The other day I saw a sign that said: if sarcasm had a font, what would it look like? That got me wondering. If irony had a font, what would that look like, and would it be invisible to televangelists and politicians?
Actually, I quite like the idea of having different fonts for different emotions. It’d be particularly useful for novels. Each genre could have its own—a font that raced ahead in an almost straight line for thrillers, and a weepy, throbbing kind of font for romance novels. Gothic novels could have… well, never mind. Someone’s already invented gothic font, not that the publishers of gothic novels seem to have noticed. Political tracts could have text that leaned heavily to the left or right.
Certainly emotional fonts—shall we call them emotifonts?—would save a lot of time. Instead of writing, “ Well,” he said, raising an eyebrow suggestively, or “Well,” he said, raising an eyebrow disapprovingly, you would just use the suggestive or disapproving font as you deemed appropriate. Then we could finally do away with adverbs altogether in written dialogue, which would make it far more readable (you might want to imagine that last sentence in didactic font). I suppose if you wanted to write something like: He raised his eyebrow archly, you’d use an arch font. And if he raised his eyebrow archly in support of a proposal, you’d use an arch support font. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.) But you can see where this is leading: there’d be as many fonts as there are emotions. A million emotional fonts, all competing for attention. Much like group therapy, but less annoying.
Still it might be worth it, just for the way it would improve the cinema. Studios could insert emotifont subtitles into films where the actors are former fashion models or reality stars, just so we could tell what the emotional subtext was supposed to be. And think of the improvement to subtitles. To my ear, some languages just sound angry. Two characters meet, have an exchange, and I expect immediate bloodshed. Then I look at the subtitles, which read: “Natsumi is my wife.”, and I’m no further ahead. Is that a simple declarative statement, the emotional equivalent of “My dog’s name is Fido.”, or is it the prelude to a bout of jealous, homicidal rage? I simply can’t tell. Emotifonts would solve that problem. And I can just imagine the advertising copy on the director’s cut DVD: Here, for the first time, you can finally see the emotifonts as the director intended you to see them!
Emotifonts, the best idea I’ve had in years! Now if I can only invent one for books destined for the New York Times bestseller list.
Gordon W. Dale is the author of Fool’s Republic (North Atlantic Books), which was awarded Honorable Mention by the 2011 San Francisco Book Festival.