From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Sarcasm from Greek σαρκασμός (sarkasmos), 'mockery, sarcasm' is sneering, jesting, or mocking at a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony intended to insult or wound — stating the opposite of the intended meaning, e.g. using "that's fantastic" to mean "that's awful". It is used mostly in a humorous manner, and is expressed through vocal intonations such as over-emphasizing the actual statement or particular words. Use of sarcasm is sometimes viewed as an expression of concealed anger or annoyance.
Origin of the term
It is first recorded in English in The Shepheardes Calender in 1579:
- (Tom piper) An Ironical [Sarcasmus], spoken in derision of these rude wits, which make more account of a rhyming Rimbaud, then of skill grounded upon learning and judgment.|Edmund Spenser
It comes from the ancient Greek σαρκάζω (sarkazo) meaning 'to tear flesh' but the ancient Greek word for the rhetorical concept of taunting was instead χλευασμός (chleyasmόs). Sarcasm appears several times in the Old Testament, for example:
- Lo, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence?