The differences between snark, sarcasm and garden variety humor.

Is it just me, or are the numbers of snarky blogs multiplying? I was taking what I term a "blog tour" (letting one new-to-me blog roll lead me to another new-to-me blog, then another blog, etc.), and in between the sort of same-y blogs I found a few of what I'd term frighteningly snarky blogs.

What is "snark"? I'd define it as sarcasm with an infuriated, almost sadistic twist. Once upon a time I referred to my sort of humor – don't devastate me by asking, "What humor?" – as being snarky, but now, having read blatant snark I'm not so sure I want to be in their company.

I'm angry about a lot of things, but I'm not hatefully angry. Usually. Snarky sorts are fuming with rage. That's not me. I'm angry with certain people, I'm angry about the state of the world – the Iraq war, et. al. – but I'm not walking around despising everyone and everything, even on my worst days. You can call me paranoid, but rather than hating everyone and everything I generally turn that around on myself. Thus, the self-deprecating form of humor.

I think a touch of snark is okay – the occasional boil over when something heinous happens in life, like when Republicans win an election. But to be classified with the snarky blogs? I'd hate that. That would make me a royal b*tch, and I don't classify myself that way. A few other people may (I could give you the names of a couple), but I don't.

Recently, a book addressing this exact issue – snark vs. sarcasm – was published to mixed reviews. It's titled Snark, written by The New Yorker film critic David Denby. I've just placed it on interlibrary loan (I know! This breaks a resolution! But it's a short book!) What I found intriguing about the reviews were the summaries. Apparently, this book attempts to differentiate types of humor, and casts aspersions – some complain too milque-toasty – contrasting snark with the other types.


Here's a quote from the product description at Amazon:

"Denby has fun snarking the snarkers, expelling the bums and promoting the true wits, but he is also making a serious point: the Internet has put snark on steroids. In politics, snark means the lowest, most insinuating and insulting side can win. For the young, a savage piece of gossip could ruin a reputation and possibly a future career. And for all of us, snark just sucks the humor out of life. Denby defends the right of any of us to be cruel, but shows us how the real pros pull it off. Snark, he says, is for the amateurs."

Snark is bad-natured  humor, usually directed at other people. Personally, I think humor is best directed at oneself, at powerful dignitaries who demonstrate stupidity, and at life's irritations. Things like that. I don't believe it should be in any way hurtful, or exaggerated with so much hatred it's obnoxious. That annoys me. Sarcasm works better in all those cases, as does ironic humor. I guess it's a matter of taste and personal preference. Humor tinged with snark, now that's something else. I just don't like full-out, frontal assault snark.

But, for the record, "snark" is a wonderful word. It sounds like a cartoon sound effect, or like a cartoon character's name. It's on my list of favorite words, along with "gloaming." Can you beat that word for a descriptive atmosphere? I thought not.

If you have any opinions on snark vs. other forms of humor drop me a comment. I'd love to hear other thoughts.

3 thoughts on “The differences between snark, sarcasm and garden variety humor.

  1. I think an awful lot of comedians are snarky and mean and foul-mouthed. I don’t like mean people, mean words, or so-called humor that attacks. I don’t ever read political blogs, even the ones I agree with, because they put me in a bad humor. That old bumper sticker, mean people suck may be cliche but I believe it. And I like gloaming too, a roamin’ in the gloamin’. :<)


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