Might as well ask me to go without Internet
April 6, 2011 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Would you give up Snark?

Lauren Frey Daisley did so for a month and talks with Q host Jian Gomeshi about how living with more respectful intention has changed her thinking.
Being snarky is considered very cool and so it's very popular, but it does in its way kind of erode relationships; so when I stopped doing that I had more trust in other people...
posted by Hardcore Poser (130 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
If there's one thing we could do better without, it's humor in personal relationships.
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on April 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Snark: the native tongue of MeFites around the world.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:55 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2011


I had more trust in other people...

This person is just asking to get ripped off. Or worse.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2011


I don't buy the premises advanced that snark precludes deliberation, or causes more engagement with irritating things. To me --

I think, therefore I snark.

And then move on.
posted by bearwife at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we stop lashing out against perceived insults and stop subtly eroding our friendships -- or even kind relations with strangers -- by giving so much attention to the things that bug us, quality of life inches incrementally but noticeably closer to excellent.

I agree.

But I can still be mean to idiots on the internet, right? Right? The fate of my Get Off My Internets addiction depends on it!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2011


This person is just asking to get ripped off. Or worse.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:58 AM on April 6 [+] [!]


not everything comes from pain
posted by victors at 10:01 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the Mensa society meeting

Lisa: Now next week is our "state of the city" address. Has everyone finished their proposals?

Comic Book Guy: Well first of all I've a plan to eliminate obesity in women.

Lyndsey Nagle: Oh please, for a nickel-a-person tax increase we could build a theatre for shadow puppets.

Dr. Hibbert: Balinese or Thai?

Lyndsey Nagle: Why not both, then everybody's happy.

CBG: Oh yeah, everyone's real happy then.

Lyndsey Nagle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?

Frink: (With sarcasm detector) Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts mm-hai.

CBG: A sarcasm detector, that's a real useful invention.

(Sarcasm detector explodes)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:02 AM on April 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


Because nothing says "sincerity" like selling a stunty confessional think-piece.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:02 AM on April 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I had more trust in other people...

This person is just asking to get ripped off. Or worse.


Really? I think there's miles of difference between skeptical and cynical, and it's also foolhardy to imagine that cynicism is incompatible with naivety. I think we could all use a little less snark, honestly, and for myself I've found that straightforwardness in my communications does tend to lead to healthier relationships. This doesn't mean you aren't allowed to kid around, or whatever, but being in constant IRONY mode is soul-abrading.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:04 AM on April 6, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh yeah, like that's going to work....
posted by spectrevsrector at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU: I think there's a huge difference between humor in relationships and snark in relationships. I'm a big fan of humor, but snark has to be used judiciously if at all.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Last year I decided to try something like this. When I went to Starbucks for my coffee and NY Times, I decided to try being extra nice, if only for just that one hour a day. That means helping elderly people, sharing my snacks with table mates, and even cleaning a stubborn wad of gum off one of the chairs, using my own solvent. After six months of this, they started ringing all my purchases up as a 54 cent refills. They still do that now, over a year later.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


I have time for this.
posted by parmanparman at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like Metafilter because when I'm here, I'm not snarking at you, I'm snarking with you.
posted by adamrice at 10:07 AM on April 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


by giving so much attention to the things that bug us, quality of life inches incrementally but noticeably closer to excellent.

Seriously? I generally try to think of solutions to the things that bug me because not only does my quality of life go up more than an inch but it also improves for other people with the same problem.

The solution described here would tell the frog in the heating pot to think of a rainbow to improve his life.
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Snark: cynism or sarcasm that I think is bad.

Therefore, we would all be better off with a little less snark. Since snark is bad.
posted by molecicco at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2011


It's admirable that she took on such a daunting task, and probably not one I could easily accomplish.
posted by crunchland at 10:09 AM on April 6, 2011


Frogs taste better when their livers are stuffed with rainbows.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:09 AM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Snark: cynism or sarcasm that I think is bad.

Snart: Cynism or sarcasm considered as an artform.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:11 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because nothing says "sincerity" like selling a stunty confessional think-piece.

