I'm reading yet another proposal for a specialized markup language (this one for scientific results, so that they can be shared and searched semantically), and it occurred to me that markup is actually a very old idea. Look at the markup I've already used in this blog post: two apostrophes, to show shortcuts ("I'm" and "I've"), parentheses to delimit more detailed explanations, and the '.' character normally used to separate fields in IP addresses to show the ends of sentences.
The markup language for Standard English has evolved much more slowly than the language's vocabulary and grammar, but there's hope. While we'll probably never see the irony mark on a regular computer keyboard, emoticons have become part of everyday life. They go back at least as far as the PLATO project (my thanks to Jon Udell for the pointer), and are now part of everyday life. I may not be able to put them in my code yet, but surely that can't be far off. Smiley-face as an HTML 6 tag? Vote now!