden sense of humour failures in our online neighbourhoods (usually accompanied by equally sudden surges of self-righteousness).