Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.” Though irony is usually the immediate context, most authorities sharply distinguish sarcasm from irony; however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony or employs ambivalence. Sarcasm has been suggested as a possible bullying action in some circumstances.
Origin of the term
It is first recorded in English in 1579, in an annotation to The Shepheardes Calender: October:
Tom piper) An Ironicall [Sarcasmus], spoken in derision of these rude wits, whych make more account of a ryming rybaud, then of skill grounded vpon learning and iudgment.
The word comes from the late Greek σαρκαζμόσ (sarkazmos) taken from the word σαρκάζειν meaning 'to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly'. However, the ancient Greek word for the rhetorical concept of taunting was instead χλευασμός (chleyasmόs).
Dictionary.com describes the use of sarcasm thus:
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 fine musician you turned out to be!” 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 chiefly by vocal inflection ...
Hostile, critical comments may be expressed in an ironic way, such as saying "don't work too hard" to a lazy worker. The use of irony introduces an element of humour which may make the criticism seem more polite and less aggressive. Sarcasm can frequently be unnoticed in print form, often times requiring the inflection or tone of voice to indicate the quip.
Understanding the subtlety of this usage requires second-order interpretation of the speaker's intentions. This sophisticated understanding can be lacking in some people with certain forms of brain damage, dementia and autism, and this perception has been located by MRI in the right parahippocampal gyrus.
Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely with more than a few cultures and linguistic groups finding 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". Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was "usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded." RFC 1855, a collection of guidelines for Internet communications, even includes a warning to be especially careful with it as it "may not travel well".
In English, sarcasm in amateur actors is often telegraphed with kinesic/prosodic cues 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 one's voice.
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 point--furthered by Henry Denham in the 1580s—and the irony mark--furthered by Alcanter de Brahm in the 19th century. Both of these marks were represented visually by a backwards question mark (unicode U+2E2E). A more recent example is the snark mark. Each of these punctuation marks are primarily used to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level. A bracketed exclamation point and/or question mark as well as scare quotes are also sometimes used to express irony or sarcasm.
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 ¡.
In an increasingly technological world, the use of sarcasm in email, text messaging, message boards and blogs has often been misunderstood as ignorance or stupidity: comments meant to be sarcastic have been taken literally or seriously. A newer trend in using sarcasm in cyberspace is to use an italic font for the proposed sarcastic remark to quell any questions as to the intent of a comment or to enclose the sarcastic remark in sarcasm tags as a form of pseudo-HTML such as the following:
<sarcasm>I'm sure they'll do great.</sarcasm>
Fuck Off Golfy! I am trying a new technique and you guys are messing with me. I am done with all the skunked trips and want to learn a new way to catch fish. Whats the big deal? I am ever so serious. Next time I see you on the water Golfy I will slash your tires you shit talker! You owe me an apology!
Thank you for the treatise on sarcasm. Was that from Wiki?
Not meaning to enter or expand a fray, but there was an informative thread about beads a month or two back on Piscatorial's fly page. Some high liner gear guys had pounded a pool with everything, but mostly spoons, and caught 11 steelhead. That afternoon a couple fly doggers floated in and drifted beads right after one of the spoon men re-fished the pool. Result: flydoggers hooked another 9 steelhead from that pool.
Take home message taken largely from Charles' summation, a steelhead pool has only so many takers that will hit a swung fly. This is usually the lowest number of fish in the pool. A majority of the fish will hit various and most standard drift fishing gear. Then there are those holdouts that won't hit anything, bait, lure, or fly, until some dogger comes along and drifts a bead through the run. The bead, for reasons unknown, will hook the holdouts that won't hit anything else.
So if Stewart is tired of skunks, a bead might be his best alternative. Beads aren't about pride. Apparently they're about throwing a blasting cap in a pool to see if anything is in there.