This week: Sarcasm Edited by: Robert Waltz
More Newsletters By This Editor
1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions
|Sarcasm is like cheap wine - it leaves a terrible aftertaste.|
The subconscious doesn't distinguish sarcasm and jokes. It just accepts what it hears. That's the power of words.
Sarcasm is lost in print.
|Is sarcasm comedy?|
I suppose it depends on your point of view.
I've often said that the only funny pranks are the ones played on someone other than me. Which doesn't mean that all pranks played on other people are funny, just that it's a necessary condition.
So it is with sarcasm.
Consider this: Ann says, "a kangaroo can jump at speeds up to 80 mph."
Bill replies (in what's generally recognized as a sarcastic tone), "Oh, so you're an expert on marsupials."
Mildly amusing... if you're not Ann, who might end up getting defensive (and then angry when she's shown to be wrong; it's about half that).
A good working definition of sarcasm is when a person's words mean the opposite of what they say on the surface. Like when you say "thanks a lot" when someone has wronged you, or "sure they are," when they're clearly not.
Sarcasm is a rhetorical weapon, and just as when we see weapons used for desirable ends—to destroy zombies, for example—the use of sarcasm on someone who deserves it (who is not me) can elicit satisfaction, possibly including laughter.
There's an old joke floating around that goes something like this:
An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn't a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
While technically incorrect—a double negative in English is usually an intensifier (as in "there ain't no word for that" meaning "there is no word for that," only with greater emphasis)—the joke is still kind of funny. One should never let facts get in the way of a good joke. Or a bad one. Especially a bad one.
But it's funny at least partly because, and I'm going to ruin the joke here by explaining it, it gets one over on a supposed expert in the field. The professor is taken down a notch. Great for the rest of us slobs; not so much fun for the professor.
As with physical weapons, it's sometimes possible to dodge or deflect the bite of sarcasm. I find one method that's usually effective is to pretend you didn't pick up on the sarcasm.
Which leads me to the old argument that sarcasm is not always detectable in printed communication, such as online. I'm not so sure this is really the case. Much depends on context, and, as writers, we need to be able to provide said context when using sarcasm.
It's been said that there is great need for a sarcasm font. I'm not so sure about that, either, but if you do find yourself in a situation where your words need to be clearly marked as sarcasm, I suggest using Comic Sans.
It's not like it's good for much else except annoying the hell out of font nerds.
|Some comedy for your amusement:|
Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!
Don't forget to support our sponsor!
|My last issue, "Comedy of the Past" , garnered no comments. How wonderful.|
(In case it's not clear, that was an example of sarcasm.)
So that's it for me for now—see you next month! Until then,
To stop receiving this newsletter, click here for your newsletter subscription list. Simply uncheck the box next to any newsletter(s) you wish to cancel and then click to "Submit Changes". You can edit your subscriptions at any time.