Meanings: “Sarcasm”

August 12, 2016

“They don’t  get sarcasm?” Donald Trump tweeted this morning about his earlier remark that President Obama was the founder of ISIS.Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 11.24.30 AM

Sarcasm may be a species of humor, but it is a biting kind of humor and often misunderstood by its intended audience: with sarcasm you are saying one thing and meaning something quite different.  The joke is on those who don’t get that they are in opposite world.  Merriam Webster gives this as a definition: “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.” reminds us the root of sarcasm is a Greek word meaning tearing of flesh:

sarcasm (n.) Look up sarcasm at Dictionary.com1570s, sarcasmus, from Late Latin sarcasmus, from late Greek sarkasmos “a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery,” from sarkazein “to speak bitterly, sneer,” literally “to strip off the flesh,” from sarx (genitive sarkos) “flesh,” properly “piece of meat,” from PIE root *twerk- “to cut” (source also of Avestan thwares “to cut”). Current form of the English word is from 1610s. For nuances of usage, see humor (n.).

In a 2012 Psychology Today article, Clifford Larazus tells us “sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor.” He ends his piece by saying the use of sarcasm is “just thinly veiled hostility and unacceptable bullying.”

Not a form of humor that anyone aspiring to leadership should ever employ.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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