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Sarcasm is a mocking, often ironic or satirical remark, sometimes intended to wound as well as amuse. Its adjective form is sarcastic. A person adept at using sarcasm is a sarcast. Also known in rhetoric as sarcasmus and the bitter taunt.

Contrary to frequent usage, irony, the device, does not always communicate sarcasm, the effect. The speaker or author’s rhetorical goal may be anything from gentle humor, intended to produce a mutual laugh and so establish rapport between speaker and hearer, to corrosive derision meant to insult the audience or reduce a target to a smoking ruin. What is attempted or achieved (the speech act or illocutionary dimension of the utterance) depends, as always, on the variables of the rhetorical situation, and on how the device and its detection contribute to those variables.

It is clear that with this form of comment the sarcastic content of a statement will be dependent upon the context in which it appears. Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely. Some cultures and linguistic groups find it offensive to varying degrees while others understand the sarcasm to really be a joke.

Examples:

  • That man is cruelly depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
  • I don’t know what makes you so dumb but it really works. I don’t know what makes you so dumb but it really works
  • I know you are nobody’s fool, but maybe someone will adopt you one day.
  • Please, keep talking. I always yawn when I am interested. Please, keep talking. I always yawn when I am interested
  • What he is lacking in intelligence, he more than makes up for in stupidity.
  • Whatever it is that is eating you, it must be suffering horribly.
  • He always finds himself lost in thought; it’s unfamiliar territory. He always finds himself lost in thought it’s unfamiliar territory
  • You have an inferiority complex and it is fully justified.
  • If we killed everybody who hates you, it wouldn’t be murder –it would be an apocalypse! Kill everybody who hates you, it would be an apocalypse
  • You should do some soul-searching. You might just find one.
  • You would never be able to live down to your reputation, but I see you’re doing your best.
December 14, 2018

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