Sarcasm

Sarcasm

[sahr-kaz-uhm]
Sarcasm is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or mock a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony intended to insult or wound. Sarcasm can also be used in a humorous or jesting way depending on the intent of the person speaking.

Usage of sarcasm

Sarcasm is often used as a form of humor and of emotional expression. For example, instead of (or in addition to) becoming angry and yelling while in a conflict, one might choose to use sarcasm as an alternative.

Highlighting sarcasm in written form

Sarcasm can be difficult to grasp in written form. To prevent this some people emphasise (often overly) the sarcastic comment. (e.g. that’s just craptastic!); sarcastic comments on the Internet with an emoticon, such as ^o); or surround them with a made-up language tag, e.g. *sarcasm*,[sarcasm][/sarcasm], <sarcasm> or <snicker>.

In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm is indicated with a sarcasm mark, a character that looks like a backwards question mark at the end of a sentence, similar to Alcanter de Brahm's proposed irony mark (؟).

Tactics

Exaggeration

1st Person "Shut up, will you?"

2nd Person "Oh, I'm sorry, Your Highness, should I go get you your cookies and tea now?"

In this case it is implied that the first person was treating the second like a servant. Instead of directly pointing this out, however, the second person plays the part, so to speak, in the situation created by the first person.

This is normally used where the two people in question do not see eye to eye. Therefore the second person does not like the tone and phrasing of the first person's remark. Thus, the second person uses sarcasm to make fun of the first person to amuse themselves, and any possible bystanders who share the same feeling towards person one.

"If you're going to be like that, I can play that part too."

Inversion of truth

"Do you think the ground is wet?"
"No, the ground is completely dry."

What the second person said implied that the first was asking a stupid question with an obvious answer.

"What do you think?!"

Another Example:

Person 1: We play Outdoor Games outside.
Person 2: Wow, really? No way. That's amazing. Is it always like that?

Inversion of meaning

"Oh, Great."

The implication is that the meaning of what is said is the reverse of its actual meaning. In this case, "Oh, great" would normally mean a favourable circumstance, however in this case the speaker says it to mean a situation that is not favourable.

"I've just realized that my purse is missing. Excellent."

Reductio ad absurdum

More on Reductio ad absurdum

"No, you don't NEED it, and that's final!"
"We don't actually NEED anything except for food, air and water, so why don't we all go live in caves and spear large animals for food every day?"

The first person's argument was that the second person should not get something he/she didn't actually need. The second person carried this argument to its logical but absurd conclusion and presented it as a serious suggestion, implying that this is what the first person is trying to suggest.

This can be seen as being flippant, depending on the situation.

"Your argument has far-reaching consequences and implications which you have not considered."

The obvious alternative

"Shut up!"
"I wasn't saying anything!"
"Yeah, I was hallucinating."

The first person felt that the second person had been talking, while the second person disagreed. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that the first person was wrong - yet the first person did experience the second person talking, so the obvious way out is that he was hallucinating. However, because of the sarcasm used by the first person, they imply that they still believe that the second person was actually talking but they do not wish to argue the matter.

"That's what you're trying to say?"

"They're seriously considering raising the driving age to 18."
"Oh you mean like how they were seriously considering doing that 2 years ago?"

Past experience

"I'm an expert at this sort of thing!"
"Yes. Like you expertly drove into the wall last time you did that."

This case imagines that two people are driving. The first person is claiming that they are very good or skilled in the task, whereas the second person is doubting the first's ability. Therefore the second person uses a reference from a past experience to validate their point.

This sarcasm is mainly used between people who know each other personally. However if the mistake or blunder a person did is very famous then that may be used in the sarcasm, even when the two people do not know each other personally.

"Knowing what you're like, I would rather do it myself."

Notes

"Sarcasm" appeared in English in 1579, from Late Latin "sarcasmos," in turn from Hellenistic or Medieval Greek "sarkasmos," and ancient Greek σαρκάζω (sarkazo, meaning 'to tear flesh'). (In ancient Greek the word for this idea was instead χλευασμός). Irony is closely associated with sarcasm, although Socrates, considered the father of dissembling irony, was not sarcastic. Sarcasm is frequently referred to as the "lowest form of wit" (a partial mis-quote from Oscar Wilde, the quote in its entirety being "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence").

Citations

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