Would You Even Recognize Sarcasm?Most people think they know what sarcasm is and could recognize it if they heard it.

Most people would be wrong.

Sarcasm is one of those areas of human behavior which has historically been …

68 Comments to
Would You Even Recognize Sarcasm?

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  1. “Nobody should be encouraged to use sarcasm…”

    I’ll get right on that.

  2. “Meaning the opposite of what you said” is not the same as “meaning something other than what you said.”

    The former seems to fit sarcasm pretty well, as sarcasm is, by definition, intentional, whereas irony can be circumstantial or unintentional. In fact, a speaker could be completely oblivious to the irony of their own speech!

  3. I guess I should be happy that I did not do wrong, but I am not, because I think good comments by people are also sometimes deserving of an acknowledgment not just bad ones. (and this is not about myself)

  4. All this article tells me is that there are at least two psychiatrists out there who don’t know what “sarcasm” is, and couldn’t be bothered to look it up in a dictionary. (I checked four. All flatly contradicted the assertions made in this piece.)

  5. The researchers used the correct definition of sarcasm in their research study. In my commentary on the researchers’ work, I intended to simplify the definition and did so unintentionally to the point of describing irony, not sarcasm.

    The piece has been updated to reflect the proper definition of sarcasm. Thank you for those who pointed this out! :)

  6. So, does this mean that I am always trying to ‘demean’ another’s opinion when I respond with a sarcastic comment? Gee, I hope not! Cannot the sarcastic comment be directed toward the opinion rather than the person? Of course it can, but only if the person who(m?) I am addressing can understand that (irrespective of whether the original opinion was a true and valid point).

    I kinda think we have proved the validity of this argument/article very well, don’t you think?
    :)

  7. SuperfluousBeing wrote:
    “…Cannot the sarcastic comment be directed toward the opinion rather than the person?..”

    Absolutely, but this is a distinction that is not always acknowledged, either by the person directing the comment, or by the person receiving it. In other words, one’s opinions/beliefs and one’s whole self are quite often seen as synonymous (one never knows how fundamental the belief being criticized may be to a person). Also, one never knows what a person’s triggers are – a tiny critique of a person’s preference in music, for example, may take a person back to any number of dark recollections.

    I think if one is going to criticize another’s opinion, one has to be clear that one is also only stating an opinion. After all, facts are boring – they end discussions!

    Matt

  8. Very true, Matt. I, myself, do not always acknowledge the distinction and find myself feeling stung at times.

    As for facts? Please…they just open the door wider for more discussion, nes pas? And they sure do get in the way sometimes!!!!
    :)

  9. Sorry, your revised definition (“Sarcasm is simply saying something intended in a mean-spirited, derogatory or unpleasant manner while meaning the exact opposite.”) is still wrong. It’s better in that you’ve added the “mean-spiriting, derogatory or unpleasant” bit, but there is actually no requirement that a sarcastic remark mean “the exact opposite.”

    Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (2004) defines sarcasm as “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” A usage note contrasts “sarcastic, satiric, ironic, sardonic.” which can overlap, but don’t have to. Note that while sarcasm often does involve irony, it’s not an essential component; the defining feature is that “SARCASTIC implies an intentional inflicting of pain by deriding, taunting, or ridiculing.”

    Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th edition (2004), defines sarcasm as “a taunting, sneering, cutting, or caustic remark; gibe or jeer, generally ironic.” It too has a usage note contrasting similar terms, saying that “sarcastic implies intent to hurt by taunting with mocking ridicule, veiled sneers, etc. [a sarcastic reminder that work begins at 9:00 A.M.]”

    I need hardly point out that the above example of sarcasm given by the dictionary would not have been considered sarcasm by this study, need I?

    See also: American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition; Random House Webster’s Dictionary, 2nd edition. Sarcasm can involve saying something that means the opposite of what you mean. It often does. But it is by no means a requirement.