Book deal in 3... 2...
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:13 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


no comment
posted by wayofthedodo at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2011


Snart: Cynism or sarcasm considered as an artform.

That is decidedly NOT what "snart" means, in my experience.
posted by incomple at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2011


[added a link per OPs request]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2011


I have made a pointed effort to be more kind and patient to people around me, and it's made me feel much better about my relationships and about myself. It's not even just snark I've tried to cut down on, but negativity in general.

But since snark is the subject here, I think one of my worst qualities is that I can be pretty dismissive of things that are at odds with my preconceived notions, and that's what a lot of snark is - a way to be dismissive, to avoid engaging with something that isn't exactly your cup of tea, or that offends you somehow.

Now that's not to say I don't enjoy good-natured ribbing. Humor is one of my most important ways of communicating with the people around me. And what I've found is that it's actually possible to be funny without being a total asshole all the time, and also, since I don't go for the easy laugh at someone's expense as often, I think I'm actually funnier than before because I have to work a little harder at it.
posted by Mister_A at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


NOW WHERE'S MY BOOK DEAL???!??!
posted by Mister_A at 10:25 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had more trust in other people...

This person is just asking to get ripped off. Or worse.
"

She wasn't talking about 'trust' as in 'I'll trust you with my car'; it's more a sense of "I'll trust you to accept me even without my witty putdowns." At least that's the sense I got from the interview.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:25 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I trusted someone to accept me without my witty putdowns, once. ONCE!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


No but I could totally give up lazy, porrly thought out fluff articles written for what I imagine is a pittance.
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2011


I think they're just trying to start an open season on Snark. Perhaps they figure that by making them legal prey, they can reduce the number of poachers. Of course, their numbers are already low, due to mistaking the simple Snark for a boojum.
posted by LD Feral at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The tragedy of the binary comparison.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


How mimsy!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have made a pointed effort to be more kind and patient to people around me, and it's made me feel much better about my relationships and about myself. It's not even just snark I've tried to cut down on, but negativity in general.

Mister_A has it. You don't have to exorcise humor from your life to give up a bit of the snark. You just have to empathize a little more with the people you interact with, online or off.

But I do feel that the idea to "go without snark" for a month is incredibly gimmicky. Make it a life change, if you are serious about this. Show some commitment, woman!

Sorry if that comes across as snarky.
posted by misha at 10:30 AM on April 6, 2011


Frogs taste better when their livers are stuffed with rainbows.

I have not the slightest clue what that could mean but I'm going to try to live by it.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:31 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Snark is like any other spice: best used as an occasional seasoning and not as the centerpiece of every (conversational) meal.

I must admit that my (probably snarky) thought about this article and the presumed book deal coming out of it was that it would be a lot more interesting if it were a man trying nto be nicer/less snarky and not a woman. Given the gender issues involved in social lubrication and humor, having a woman stop being snarky vs having a man stop being snarky should have different meanings and results. That's a book I'd be more interested in reading than a snark-free memoir.
posted by immlass at 10:31 AM on April 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Sounds like the author has successfully completed "How to not be a bitch/asshole" 101: Not every little complaint you have is important to EVEN you. Maybe I'll attend that class one of these days...
posted by hellslinger at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tried to give up snark a few years ago.

I discovered that without it, I was generally nicer, still funny, and more positive. Some of my relationships with people (with whom I generally was not as close as say friends or long-sufering coworkers) improved. I discovered that snark was seeping into everything I did, insidiously. I also discovered that snark could build as many bridges as it burned, and that tone really did matter. I thought a lot about the boundaries between criticism and snark. I thought about the way it made me feel and the external forces that fed it and how it affected other people. I also missed snarking muchly. I still enjoyed it as a spectator (although I became more discerning and something of a snark connoisseur), but I began to see times when it wasn't helpful, entertaining, or productive that I might not have seen before.

The time off was great for recalibrating my approach. I came out of that experience with more focused snark and a better sense of when and how I was using it, and how it affected people. I think I've become a much better snarker, even though I snark much less now, and I tend not to snark about people/their characteristics (particularly people in my every day life, unless we are close enough to have a mutual snark society thing going on) as much as I do about events or actions/implementations. I've found that's less corrosive to who I think I am, and it feels less personally negative. It's also led to me thinking more about solutions or a "right practices" type of thing. When I go for the funny, snark is no longer my automatic go-to, as well.
posted by julen at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


No but I could totally give up lazy, porrly thought out...

When do you start?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:34 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


No cheap shots doesn't mean you can't take shots if necessary. She seems to have interpreted no snark as meaning no opinions too. It's not like the only possible way to reply to "Gadhafi, so crazy" is to snark about his uniforms. There are plenty of responses in agreement (or not) beyond platitudes.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on April 6, 2011


They still do that now, over a year later.

Being a regular customer who's nice to people with difficult jobs pays for itself so many times over in ways that are hard to even calculate.
posted by mhoye at 10:36 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


not everything comes from pain
posted by victors


Ask your mother about your birth, and then re-consider your position.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:38 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Update: I just called some stranger on the street a jerk. No one's perfect.

In my defense, he was littering!!!
posted by Mister_A at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path." It's a tough one.
posted by Zed at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


"There was one way to find out. I began my month-long campaign of kind with the following rules:

I cannot say or write anything that could be construed as not nice.

I do not have to school other people on being kind.

I am allowed to tease in a good-natured way."


I'm the least-snarky person I know, but I say not-nice things all the time. The difference between the two is that I'm very straightforward and non-exageratey when saying not-nice things. The problem with snark isn't that it's not nice, the problem with snark is that it's by sugar coating mean things with humor, it encourages people to say mean things just to be funny. Yawn.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's interesting to see this piece responded to almost entirely with snark.

I wouldn't give it up. Like all humor, it's too powerful a tool to just toss aside. That being said, I have been trying to reign it in a little, because I feel as though it has started to be the first, and sometimes only, tool I turn to in responding to the world. And I think it can be a bit off-putting, and a bit of a distancing device, which both have their place, but it's worth thinking about where that place is. And snark is easy misused. It's easily applied to the undeserving, and used in place of a more considered response, and used as a sort of shorthand for a broader criticism that could stand to be examined a bit more.

Although, when I say I am trying to reign it in a bit, I mean a very little bit. It's like the crack cocaine of online rhetoric.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Although, when I say I am trying to reign it in a bit...posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 AM
Snark makes AZ feel like a king rather than a horseman.
posted by Cranberry at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only a pendant would complain about improper word choice.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


I am almost never snarky in real life. I save all my snark for you, MetaFilter.
posted by briank at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't snark at people I know and trust. That's just rude. My snark is usually reserved as generalized commentary.
posted by Malice at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The solution described here would tell the frog in the heating pot to think of a rainbow to improve his life.

Let's get more specific about the frog. The frog is trapped in the pot with no way out, and although the heating pot is getting gradually hotter, it will take weeks for it to start boiling. What is the frog to do? It can either sit and sulk each day and be completely miserable, or it can come to terms with it's situation and enjoy itself however it can for the rest of it's life. Hate it as much as you want, but the only things we can truly control are our desires and aversions.
posted by symbollocks at 11:05 AM on April 6, 2011


It's interesting to see this piece responded to almost entirely with snark.

That's not how this thread looks to me at all. And this points to one of the several big problems with the relfexive anti-snark position: "snark" is an extraordinarily loosely defined term. It can encompass both pointless irreverent humor and pointed sarcasm, as well as relatively joke-free kinds of disapproval, critique, and skepticism. If witty satirical doubters and angry insulting jerks fall into the same category, it's not an argument that only earnest sincerity works on the Internet, it's a sign that we should be refining our categories and discussing rhetoric more carefully.
posted by RogerB at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I dunno, not every shot is a cheap shot. Some shots are fair shots, unintentional shots, deserved shots, return shots, defensive shots, etc. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't work towards reducing negativity in our everyday lives, but there are times when snark is more than the victimization of the hapless.

Also, to get all philosophical/political up in here, there's a strain of political theory that is convinced that some form of antagonism is essential to any successful politics (see Chantal Mouffe & Ernesto Laclau for the locus classicus). For them, this sort of broad social push to de-legitimate negative speech diminishes the political power of those who stand to gain the most from it (i.e., opposition parties, minority groups, political watchdogs, etc.).
posted by LMGM at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2011


Snark is the official language of affection in my marriage.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to be less snarky for a while now, mainly by following a modified version of grumblebee's rules of order.
posted by symbollocks at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2011


I like it when we mix metaphors and analogies and then start drawing logical inferences from the drosses of the admixture.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2011


Relfexive! The missing spell from Infocom's ENCHANTER!
posted by RogerB at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2011


NOW WHERE'S MY BOOK DEAL???!??!
posted by Mister_A at 10:25 AM

You deserve a book deal, Mister_A, for the brilliant and amazingly graceful way you handled it when you genuinely warmly welcomed that fool Mr. Derry to Metafilter, and he was already so wounded and beset he could only turn around and take a swing at you.

I've tried to learn from that, but it's even harder than it looked.
posted by jamjam at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2011


I dunno, not every shot is a cheap shot.

Does "snark" mean "cheap shot"? Perhaps we do not have a mutually agreed upon definition. For me, it's any pithy retort that relies mostly on its ironic or humorous qualities.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2011


You can be as snarky as you want within the limits of a given relationship. You have to be sensitive and apologize when you cross a line.

In a way, snark is what ended my parent's marriage. But really though, it's a symptom more than a cause.

Also, her withheld snarky thoughts were pretty tame. That said, I think I learned the term on metafilter or the internets a decade ago. Outside of the web-world, most people just say sarcasm.
posted by nutate at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


To my eyes, snark is fundamentally dismissive.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2011


Does "snark" mean "cheap shot"? Perhaps we do not have a mutually agreed upon definition. For me, it's any pithy retort that relies mostly on its ironic or humorous qualities.

That's my definition also. It seems that for some it means something crueler.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2011


Snark to me does not equal "mean". I think of snark as a sarcastic aside more than a directly negative comment. It's more about humor than anger. I learned a long time ago that anger doesn't really have any place or any real use on MeFi (or the internet at large really). If you can't reason with someone, yelling probably won't get you anywhere either and you generally look kind of stupid.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2011


Well, when I said "snark is more than the victimization of the hapless," I was expressing skepticism about snark always being a cheap shot, which is pretty much how snark is framed in anti-snark discourse here and elsewhere. So, I'm not endorsing snark=cheap/cruel/etc., but instead saying that there needs to be more space for negative speech than a "nice" / "cruel" binary.
posted by LMGM at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Instead of me denying my true thoughts, I stopped giving the unproductive ones much weight.


Except she hasn't. Saying "These are strange times" instead of something snarkier (and probably wittier) is just as unproductive a thought, and it's also bland, boring and weaselly. It doesn't engage anybody on any level, so in that regard it's even more useless than the snark would have been.

I know people like this. They never say anything snarky or mean (and let's be clear, Daisley's definition of snark includes anything "not nice"). Except that they still do, it's just harder to decode, which in my opinion makes it more damaging and stupid. Like the time when my sister-in-law was totally slighted in a very embarrassing way by a man she had dated and she said of the incident "he's....funny" when what she really meant to say was "he's a fucking asshole."

There's a time an a place for everything. Being considerate means knowing your audience, not trying to fit into a very narrow, very recent definition of "niceness."

Even Jesus was snarky sometimes.
posted by jnrussell at 11:22 AM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think Salon should try a month of no hand-wringing instead.
posted by eugenen at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Only a pendant would complain about improper word choice.

But don't you love it when they are hung by their own petard?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Only a pendant would complain about improper word choice.

When you dangle a straight line like that, you gotta figure somebody's gonna snap it up.
posted by spacewrench at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


But don't you love it when they are hung by their own petard?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium


Well played! Even the username is appropriate!
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:43 AM on April 6, 2011


The frog analogy does not fit. No par-boiled frog is snarky to themself. Put another frog in the inescapable pot, make it unwaveringly optimistic and chipper. Now tell the first frog to think of rainbows.

Snark is a perfectly adequate response in its place. Granted, it's not the only possible response, and I would never proscribe it as the only acceptable response. But it's really rather smug and condescending to tell the doomed frog it might feel better if it was more cheery.
posted by londonmark at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2011


"Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path."

That said, Buddhist writings and monks often express some hilarious snark, but it's usually delivered with gentle loving-kindness as a reminder that you should focus on what you need to do for enlightenment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:00 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


About six months ago I made a deliberate decision to snark less online, particularly on Metafilter. It's definitely helped improve my enjoyment of online communities. The key thing is you don't dwell on stuff you didn't like, you just move on.

I'm not perfect: I couldn't resist snarking here yesterday, for instance. But I regret it when I slip. Doubly so on MeFi, since now that thread for the thing I didn't care for shows up in Recent Activity, reminding me of my negative contribution.
posted by Nelson at 12:00 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


About six years ago -- actually, about six years ago EXACTLY -- I was working as a substitute cantor/soloist for the local Catholic church. I'm not Catholic, and at the time I wasn't even Christian, but they paid $150 a week for 3 hours' work, and the woman who usually did it was out recovering from spinal surgery. It turns out that the Catholics could give a shit about apostasy when you can sight-sing and have a three-octave range.

Anyway, the gig was for the three weeks before, and the first three weeks of, Lent. And it was actually a very nice church, very social justice oriented, very into comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. (Some of the parishioners at this church are among the richest people in the country.) So when the priest spoke about the idea of the Lenten sacrifice, the idea of a 40-day deprivation being a test bed for something that you think might be bad for you but you're too scared to get rid of, I thought about it. I'd had a friend who had given up her crippling self-doubt for Lent one year and had really positive results, and so I decided to give up cynicism for Lent. Despite not being Christian.

It was one of the best things I've ever done for myself, seriously. Let me be clear: I didn't give up skepticism, I didn't become some wide-eyed naif for six weeks. I didn't give up snark per se, though I did do a lot less of it, and I definitely didn't give up being harsh or critical. I just gave up my presumptions that everything was always going to go poorly and that everyone around me had bad motives. The effect was startling; I was happy nearly all the time! Strangers would comment on what a good mood I was in. I became more willing to do goofy things like sing along with the Muzak in a supermarket (I'm a professional singer) or do a Happy Dance in public (I am a TERRIBLE dancer). When I dropped the presumption that everyone around me was judging me -- which I didn't even know I had! -- I got to be a lot more true to myself.

I discovered that I could just like things, even popular things, even things that used to be popular but weren't any more. Even things that were tremendously overdone. I stopped limiting myself to "cool" things, or expected things. I don't like highly-hopped beer! I do like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg! I do not care about personal fashion at all, but I love Red Carpet Best Dressed Lists! Those soft Lofthouse frosted cookies? Those have no food in them at all, but they're AWESOME! If you go near a waterfront and crinkle an empty Fritos bag, all the ducks will come running, and then you can raise your hands over your head and yell "My duck armies, I command you to go forth and bring me the heads of my enemies!" and all the ducks will sort of desultorily waddle away once they figure out you don't have fritos, and and you can pretend that they ARE going to get you the heads of your enemies. Maybe there are other people at the park. Maybe they think you're a lunatic, or a pretentious yukster who thinks she's funnier than she is. Who cares! If they want to engage me, they can, but I'm not going to play shadow-puppet theater in my head with the imagined version of their opinions.

It wasn't sustainable, obviously; I had to avoid too many things that I wasn't prepared to give up permanently, like the Daily Show and involvement in politics. But it did make a permanent change in my life. I'm more willing to engage directly with people now, instead of with my idea of what those people are. I'm less inclined to let my imagined ideas of what people might be thinking about me influence my actions. I'm way, WAY less likely to make snap judgments about people based on limited interactions or information. It has generally made me a happier person. It was a good experiment, one I'd recommend to nearly anyone, but I think it has the most utility for the people who are most afraid of it.
posted by KathrynT at 12:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [65 favorites]


now that thread for the thing I didn't care for shows up in Recent Activity, reminding me of my negative contribution.
posted by Nelson at 3:00 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


HAAA-HAAAA.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Happiness is a powerful drug. I don't recommend it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


They'll have to take it from my cold undead zombie hands.
posted by Skygazer at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2011


I don't know. I've never eaten snark.
posted by gern at 12:19 PM on April 6, 2011


Possibly tangential, but I think this is a better version of what Daisley was trying to achieve.
posted by jnrussell at 12:19 PM on April 6, 2011


KathrynT: I thought about it. I'd had a friend who had given up her crippling self-doubt for Lent one year and had really positive results....*snip*

Whaaat the fuckity fuck??!!

You don't give up something for Lent because it's a "potentially positive thing in my life..blah..blah..yadda..yadda...etc.."

You do that shit if you watch too much Dr. Phil or Oprah or whatever the hell, but for Lent you give shit up because it's supposed to make you suffer and feel like shit for not having that thing in your life for a while...

If those two things don't apply then it doesn't count. And I know, because I'm a first class apostate Catholic asshole, who thinks if you're going to enjoy Christianity in any way, then you're not doing it right.
posted by Skygazer at 12:19 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's get more specific about the frog. The frog is trapped in the pot with no way out, and although the heating pot is getting gradually hotter, it will take weeks for it to start boiling.

But you're not helping. I mean, you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:21 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hey, maybe that's why YOU give up shit for Lent, Skygazer. I'm not Catholic, I'll give up shit for Lent for any reason I want. Although the Catholic priest at the Catholic church where I was working thought it was a great idea and a great reason, so, you know, there's that.
posted by KathrynT at 12:23 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, now that I've read the whole comment KathyrnT that's a pretty great experience, my comment above though simply exploded out of me with the weight of a thousand endless masses and homilies to suffering and deprivation. Please accept my most humble de-snarked apologies.
posted by Skygazer at 12:26 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


but for Lent you give shit up because it's supposed to make you suffer and feel like shit for not having that thing in your life for a while..

I'm not a Christian (though I flirted with Eastern Orthodoxy in my early 20s), but I think the spirit of giving things up for Lent is more so the absence opens up a space for contemplation. It's not just to make you suffer for suffering's sake. At least that's what the original church fathers espoused. I guess it got corrupted later into some kind of mild pseudo-flagellation.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:26 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, Skygazer. FWIW I have a pretty strong rejection of the "AND YOU MUST SUFFER!!" idea, I think any kind of sacrifice or fast should have the goal of making you a better person. I've seen some really interesting Lenten sacrifices from various people, including my pastors, but that's kind of a derail at this point.
posted by KathrynT at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2011


> I like Metafilter because when I'm here, I'm not snarking at you, I'm snarking with you.

This.

> Frogs taste better when their livers are stuffed with rainbows.

I have not the slightest clue what that could mean but I'm going to try to live by it.


I am stuck wondering if a rainbow-stuffed liver would be enough to get me to eat a frog.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2011


KathrynT: FWIW I have a pretty strong rejection of the "AND YOU MUST SUFFER!!" idea, I think any kind of sacrifice or fast should have the goal of making you a better person.

Well, that's a bold and semi-blasphemous idea right there, but heck, I'll take it.

Metafilter: Making me a better more well adjusted person, day by day.
posted by Skygazer at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2011


Metafilter: a bold and semi-blasphemous idea
posted by KathrynT at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and I think I know the parish you're talking about if it's NYC, and has the excellent Halloween parade event every year. Rather progressive aren't they?
posted by Skygazer at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2011


nope. I sent you memail.
posted by KathrynT at 12:44 PM on April 6, 2011


All the personal stories about being less snarky/ cynical are really making this an excellent thread. I'm used to the internet being such a caustic place where cynical rhetoric is applauded; it's so nice to find a post where people share their rewarding tales of resistance to this negativity. It's inspiring, and I'm happier just reading about it.

The internet needs more of this.
posted by millions at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2011


*wonders is Snarf from the Thundercats would have been cooler if he was called Snark*

*realizes that nothing could ever make Snarf cool.*
posted by quin at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2011


I'd sooner give up my life. A life without snark is a thin, sorry, bloodless thing.

"His form is ungainly — his intellect small —”
 (So the Bellman would often remark)
“But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
 Is the thing that one needs with a Snark"

posted by Decani at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a fairly bright line between making a snarky remark with a light hearted intention of pointing out some kind of silliness or inequity, and just doing it with a mind to obliterate someone. The former can be constructive and a bridge to communication; the later is ego masturbation.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a fairly bright line between making a snarky remark with a light hearted intention of pointing out some kind of silliness or inequity, and just doing it with a mind to obliterate someone.The former can be constructive and a bridge to communication; the later is ego masturbation.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 PM on April 6


Oh, what po-faced tommyrot. It can be huge fun too. Especially if the target richly deserves obliteration. Seeing that done well can be enriching, life-affirming joy.
posted by Decani at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It can be huge fun too.

So can masturbation. Especially if you dress in a costume and use hand puppe--

Perhaps I've said too much.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is nowhere near some of the other experiences here, but one I got an extremely sore throat and was basically unable to speak for three days. So I would have this reflexive urge to say something, and then not be able to actually say it. Then I would sort of dwell on what I'd wanted to say, which made me reflect a lot on the sorts of things I said throughout the course of a normal day.

Turned out, the MAJORITY of things I wanted to say were jokes, usually sarcastic ones. Like, literally more than half of the time I spoke, I was making a joke.

I knew I had a reputation as a joker, but this experience was sort of shocking to me. I realized that maybe my constant sarcasm was keeping people from taking me seriously. I certainly won't say that I stopped trying to be funny- it's a big part of my identity, actually- but I did try to compliment my usual snark with some actual sincerity and emotional openness, which I think had a small but very positive effect on my social life.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:27 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


For some reason I'm embarrassed to admit this on the internet. But I'm actually not much of a snarker by nature. I tend to approach the world through the lens of overwrought sincerity, which I am hoping will be the next big thing. I am usually nice to people, and often defend absent targets of snark. When I encounter things that are depressing, instead of snarking, I get sad. When I encounter things that are infuriating, instead of snarking, I get infuriated.

And I absolutely, positively could not stand to be without the snarkers in my life. (There are so many of them. I love them.) They make life interesting. They make life hilarious. They make life a little more tolerable. They help me work through my frequent emotions of indignance, frustration, doubt, fear and sadness, with laughter or maybe just a small snort. They help me take myself and everything else in the world a little less seriously.

Snarking is a way of deflecting. Sometimes, you don't need to get all worked up about something. You just need to deflect.
posted by crackingdes at 1:32 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


“It’s a Snark!” was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words “It’s a Boo-”



Then, silence.
posted by everichon at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bleh. I am kind of overly anti-authoritarian, but this strikes me as being more like, "I became a happy, docile member of society and yay FLOWERS." If giving up snark means giving up your strong opinions, I'll pass. Snark can be a great indication of critical thinking, and gives you verbal power against things you otherwise have very little control over (Daily Show snarks about politics, for example).

I would argue that KathrynT ALSO gave up crippling self-doubt, not snark. And good on her -- we should be nice to ourselves. There is snark, and then there is being a jerk. Don't do the latter!
posted by jess at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


YOU KNOW WHAT'S MORE FUNNY THAN SNARK IS OVER-EXAGGERATED SINCERITY (AND MAYBE A SMIDGEN OF STUPIDITY) ALL DOLLED UP IN CAPITAL LETTERS!
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2011


I realized that maybe my constant sarcasm was keeping people from taking me seriously. I certainly won't say that I stopped trying to be funny- it's a big part of my identity, actually- but I did try to compliment my usual snark with some actual sincerity and emotional openness, which I think had a small but very positive effect on my social life.

