Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Look at the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

1 a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.

2 a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual.

I've kind of been anti-sarcasm for about a year now, without ever really looking it up or thinking past the fact that I just didn't really like it anymore. When I was in high school, and even before that, from the time I was very young - I was sarcastic. I had a smart mouth on me. I had big brothers and a father who are all sarcastic, each in their own way. My brothers would bring their friends around and I'd talk back to them, I'd even joke around with my friends' fathers, and they encouraged this spunky little girl. However, spunk and wit can easily turn into bitter, sharp comments about other people or about oneself. Just LOOK at that definition, it is exactly what sarcasm is supposed to be - to give another pain. Why is that funny?

We all like to laugh at others. And sometimes, if people have low self esteem, or have insecurities, they will use humor to cover up. Sarcasm seems to be a very common form of humor used in these cases. This isn't abnormal, angry people I'm talking about necessarily. These are our friends. These are great people who might not even realize that their sarcasm hurts, both other people and themselves. Because, well, sarcasm is meant to do exactly that. Hurt. Cut. Offend, even.

Can sarcasm be used in a general enough way that it is not harmful? Maybe. I'm not sure. With enough goofiness or wit attached, perhaps. If it is so outrageous to the extent that the person you are directing the comment towards knows you are intending any underlying truth, then it probably can be funny and not hurtful. This is the key to it all, I think. Sarcasm almost always hides truth.

Some of my thoughts on sarcasm started because of a coworker I had last summer. We worked together at Starbucks almost every day. Every morning, much too early to be making many jokes at all, my boss and me would be quite silly, trying to amuse our sleepy customers. Neither of us were very sarcastic, we would tell stories and laugh about life. Well, our coworker would often join in the fun, and she was quite funny, however her entire form of humor was completely sarcastic. Every bit of it. Her comments were biting, they cut, they were always directed towards an individual. Often, the comment was about how a coworker was lazy, or a customer was stupid. One day I said to her - you know 95% of the comments you make, you actually mean them don't you? She pondered the comment only a moment before admitting that yes, almost all of her comments held truth in them.

Well, this makes things personal doesn't it. All of the sudden things aren't so funny when you realize the person actually things you are lazy, or you don't clean enough, or they don't like your hair that way.

As I sat at a table tonight with friends I've had for years, I encouraged them to make me laugh. My seriousness sometimes gets too much for me, and I wanted these guys to have me rolling on the floor like they used to do. We talked and laughed and had a pretty good time. I wasn't rolling though. My closest friend of the group texted me afterwards and said "I know why you weren't laughing - you don't think sarcasm is very funny anymore." He was right. So right. When someone would make a joke directed towards me, or someone else at the table that was mean or put them down, I simply didn't laugh. I didn't realize I wasn't laughing because it was sarcastic, I just knew I wasn't laughing.

Maybe there is something wrong with me. I really do love to laugh. Jim Carrey is practically my hero. I'm curious, if we were all confident in ourselves, would sarcasm really be as common as it is? What do you think?


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