Would you like to know whether you have the capacity to perceive and express irony?

Look at the symbol below:

If it appears like a reversed question mark:


…then congratulations, you’re all set for irony.

If it looks like anything else–a blank space, a normal question mark (?), or anything in a box:


…then I’m sorry, no irony for you!

[Confused?  Scroll down for an explanation.]

What this test actually indicates is whether your browser is properly rendering the irony mark, also known as the reversed question mark, Unicode character U+2E2E.

The first example is the actual character for your browser to render, the second example is a screenshot of how it should look, and the third example is a screenshot of how it might look if your browser can’t render it.

Of course, the challenge of communicating ironic sentiments is that not everyone perceives them the same way.  You might not “see” the irony that I see in something, just as I might not see the irony you see.  The irony mark attempts to solve that, by signaling to a reader to look out, “there’s irony here.”

Isn’t it fitting that the irony mark itself--the symbol that aims to disambiguate ironic communication–is invisible to some readers?  Try to use the irony mark in an online forum, and you have no way of knowing whether the people “on the other end” will see the backwards question mark that you see, or a rectangle, or a blank.  I leave it to you to contemplate the irony of that…

So far, my experience has been that Mac users are more likely to perceive irony than Windows users.  If you’ve taken this test, please leave a comment with your platform details (operating system and browser versions) letting me know whether or not you perceive irony.  Thank you very much! ■

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