    (To get back to an example cited in this article, while it might depend on the delivery, I’d say “My grandmother can run faster than that” certainly qualifies. [Heck, while not required, it probably even involves an assertion contrary to fact.])

  10. Thanks, Shmuel, for the elaborate explanation and distinction. I guess I stand corrected, as I never use ‘this stuff’ to hurt but at best to tease. (at least not to someone’s face)

  11. Wow, this stuff really messes with the… the mind!!

    This is why I LOVE dictionaries!

  12. I guess it all depends on how deep you feel the dig!

  13. If I’m just tickling you, am I being cruel?

  14. This has been a nice discussion, especially the last several comments.
    I like the exchange in the commenting section. Also, I just for the first time really understood what AG meant with the words that follow. It’s a profound comment, AG!! Great!

    “Meaning the opposite of what you said” is not the same as “meaning something other than what you said.”

    KATRIN

  15. SuperfluousBeing wrote:
    “…As for facts? Please…they just open the door wider for more discussion, nes pas? And they sure do get in the way sometimes!!!!”

    Well, OK… I guess it depends upon how they’re used. One may use facts to negate another person’s argument, in the way that politicians do. But, and I LOVE this book, if you’ve ever read Plato’s “Republic” you’ll have found a masterclass in dialectic, where a fact is stated, which leads one in a certain direction, but then a counterproposition, deemed as True as the first fact stated, negates the direction that was first indicated, and leads in another direction, instead (as we’ve done here: I said facts were boring, you countered – proposition and counterproposition, leading towards a point of agreement). I don’t know how good the translation is that I have, but if it’s even close, then the guy was a thinker to rival anybody who has come after.

    So, yeah, facts are all very well, and one may defend a position with them, or seek the Truth with them, to be best of one’s abilities. Like anything: facts are neutral, and may be put to any number of purposes, dependent upon the objective of the user.

    Matt

  16. Well put, Matt.

  17. Thanks – I’ve a certain talent with language that people find scary sometimes, I gather! I’ve had to put up with a lot of controlling behaviour, as a consequence (including being buried alive in a box, as child, would you believe?!). I find people strange, needless to say!

    Matt

  18. What we need is some type of sarcasm detector

  19. what I can’t stand is people who think they’re professionals on sarcasm when in reality half of the comments that come out of their mouth are just them being assholes. It’s not sarcastic if you’re laughing AT the person you just tried the joke on and they’re standing there staring at you like “wtf just happened?”. They need to be able to laugh at the joke too. If you can’t manage this then you have not succeeded in sarcasm. It’s supposed to be lighthearted and fun. Not some kind of I’m superior because I know what I’m joking about and you’re clueless. You can make them feel stupid, but at least include them in on the laugh.

  20. I was recently told by my boss that she believes I am often sarcastic. Sadly, I am like one of those people in the study that does not understand sarcasm (and cannot determine whether what I say is actually sarcasm). I am aware that I regularly check with my boss (interrupt “excuse me, did you mean . . . ” ) if she makes contradictory/inconsistent statements. English is not her first language. I have no intention to do her harm but I am often very frustrated. Any help? Can you send me to a website or book for some guidance please? I don’t want to lose my job. HR is of no help.

  21. Dr. T has described the horrid ways in which sarcasm affects both the sender ad reciever of it in a most eleoquent and respectful to the subject fashion.
    having learned at a very early age that i was not mentally competent to finish doing eigth grade sums i had until at age 45 learned to read that the life i had lived was not reflective of the 160 wexler scaled I.Q. which i was at the aged assessed as having.
    i find it difficult to understand the inability ? reluctance ? or more likely that regular users of ” put down ” communication styles are afraid of themselves not being considered as equals to those that form thier spheres of influence and or spheres of ignorance.
    this article was a early birthday present for me, thank you for presenting it. john la berge

  22. This article confuses sarcasm with verbal irony. Sarcasm often employs verbal irony, but it is certainly not limited to it.

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