Thursday, August 1, 2013


When I first got to know Dennis, somehow we got on the subject of sarcasm. I remember him saying, "Sarcasm is a way to get a dig at someone without taking any responsibility. Then we can laugh and say, 'I was just kidding!"

I had never thought of it that way.

Dennis is a very easy person to live with. Perhaps his philosophy on sarcasm is in part why. People feel safe with him. I don't think he's ever lost a friend in his life.

There is an excellent article on this very subject in this month's Ensign magazine, titled: "No Corrupt Communication."

Sarcasm in this article is described as "Dishonest opportunity to wound without looking like they're wounding."

Isn't that terrible? Do we really want to wound one another?

This article went on to explain how sarcasm harms children in families, and how it has ruined many marriages. This quote is a scary eye opener:

"Studies show that children as young as 5 years old can detect sarcasm....but they don't have the ability to understand it fully. 
Parents are "much more proficient at using sarcasm than children" and it can be a veil for "undisclosed anger, annoyance, even jealousy." This unequal power changes parental sarcasm from a joke into a form of bullying."

Or this one is equally alarming:
"Children who are brought up in overly sarcastic environments may learn that sarcasm is the only way to cope with problems, 
and this shortchanges their ability to communicate honest feelings."

Did you know that the Greek root for sarcasm is sarkazein which means to "to tear flesh like dogs?" Uh, no thank you.

Any thoughts?

And just in case you are wondering, NO, I am not referring to anyone in my life with this subject. 
It is just something I have thought much about since Dennis brought it to my attention 14 years ago. 
I try not to engage in sarcasm but I probably still slip sometimes. 
So it's a work in progress, as is most every other flaw I have.


Scrapally said...

There is a gentleman in our ward who has said for as long as I have know him, "Sarcasm is of the devil." And after reading this article I truly believe it (not that I didn't believe it before, it just proved the point even more). Good food for thought and I'm sure I could improve in this area...

Grandma Honey said...

I think that man in your ward summed it up pretty well, Allyson!

Anonymous said...

I noticed sarcasm starting to creep into my kids' communication when they were talking to their friends in high school. It was the way they all communicated in order to protect their true feelings. It sounded painful, and I was glad when they all, one by one, dropped talking like that as they got older.

Grandma Honey said...

I think it is common with teenagers, especially boys.

Brock said...

Sarcasm is one of the lenses through which I view the world. I don't do it out of any malice or to cover up any hidden ill feelings or to say something I don't feel comfortable saying outright, it's just how I think.

I suppose, in that way, I'm not really being sarcastic. Sarcasm is "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt." It's that last part I don't really go in for, but I find mocking with irony to be a useful tool for making a point or looking at something from another perspective. We live in a funny world and people say and do ridiculous things. Sometimes the kindest way to address this is by "using irony to mock". Sarcasm (or whatever form of it I tend to use) is like any other tool--it's only as evil as its use.

All that said, I have no doubt there's a lot of truth in that article (I haven't read it) and that sarcasm can hurt, terribly. We've all seen that. Sarcasm can be used stupidly and hurtfully. It can be lousy way of making your point if you don't layer it with a bit of clever and a dash of decent observational skills and a heap of kindness. I guess that's really my point: we don't have a word for it, but I think there is a kind, enlightening version of sarcasm.

Rebecca said...

I agree with this. I think alot of people use sarcasm to say mean things that they would not actually come right out and say!

Anonymous said...

Brock, point well taken.

Karen Mortensen said...

Wow. Powerful and deep thoughts here. I will be more careful in my speech.

Lisa said...

I've been around a whole family like that & when you walk into their home you can cut the contention in the atmosphere of their home with a good cutco knife! LOL I was just sold one of those! : ) couldn't resist! for Dennis...I can tell you I have always felt like I could talk to him even though we never do! I almost did once. I needed so badly to talk to someone about a painful subject & even asked him if he could talk, but the activities at church got in the way & I never got to unload, but the fact that he sayd, "sure" made the burden lighter & easier to cope with. Alls well now! That was like 12 years ago! : ) Love you Grandma Honey! PS: I met Deb Mergansaler (sorry if i mispelled her last name) tonight & she said you work together in Activity Days. She's SO CUTE & NICE...Just like YOU!'s 2 am!

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention this, Brian and I have been discussing this exact topic lately. I agree that sarcasm is often used to thinly veil contempt, but I also think it can be used in a more lighthearted manner (like Brock mentioned). Like many types of humor, you need to know your audience.

There is a famous Oscar Wilde quote: "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." What most people leave out though is the last part of the full quote: "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence."


Sue said...

I used to be quite sarcastic as a teenager. I think I've mostly outgrown it now.

But once in a while I regress.


Heather said...

This is so interesting to me as I come from a very sarcastic family. And although the majority of it is more light-hearted sarcasm like Brock described, sometimes it can be very cutting and belittling. As I've gotten older and no longer am around it, I've become more sensitive to it. Jared's family is not sarcastic at all, and I guess I've adjusted to that! I still don't mind the light-hearted sarcasm like Brock described, if it doesn't have a target. But the other day, a friend "zinged" me (her description of a sarcastic comment towards me that was meant to be funny) and it felt really hurtful. That experience and this article makes me grateful that I've been able to break the habit of sarcastic comments. I think the description of a "dishonest opportunity to wound without looking like they're wounding" is a good description!

Heather said...

Oh, and I just remembered friend of mine in high school used to say "Sarcasm is a sign of anger." I think that it often is, or a sign of underlying resentment.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I never really thought about this topic much, but I appreciate all the interesting insights on it! I do think sarcasm can be a passive aggressive or underhanded way of expressing anger. It can be a way of expressing wit or humor as Brock and Natalie suggested, but as long as the intent isn't malicious, and the jibes aren't meant or taken.