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Sarcasm

Sarcasm is a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or


remark; a bitter gibe or taunt.[1][2] Sarcasm may employ ambivalence,[3] although sarcasm is not necessarily
ironic.[4] The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present
in the spoken word and manifested chiey by vocal
inections.[5] The sarcastic content of a statement will
be dependent upon the context in which it appears.[6]

The use of strategies which, on the surface


appear to be appropriate to the situation, but
are meant to be taken as meaning the opposite
in terms of face management. That is, the utterance which appears, on the surface, to maintain or enhance the face of the recipient actually attacks and damages the face of the recipient. ... sarcasm is an insincere form of politeness which is used to oend ones interlocutor.

Origin of the term

John Haiman writes: There is an extremely close connection between sarcasm and irony, and literary theorists
The word comes from the Greek (sarkas- in particular often treat sarcasm as simply the crudest and
mos) which is taken from meaning to tear least interesting form of irony. Also, he adds:
esh, bite the lip in rage, sneer.[1]
First, situations may be ironic, but only
people can be sarcastic. Second, people may
be unintentionally ironic, but sarcasm requires
intention. What is essential to sarcasm is that it
is overt irony intentionally used by the speaker
as a form of verbal aggression.[9]

It is rst recorded in English in 1579, in an annotation to


The Shepheardes Calender by Edmund Spenser:
Tom piper, an ironicall Sarcasmus, spoken
in derision of these rude wits, whych ...[1]

However, the word sarcastic, meaning Characterized by While, Henry Watson Fowler writes:
or involving sarcasm; given to the use of sarcasm; bitterly
cutting or caustic, doesn't appear until 1695.[1]
Sarcasm does not necessarily involve irony.
But irony, or the use of expressions conveying dierent things according as they are interpreted, is so often made the vehicle of sar2 Usage
casm ... The essence of sarcasm is the intention of giving pain by (ironical or other) bitter
In its entry on irony, Dictionary.com describes sarcasm
words.[10]
thus:

3 Understanding

In sarcasm, ridicule or mockery is used


harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for
destructive purposes. It may be used in an
indirect manner, and have the form of irony,
as in What a ne musician you turned out to
be!, Its like you're a whole dierent person
now..., and Oh... Well then thanks for all the
rst aid over the years!" or it may be used in the
form of a direct statement, You couldn't play
one piece correctly if you had two assistants.
The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in
the spoken word and manifested chiey by vocal inection ...[7]

Understanding the subtlety of this usage requires secondorder interpretation of the speakers or writers intentions;
dierent parts of the brain must work together to understand sarcasm. This sophisticated understanding can
be lacking in some people with certain forms of brain
damage, dementia and autism (although not always),[11]
and this perception has been located by MRI in the
right parahippocampal gyrus.[12][13] Research has shown
that people with damage in the prefrontal cortex have
diculty understanding non-verbal aspects of language
like tone, Richard Delmonico, a neuropsychologist at the
University of California, Davis, told an interviewer.[14]
Distinguishing sarcasm from banter, and referring to the Such research could help doctors distinguish between difuse of irony in sarcasm, Bouseld writes [8] that sarcasm ferent types of neurodegenerative diseases, such as fronis:
totemporal dementia and Alzheimers disease, according
1

6 IDENTIFYING SARCASM

to David Salmon, a neuroscientist at the University of communications because of the diculties in translating
California, San Diego.[14]
sarcasm.[18]
In William Brants Critique of Sarcastic Reason,[15] sarcasm is hypothesized to develop as a cognitive and emotional tool that adolescents use in order to test the borders
of politeness and truth in conversation. Sarcasm recognition and expression both require the development of
understanding forms of language, especially if sarcasm
occurs without a cue or signal (e.g., a sarcastic tone or
rolling the eyes). Sarcasm is argued to be more sophisticated than lying because lying is expressed as early as the
age of three, but sarcastic expressions take place much
later during development (Brant, 2012). According to
Brant (2012, 145-6), sarcasm is
(a) form of expression of language often
including the assertion of a statement that is
disbelieved by the expresser (e.g., where the
sentential meaning is disbelieved by the expresser), although the intended meaning is different from the sentence meaning. The recognition of sarcasm without the accompaniment
of a cue develops around the beginning of adolescence or later. Sarcasm involves the expression of an insulting remark that requires the interpreter to understand the negative emotional
connotation of the expresser within the context of the situation at hand. Irony, contrarily,
does not include derision, unless it is sarcastic irony. The problems with these denitions
and the reason why this dissertation does not
thoroughly investigate the distinction between
irony and sarcasm involves the ideas that: (1)
people can pretend to be insulted when they are
not or pretend not to be insulted when they are
seriously oended; (2) an individual may feel
ridiculed directly after the comment and then
nd it humorous or neutral thereafter; and (3)
the individual may not feel insulted until years
after the comment was expressed and considered.
Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely with more
than a few cultures and linguistic groups nding it offensive to varying degrees. Thomas Carlyle despised
it: Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language
of the devil; for which reason I have long since as
good as renounced it.[16] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the
other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he
said, was usually the last refuge of modest and chastesouled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely
and intrusively invaded.[17] RFC 1855, a collection of
guidelines for Internet communications, includes a warning to be especially careful with it as it may not travel
well. A professional translator has advised that international business executives should generally avoid sarcasm in intercultural business conversations and written

4 Vocal indication
In English, sarcasm is often telegraphed with
kinesic/prosodic cues[19] by speaking more slowly
and with a lower pitch. Similarly, Dutch uses a lowered
pitch; sometimes to such an extent that the expression is
reduced to a mere mumble. But other research shows that
there are many ways that real speakers signal sarcastic
intentions. One study found that in Cantonese, sarcasm
is indicated by raising the fundamental frequency of
ones voice.[20]

5 Punctuation
Main article: Irony punctuation
Though in the English language there is no standard accepted method to denote irony or sarcasm in written conversation, several forms of punctuation have been proposed. Among the oldest and frequently attested are the
percontation pointfurthered by Henry Denham in the
1580sand the irony markfurthered by Alcanter de
Brahm in the 19th century. Both of these marks were represented visually by a backwards question mark (unicode U+2E2E). Each of these punctuation marks are primarily used to indicate that a sentence should be understood as ironic, but not necessarily designate sarcasm that
is not ironic. By contrast, more recent proposals, such as
the snark mark, or the use of a following tilde are specifically intended to denote sarcasm rather than irony.[21] A
bracketed exclamation point or question mark as well as
scare quotes are also sometimes used to express irony or
ironic sarcasm.[22]
In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm and unreal phrases
are indicated at the end of a sentence with a sarcasm
mark called temherte slaq, a character that looks like an
inverted exclamation point .[23] The usage directly parallels John Wilkins' 1668 proposal to use the inverted
exclamation point as an irony mark.[24] A proposal by
Asteraye Tsigie and Daniel Yacob in 1999 to include the
temherte slaq in unicode was unsuccessful.[25]

6 Identifying sarcasm
A French company has developed an analytics tool that
claims to have up to 80% accuracy in identifying sarcastic
comments posted online.[26]
In June 2014, the United States Secret Service requested
bids for software that would identify sarcasm in tweets.[27]

See also
Irony
Oxymoron
Paradox
Sardonicism
Smirk
Snarl
Sneer
Tongue-in-cheek
Witticism

[8] Brouseld, B. in Marina Lambrou and Peter Stockwell,


Contemporary Stylistics, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010, p. 213.
[9] John Haiman (1998). Talk is Cheap: Sarcasm, Alienation
and the Evolution of Language. p. 20.
[10] Fowler, Henry Watson (1950). A Dictionary of Modern
English Usage. Oxford University Press.
[11] Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G.; Tomer, R.; Aharon-Peretz,
J. (2005). The Neuroanatomical Basis of Understanding Sarcasm and Its Relationship to Social Cognition.
Neuropsychology 19 (3): 288300. doi:10.1037/36244105.19.3.288. PMID 15910115.
[12] Hurley, Dan (June 3, 2008), The Science of Sarcasm (Not
That You Care), New York Times
[13] Slap, J. W. (1966). On Sarcasm. The Psychoanalytic
Quarterly 35: 98107.

References

[1] Oxford English Dictionary


[2] Boxer, D. (2002). 4 - 'Yeah right:' sociolinguistic functions of sarcasm in classroom discourse. Applying Sociolinguistics: Domains and Face-to-Face Interaction. John
Benjamins Publications. p. 100. ISBN 978-90-2721850-6. Only people can be sarcastic, whereas situations
are ironic.
[3] Rockwell, P. A. (2006). Sarcasm and Other Mixed Messages: The Ambiguous Ways People Use Language. Edwin
Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-5917-5.
[4] Partridge, Eric (1969). Usage and Abusage: A Guide
to Good English. Penguin Press. ISBN 0-393-31709-9.
Irony must not be confused with sarcasm, which is direct:
sarcasm means precisely what it says, but in a sharp, bitter,
cutting, caustic, or acerbic manner: it is the instrument of
indignation, a weapon of oence, whereas irony is one of
the vehicles of wit. In Lockes If ideas were innate, it
would save much trouble to many worthy persons, worthy is ironical; the principal clause as a whole is sarcastic
as also is the complete sentence. Both are instruments of
satire and vituperation.
[5] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irony?s=t | The
distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in the spoken
word and manifested chiey by vocal inection, whereas
satire and irony arising originally as literary and rhetorical
forms, are exhibited in the organization or structuring of
either language or literary material.
[6] Campbell, JD. (2012). Investigating Components of Sarcastic Context. The ndings ... show that the target sentences, when presented in isolation, were not seen as being conventionally sarcastic in nature. These same target
sentences however, when surrounded by contextual information provided by the participants asked to create a sarcastic context, were later coded as being sarcastic by a
nave rater.
[7] Irony. Dictionary. Dictionary.com.

[14] Singer, Emily (23 May 2005). Understanding Sarcasm


is a Complex Business. New Scientist. Retrieved October
3, 2012.
[15] Brant, William. (2012). Critique of Sarcastic Reason: The
Epistemology of the Cognitive Neurological Ability Called
Theory of Mind and Deceptive Reasoning. Sdwestdeutscher Verlag fr Hochschulschriften. Saarbrcken,
Germany.
[16] Carlyle, Thomas. Originally published in 1833-34 in
Frasers Magazine.
[17] Dostoyevsky, R (1864). Notes from Underground.
[18] Wooten, Adam (September 9, 2011). International Business: Sarcasm is never lost in translation: yeah, right!".
Deseret News. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
[19] Kinesic/prosodic cues are among ve cues to sarcasms
presence noted by Diana Boxer, 2002:100; the other cues
are counter-factual statements, extreme exaggeration, tag
questions, and direct cues.
[20] Cheang, H. S.; Pell, M. D. (2009). Acoustic markers of sarcasm in Cantonese and English. Journal of
the Acoustical Society of America 126 (3): 13941405.
doi:10.1121/1.3177275. PMID 19739753.
[21] Houston, Keith (2013). Shady Characters: The Secret Life
of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks.
New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
pp. 3637,217219,221,232233,239244. ISBN 9780-393-06442-1.
[22] Guidance on Standards for Subtitling. ITC Guidance on
Public Consultation: Codes & Guidance Notes. ITC. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
[23] A Roadmap to the Extension of the Ethiopic Writing System Standard Under Unicode and ISO-10646 (pdf). 15th
International Unicode Conference. p. 6. Retrieved 22
January 2011.

[24] Houston, Keith (2013). Shady Characters: The Secret Life


of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks.
New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
pp. 212215,231232. ISBN 978-0-393-06442-1.
[25] Houston, Keith (2013). Shady Characters: The Secret Life
of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks.
New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
pp. 231232. ISBN 978-0-393-06442-1.
[26] Authorities 'use analytics tool that recognises sarcasm'".
Retrieved July 4, 2013.
[27] Pauli, Darren (4 Jun 2014). Oh, wow. US Secret Service
wants a Twitter sarcasm-spotter. Retrieved 2014-06-04.

External links
BBC News Magazine - The rules of sarcasm

EXTERNAL LINKS

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Sarcasm Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcasm?oldid=663811220 Contributors: The Anome, Montrealais, Patrick, Voidvector,


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