February 10, 2004

And the Word of the Day is

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the recipient who doesn`t get it.

Brought to you by this commenter on this entry:

I can't believe what type of person you are to go and blame Disney for tainting your child about clowns. Did you know that you can change the channel if you fear that a show about happy small small clowns will taint your child? You are in controlRemember Poltergeist and IT were movies? What is wrong with you? It is scary to know that people like you can get a drivers license let alone have a kid. There is so much stupidty is being spewed along this string and I am just as guilty for posting.

Of course, there is always an outside chance that he/she/it could be using sarcasm; thus I would be standing on the other side of the sarChasm, and boy, would my face be red. But I somehow doubt it.

Be careful with sarcasm, boys and girls. It's truly a WMD--witticism of mass destruction.


Posted by Big Arm Woman at February 10, 2004 09:54 AM

Sarcasm is actually ineffective except to cut off communication. Heavy sarcasm cuts it off entirely. Something's wrong but I'm not going to tell you what. If fact that's its point. It saves you from having to figure out what exactly. Dissatisfaction is enough. Women use it. It cuts off communication more by cutting the speaker off from any analysis than cutting off the listener.

It's never funny or clever. BC had an early strip

A: Meet Smiley, master of sarcastic wit.

B: Oh yeah? Say something sarcastic.

Smiley: Pleased to meet you.

My criticism is that the remark is not in fact sarcastic. It only means to play on self-reference. But the greeting itself is not an expression of pleasure but of politeness, so could not be sarcastic even if it wanted. The politeness would remain.

My own personal policy is no sarcasm.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at February 10, 2004 10:19 AM

Did he just deconstruct sarcasm? BAW, I think you hurt his feelings. I hope my heavy sarcasm isn't cutting off all communication. I would hate for the dialogue to be stifled or chiiiillllllleeedddd.

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2004 10:45 AM

Ron -

The only problem with that analysis is that it doesn't quite fit the post at hand. I was writing about the "horror" (scare quotes--another sometime form of sarcasm) of clowns. It was a humorous observation, not a means of cutting off conversation, which it obviously didn't do (see comments for different takes on the observation), or criticism.

I agree that in an argument sarcasm can be the cheap way out. It says, "I have nothing of substance to add, so I shall insult you personally in a drawling and laconic manner with my sarcasm." Alternatively, it's a way of moving the hell on when you (selfishly or not) want to get past a particular conversation. It can be vicious and passive aggressive, but it can also be humorous.

Used as a witticism for wit's sake sarcasm can be effective. Obviously Jo Jo's Circus is not the end of the world, but using sarcastic exaggeration can point out the humor inherent in that situation for a parent, the "Oh dear God it's banal but I will deal with it because it brings my child joy" moment that we sometimes experience in light of children's programming. In that case, whether you find it humorous or not is a Your Mileage May Vary situation, but that's it. There's no agenda attached about cutting off communication or argument, no personal slander implied if you happen to like Jo Jo or clowns in particular. The writer runs the risk, particularly on the internet, of being misinterpreted, thus the definition quoted above. None of that addresses why I shouldn't be allowed to breed or drive, and indicates that the commenter in question may be too young to understand sarcasm as wit, but it's the internet, so who knows?

Which is also kind of funny, at least to me. But then, I just spent three paragraphs explaining a throwaway clown post, so maybe I'm not the best judge of humor.

Posted by: BAW at February 10, 2004 11:15 AM

Perhaps the clowns already sucked his soul out along with the sarcasm gland. They do that, you know.

Posted by: Kim at February 10, 2004 01:46 PM

Damn clowns. They're usually to blame for everything.

Posted by: BAW at February 10, 2004 01:55 PM

You already mentioned mimes, but porcelain headed dolls are in cahoots with those two, too. Somewhere there lies a giant porcelain-headed, clown-faced mime who is spewing out these beings. I think it's in that closet over there.

Posted by: Kim at February 10, 2004 02:02 PM

Well, far be it from me to correct an English major, but are you sure you were using sarcasm? Looked more like hyperbole to me.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 10, 2004 03:26 PM

Angie -

Correct away. I tend to use both in concert with one another--it's a failing--so when I read posts back to myself, a certain sarcastic tone is involved. And the dictionary didn't have a "hyperchasm" entry. Sigh. Though maybe what we need is a more general term defining inability to detect humor in an internet post...

But I am generally a fairly sarcastic person...but...but...oh, dammit. It was a freaking CLOWN post! Somebody kill me. I've certainly managed to kill humor and thoughtful analysis today in this series of comments, haven't I?

Beer. Now.

Posted by: BAW at February 10, 2004 03:48 PM

Just goes to show you that your mother was right. How many times did she tell you, "Quit clowning around?"

Posted by: LittleA at February 10, 2004 05:30 PM