A Few More Words on Sarcasm/Snark

Last Monday, I posted a bit about why I almost always choose sincerity over employing sarcasm or snark. The comments (as always) were fantastic. Commenter Thomas Allen Gardner made a great point, that by juxtaposing Sincerity against Sarcasm/Snark, I’m saying that Sarcasm/Snark cannot ever be sincere, and I thought that was interesting. Here’s a small example I used in my initial post, about how sarcasm usually misses the mark with me, which I’ll elaborate on below:

(Husband hands me a breakfast burrito, and I bite into it.)

Me: Wow, this is delicious! You should teach me how to make these!

Husband: I dunno, it’s pretty complicated. Not sure I can replicate it, actually.

Me: Oh. Well, next time, let me watch you, and I’ll write it down.

Husband: … … What? I was joking. I just throw things together, and it takes me about three minutes. It’s a completely ghetto breakfast burrito.

Now, Thomas might say that my husband sincerely wanted me to know that it really was simple to fix that breakfast burrito, and Thomas would be right. I was wrong to contrast Sincerity against Sarcasm/Snark, in that regard. Here’s what I meant, now that I’ve had a few more days to mull this over.

In the circumstance above, it’s not necessarily the sarcasm that rubs me the wrong way–as a denizen of the Internet, I can, and do, accept sarcasm regularly–it’s the subjugation of what I was trying to communicate. I was–albeit passively–trying to pay my husband a compliment. “Wow, this is delicious! You should teach me how to make these!” means both “I really think this is tasty,” and “this is better than anything I cook for breakfast, and I’m acknowledging your skills.” Had I said “I am hereby acknowledging your breakfast-making skills,” maybe I wouldn’t have left myself as open to a sarcastic reply, but also? I’d have sounded like a complete dork.

By responding with sarcasm, he’s effectively deflecting my compliment, and making the conversation about my poor judgement of his culinary skills. And what’s with that? Let’s look at a hypothetical comparison.

(It’s 6:00 PM, and my husband has just arrived home from work.)

Husband: Wow, you look gorgeous. How do you always manage to look so beautiful at the end of the day?

Me: Oh let me tell you, it’s a strict regimen never getting enough sleep, and running myself ragged. It’s a celebrity secret.

Rather than simply accepting a sweet and sincere compliment, I make my husband feel foolish for apparently misjudging my appearance. Rather than listening to what he was trying to say, I’ve made it all about me, and turned a positive interaction into a negative one. That’s what bothers me about sarcasm.

Hope that clarifies what I said initially. And thanks to Thomas for the thoughtful comment! As always, if you have anything to add to the discussion, I welcome your contribution in the comments (and though I don’t get a chance to respond to everything, I do read each comment).

(I’ll be back tomorrow with a sponsored post.)




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  1. “In the circumstance above, it’s not necessarily the sarcasm that rubs me the wrong way–as a denizen of the Internet, I can, and do, accept sarcasm regularly–it’s the subjugation of what I was trying to communicate.” Ahhh – got it. 🙂 That would rub me the wrong way too. And it’s something I need to keep in mind when I resort to sarcasm. I’m flattered that you took the time to respond so thoughtfully to my post.

  2. Brandon Barkley

     /  August 20, 2012

    Human communication is so complex and layered ya know?

    I’m sure you could easily have a 30 minutes conversation with him trying to nuance out why he made the sarcastic comment. Note: If you husband is like any standard man, this is a terrible idea. He will only get grumpy about it! 🙂

    The reason is because I think in fact it is really him saying two things at the same time with is comment “I dunno, it’s pretty complicated. Not sure I can replicate it, actually.”. The first thing is that he is kind of owning the compliment by saying “I have a special touch that cannot be communicated”, but simultaneously he was attempting to go totally over the top in hopes of you seeing that he is not really full of himself and thinks the above, but rather he thinks “this was absolutely no big deal and you could easily do it yourself”. So in essence, he was trying to say “Thanks, but it really wasn’t a big deal”. Why didn’t he do this? It probably comes from the societal (and even inward) pressure on men to be funny.

    I say all that, but that is just what I think if I were to say something, he could have other nuances I am completely missing!

    Also, tangentially related. Ghetto stuff I throw together from leftovers always gets more compliments from my wife than anything I put a lot of time and effort into. I guess there are less opportunities to screw up.

  3. Morgan Berry

     /  August 27, 2012

    I see what your saying (i read both posts) and I couldn’t agree more, two years or so (ish) I did an experiment (just so happens to be the time I started getting into/getting to know the Bible) at said time I had been with my husband 5 years, and at the time, and proudly, (now shamefully) accomplished snark-er, quick wit & sharp tongue, my husband & I flipped seemingly playful snarks as if playing verbal bad mitten, until I thought that just maaaybe that could be zapping some of our affections unknowingly, so, I tediously started to break down & change my responses and went more with positive affirmations & sincerity..
    The result? over time, more hugs, kisses, and a better sense of ease.. no vulgarities were ever present so no harm right??? no, it is harmful, just giving it a try yielded wonderful results, seeing how much I love extra hugs and kisses hehehe, Thanks for the great read!!


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