Sarcasm

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Image from a magazine, called Punch, of 1841. It tries to show the poor state of work houses.

Sarcasm is a figure of speech or speech comment which is extremely difficult to define.[1] It is a statement or comment which means the opposite of what it says. It may be made with the intent of humour, or it may be made to be hurtful.

The basic meaning is to be hostile under the cover of friendliness. The word's origin is Greek, sarcasmus, see sarchasaristic (Hobson 2018).[2] However, it usually comes with a cue which helps the receiver to understand it. For example, a mother saying "Oh, that's clever!" when a child makes a mistake always signals her love with her tone of voice. Quite different when a hostile person says "Oh, here comes Mr Clever-clogs!". So a person learns how to decode the message.

Much more difficult it is when someone uses a neutral tone of voice, as in "deadpan" or "dry humor". Psychologists think such cases are basically hostile.[3]

A point to remember is that it does not travel well in writing or translation.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. Brant, William 2012. Critique of sarcastic reason: the epistemology of the cognitive neurological ability called "theory-of-mind" and deceptive reasoning. Saarbrücken, [Germany]: Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften. ISBN 978-3-8381-3457-4
  2. McArthur, Tom 1992. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press, p887.
  3. Lazarus, Clifford N. "Think sarcasm is funny? Think again: sarcasm is really just hostility disguised as humor". Psychology Today, Jun 26, 2012.
  4. Wooten, Adam (September 9, 2011). "International Business: Sarcasm is never lost in translation: yeah, right!". Deseret News. Retrieved 10 November 2012. [1]