I don't know if you've noticed, but I find that there has been a sudden, alarming increase in "snark".
Snark is a combination of sarcasm and snide remark, usually very brief, very pointed and sometimes - but not always - clever and funny.
Well, it's clever funny in the way that snide remarks and sarcasm sometimes are.
But, not always. Sometimes, snark hurts. Because - intentional or not - that's part of what snark does.
Snark should never be confused with wit, which is a form of intellectual humor. "Brevity is the soul of wit," said Shakespeare, which, I think, snark aims for but misses the mark in its banality. "Blunt language cannot hide a banal conception," wrote New Yorker editor, James Wolcott.
To be sure, wit can descend to the depths of sarcasm, which is then known as a "quip" or a "wise crack". Dorothy Parker was the acid-tongue Queen of Quip, famous for her remark to her Upper East Side apartment doorman who once greeted her with, "Age before beauty", to which she responded, "And pearls before swine."
She also suggested for her epitaph, "Excuse my dust," which I think is pretty witty.
Episcopalian Tallulah Bankhead could also throw around a clever remark or two in her time.
I love the story - which has been passed down from generation to generation of gay men (in fact, I don't think you can get your certificate from Gay Central without telling this story at least once) - wherein Ms. Bankhead rushes in late for midnight mass at the Cathedral of John the Divine one Christmas Eve.
As she wrapped herself up in her mink stole and tended to her hair, she glanced at the thurifer and called to him over her shoulder, "Lovely dress, dahling, but your purse is on fire."
Clever. Funny. But, neither snark nor wit. Most likely sarcasm trying to disguise inebriation. However, she also said, "I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right", which I think is quite witty.
Winston Churchill was known for his biting sarcasm, like the remark he reportedly made to Lady Astor:
Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”However, he also said, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.". Clever. Intelligent. Just enough ironic humor to induce a guffaw but not exactly a laugh, and slicing closely to the marrow of truth.
Churchill: “Madam, if I were your husband I would take it.”
He was, no doubt, speaking of Neville Chamberlain, which brings the remark terribly close to sarcasm. However, he was probably speaking of Hitler when he said, "A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject," which, my mind, is a fine example of wit.
Cyberspace is filled with snark. Which is fine, except those who snark often think they are being clever and witty. Some of it is clever but it is not wit. And, quite frankly, I'm weary of it.
Maybe it's a generational thing. Maybe it's just me.
I joined the Twitterverse in May so I could keep up with General Convention. It wasn't long after I was in Indy that there was a buzz about the tweets of one, "MyselfTheBishop" AKA "++++KJS".
Some of the initial "tweets" were quite clever if not a harsh mirror to the language favored by liberals in The Episcopal church. I never met an Episcopal priest (myself included) or bishop who couldn't take a twenty-five cent metaphor and wring out an extra nickle. Like, this one:
++++KJS There was one earlier one about how we all needed to take time to "mend the sacred hoop" that drove many of us into paroxysms of laughter and became the answer to the question, "Where are you headed?" "Oh, out to mend my sacred hoop."
Jesus wants to pull us to his chest and nurse us on the sweet milk of tolerance, vulnerability, risk taking, and inclusion.
This one is a dead give-away:
So excitedSo is this one:
@garyhall49 in the new dean of @WNCathedral! Maybe we can organize a yoga Eucharist w/ Buddhist chant & Sufi readings #inclusive
++++KJS We are not amused.
Eating at Chic-Fil-A is grounds for exclusion from the discernment process. Meat-eaters... Homophobes... How much worse can it get?
Here's the thing about sarcasm: It is always anger disguised as humor.
Take a moment to let that sink in - especially the next time you catch yourself ready to snark.
Sarcasm can be a healthy way of expressing anger - better than fisticuffs any day - but it always serves to make me angry whenever it believes itself to be clever and/or intelligent humor. It is not. Sometimes, it's funny but not when the snarker thinks him/herself clever or in the possession of wit.
Then, it's more about the snarker than the snark. It's like watching that pathetic kid we all knew in the 6th grade who thought he was being funny but mostly was a real jerk. When his jokes didn't work, he usually pulled your pony tail or stuck a "Kick Me" note on your back when you weren't looking.
I do not have the intellectual capacity to be witty but I have enough intelligence to know the difference between 'wit' and 'snark'. I can even tell the difference between 'clever' and 'sarcasm'.
Shakespeare was a wit. John Donne was a wit. Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, and Winston Churchill were intelligent people who could be quite witty but more often than not sojourned into sarcasm and were, perhaps, more ingenious than funny.
Whoever is the author of "MyselfTheBishop" is a nitwit.
These days, a sojourn into cyberspace can feel a bit like being locked in a room with Don Rickles.
So, I'm asking - as nicely as I know how - that the next time you're in cyberspace, please consider lowering the decibel level on your snark-o-meter.
My sacred hoop has lots of tears and needs more mending than I have time for repair.
Or, to paraphrase the words of the immortal Ms. Tallulah Bankhead, "I love your FaceBook and Twitter posts, dahling, but your brain is on fire."
See? I told you I wasn't witty. But, I am annoyed, so please knock it off because, as one snark on FaceBook recently posted, beating the crap out of someone is illegal.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I'm here all week. Try the salad bar. < / snark >