Monday, October 4, 2010

Does Sarcasm have a bad rep?

           Follie's Anatomie, or, Satyres and Satyricall Epigrams: "Muse, shew the rigour of a satyres art, In harsh sarcasmes, dissonant and smart…"   We can note here in the English Satirist Henry Hutton's use of  'sarcasmes' [sic] that it has this negative connotation, even then in 1615 A.D.

             From a sociological point of view, sarcasm is constantly misrepresented as negative, when in fact it need not be.  Some sarcasm is not negative at all, and is quite positive.  If humor has healing and restorative powers, why has sarcasm been given such a rep?  I think it may be that it bites and saws away at the listener/reader.  Here is an expert from an anthropologist, herself quoting a study of human history:

        "The corporate chairman throws out a sarcastic remark and those who "get" it laugh, smile,      and gain favor. In the same way, if the chair never makes a remark, sarcastic people are making them behind his or her back, forming a clique by their mutually negative, but funny, comments. Either way, sarcasm plays a role in making and breaking alliances and friendship"  Meredith Small, Anthropologist, Cornell University

       I of course, beg to differ with the esteemed Ms. Small, in that sarcasm is not so negative if in fact it makes people pause and ponder.   I like to say "Sarcasm makes people think - twice - or three times"   which is the whole point, isn't it?  Just last night a twerson remarked to Sam:  "I often get a joke 2 or 3 days later, and it makes me laugh"  thus is the spiritual force behind sarcasm.  It can pay off days sometimes years later, and restore one's soul with laughter. Of course if the joke is ever gotten at all. 

       So sarcasm for a screenwriter, author, blogger, comedienne, or entertainer is absolutely essential.  Without sarcasm, there can be no twisted warped political satire, our entire society would break down.  If Jon Stewart is the most respected news source for college kids worldwide, where would this generation be without his biting sarcasm and irony?  Don't let people's misunderstanding of the term itself stop you from using sarcasm.  Learn to separate it's reputation from it's effect upon your characters and development.  Experienced satirists and writers never actually use the word.  We don't say: "I was being sarcastic"  we are just sarcastic. 

        Now, one lone ferret crying in the wilderness that sarcasm has a bad rep will not change the world, or layperson's misappropriation of the word.  "Are you being sarcastic?" will not go away because Sarcastic Sam preaches a new day dawning.  But maybe, just maybe, we can all learn that sarcastic expressions are absolutely essential to humor as laughter itself.

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  1. Sam, don't hit me over the head with a pop tart this early in the morning unless you think it might knock me out good and well enough to go back to bed and sleep for a few more hours....this translates out as 'it's still too early and too Monday for my brain to fully comprehend' you can see this doesn't stop my typing fingers from engaging in reply.
    * * *
    Sarcasm does play a good role in society. However often 'sarcasm' does not always translate well to the written word and can incite verbal word wars betwixt and between folks as it is misunderstood. (this is a portion of the bad rep of sarcasm.)
    * * *
    My regular football board has a little 'sarcasm alert' sign graphic which I fully appreciate and utilize..... your blog is Sarcastic Sam which alerts me to read with that in mind. It also helps me to 'get it' a wee better.

  2. (Nods) Sarcasm is essential. And no, I'm not being sarcastic momentarily. ;)

  3. Sarcasm works best where to openly disagree is seen as being outside the club where as a sarcastic remark might be taken in two ways.