You might have heard of the thread on Mumsnet that went viral yesterday - it got into the Telegraph and the Mirror as well as buzzfeed and a whole bunch of people's Facebook pages.
It began after someone asked a question relating to a... well, quirk really, of their... let's call it 'post-coital cleanup' routine that had all the other posters on Mumsnet (and later the 'entire internet') fascinated, amazed and amused.
I read some of it on the train home last night and giggled so much the man sitting next to me got up and moved to another seat. It is spectacular and hilarious and possibly not quite safe for work so I shan't link to it but I'm sure searching for Mumsnet and beaker will bring it up instantly!
There are several hundred posts in the thread, stretching over about 30 pages (last time I checked was this morning) and while reading I noticed the the high number of consistently amusing 'asides' using strikethrough text. Possibly I'm the only person who made that observation on reading that thread ;) Some of the faux-deleted asides made me laugh more than anything else written and they're typically along the lines of saying one thing and meaning another.
That #mumsnet thread is hilarious. Very fine use of strikethrough text - is there a term for that? Was it ever used to same effect in print?
— Jo Brodie (@JoBrodie) October 10, 2013
It occurred to me that strikethrough is well-used in blogs where an author writes something, someone corrects them in the comments and then the author amends their post but keeps the original error so that the comment still makes sense, and for transparency and letting people track changes. This is done a LOT by science and skeptic bloggers and is generally appreciated by the community.
Cancer Research UK wrote a great blog post two years ago highlighting a particularly controversial clinic in Texas (the Burzynski clinic) that was (I'm not sure if it still is or has now been shut down) charging patients hundreds of thousands of dollars for an unproven cancer treatment. One of the family members of a patient complained about it and CRUK agreed to amend their blog but they did so by striking through the controversial text so it was still visible, and showing the 'approved' text agreed with the family member. I thought this was rather clever - you could see exactly what the family member had objected to and the much softer terms that had been agreed. It was an extremely effective technique, a tiny bit snarky perhaps (not in a bad way) and still fair to all sides.
So I've seen it used a lot online, also in more jokey ways when someone pretends they can't spell a word, crosses it out a few times and then uses one that's simpler to spell ("Yours
Those are also the only times I've seen it used in printed items (comical) but I'm not aware of having seen it used snarkily in print, or that widely in print either.
How / where (eg what journals / blogs) can I find out more, such as:
- Is there a name for the use of strikethrough text in sarcasm / snark / humour - it's often a witty aside but a particular way of using text. @4tis pointed out an online example of using ^H (caret H) in usenet discussions to denote 'backspace delete' which achieved the same effect, more at Wikipedia. EDIT - there *is* a name for this sort of thing, it's epanorthosis (Wikipedia / Silva Rhetoricae)
- When did people start using it? I daresay in a world of print-only it might not exist as that would involve someone having to create a set of letters with a strikethrough mark through them, probably expensive for limited use, or perhaps I'm wrong
- Has anyone studied its use as a tool of mostly good-humoured snark in online communities? I got the impression the people using it on Mumsnet were both smart and technically savvy and clearly using it deliberately (I mean obviously if you just changed your mind you'd simply delete the text! So this is a deliberate form of textual and sub-textual communication). A friend of mine has done some linguistic analysis of online communities so will certainly ask them too!
Also, if no-one's researching this can I found the journal
Also, also, there's a really obvious joke that I'm not making either ;)