Definition of SARCASM from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:
1. a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2. a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual
Origin of SARCASM:
From the Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh
I recently read a pretty disturbing article written for a small newspaper that was posted on its website and quickly removed by the editor. Some have opined that the inflammatory article was posted for page hits, and page hits it did get. I’m not linking to it or naming the paper because I’m not into helping that paper get more page hits, and the article has been taken down anyway. But the editor’s apology note was qualified with the statement that the author’s attempt at sarcasm missed the mark. Having had some experience with sarcasm, it got me thinking. Sometimes when I think, I write. Sometimes when I write, I share. (Although I share very rarely here these days. Sorry, yo.)
Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.
Saying Dostoyevsky was talented with words is an understatement, to be sure. That said, I don’t think he’s quite right (although in Googling for a quote on sarcasm to help make my point about pain, perhaps the quote I found on a quote-y website is taken out of some greater context that I have not tracked further). Dostoyevsky is saying that sarcasm comes from a place of deep pain, and I think that much is on the money. But I don’t think sarcasm has to be the last refuge of decent folk. And we are all decent folk, or we each have at least a seed of decency inside of us. Do we really need to hurt others so that we feel better, however subconsciously some of us may do so? If so, then sarcasm makes us the emotional equivalent of a schoolyard bully.
Sarcasm is a form of communication that heavily relies on vocal intonation and context in order that it has a humorous, satirical, or ironic effect on the listener. Humor, satire, and irony may incorporate sarcasm, but the message’s receiver would have to be in on the joke AND think it is funny AND not feel hurt (or feel the anger that “covers up” hurt). Sarcastic “humor” is the velvet glove that covers the iron fist of rudeness and hostility when there isn’t that shared understanding between the speaker and listener. Absent BOTH sides SHARING the laugh, sarcastic remarks are better classified under the heading of “unfunny, mean-spirited, denigration, or even (as we have all seen) drunken, ignorant” remarks.
Now before you think I’m gettin’ all judge-y about others’ use of sarcasm, it may shock you to find out that I am just self-aware enough (from spending a vast fortune on therapy, and countless hours studying and TRYING to practice spiritual principles) to know that I have misguidedly used sarcasm as a “humorous” means by which to deflect my pain. It didn’t work. I still had pain. Then I caused more pain. And the cycle of pain continued until said fortune spent on therapy and countless hours studying and TRYING to practice spiritual principles caused me to at least become aware of it, and I would like to think much better at not doing it, too.
If sarcastic remarks are to be a favored tool by some, perhaps it would be best to confine such remarks to private conversations with other mean people. Better still would be to lose the sarcasm and feel the pain. It won’t kill you. Warning: It might make you eat cupcakes. Hey, I’m a work in progress.