This sums up my own experience perfectly. I find snark is also highly dependent on your friends and loved ones knowing how you really feel about a situation aside from your jabs and jokes. So when your social circle shifts, or just too much time passes, it's hard to realize that no one knows anything about you but your snark.
posted by greenland at 1:50 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


If giving up snark means giving up your strong opinions, I'll pass.

It absolutely does not mean that. It does, however, mean being able to articulate sincere, valid reasons for your strong opinion. If you don't like, say, the New York Post, it's fine if you want to tell me that, but tell me, sincerely, why you don't like it. Tell me in a way that will make me think you are a thoughtful, observant person, rather than a clever, witty person.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:54 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


In his book Snark, David Denby wrote about how Owen Wilson threatened to punch him out once because he'd written a comment about Ben Stiller's appearance that included the description "if he pulls down his chin and stares, he looks like a mildly paranoid gibbon." Many movie reviews since the time of at least Bosley Crowther have sentences exactly like that unless they're gushing histrionic paeans. So: would the rule "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" apply to a situation like this?

What about this one: Dorothy Parker's second husband died a gruesome death. A busybody acquaintance came up to Parker and cooed, "Dottie, tell me, dear, what I can do for you."

"Get me a new husband," Parker shot back.

"I think that is the most callous and disgusting remark I have ever heard in my life," said the busybody.

Parker: "So sorry. Then run down to the corner and get me a ham and cheese on rye and tell them to hold the mayo."

Was Parker being snarky? Not nice enough? Would profanity make it more snarky? Or less? Maybe a two-word putdown or a "Whatevs" at the end?

That said, Buddhist writings and monks often express some hilarious snark, but it's usually delivered with gentle loving-kindness

Not as often as you'd think:

"Whenever he was asked about Zen, Master Gutei simply stuck up one finger. He had a boy attendant whom a visitor asked, 'What kind of teaching does your master give?' The boy held up one finger too. Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy's finger with a knife. As the boy ran away, screaming with pain, Gutei called to him. When the boy turned his head, Gutei stuck up one finger. The boy was suddenly enlightened."
posted by blucevalo at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do enjoy a bit of light or intelligent snark from time to time. When it's done well, it's really funny or insightful. But what I really have a problem with is with people that can't turn it off. It's like they have no filter, and they think that constant snarkiness is a form of identifying themselves.

And my main problem is that the consistent snarkiness without filter is that it is very negative. I had a roommate that would just be snarky 24/7 even when I was going through stressful times and it just made me even more stressed out. I ended up leaving the lease very early because I couldn't take it. He would always have something to say about something, and it was usually with something that they disliked.

I don't mind someone having strong opinions, but what annoys me are people with strong opinions that have the need to express them even when they aren't wanted/needed. When they add the snark, it's even worse. It really looks like attention/power mongering (me me me LISTEN TO MY VALID OPINIONS), and that turns off a lot of people.
posted by xtine at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2011


The problem as I see it is that too many people think they're Dorothy Parker when they just aren't.

There aren't "be nice" rules, to my mind, but there's a sense in which if you err on the side of saying whatever thing sounds witty in your head, you might be wrong and sound assholish or dickish [even to people who are fans of snark]. Good snark is terrific, to most people, bad snark is worse than just being dickish, it's worse than saying nothing. And then you're not just managing a situation where you're misunderstood but a situation in which you were trying to do one positive thing and wound up doing something negative instead. Like being sort of a fake-jerk only then people thnk you're a real-jerk instead.

Not a really big deal as these things go (Dorothy Parker didn't care if you thought she was a jerk, at all) but I think for a lot of us the relentless judging just gets tiresome. Again, there's no particular reason you'd care what I personally think about this, unless you want to be friends with, hang out with, employ, or possibly try to sleep with, me. The big question is whether achieving a less-snarky lifestyle solves a particular problem for you and some people seem to think that it does, for them.
posted by jessamyn at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Um, I tried to give up snark once. I had a stupid moment of "moral clarity" and humility and blah blah whatever and tried to be a good girl and be nice all the time. After about a month of this I'm pretty sure I was going crazy. I had no idea of my own real opinions anymore, because everything was "nice" - I had nothing bad to say about movies/other media that was frankly trash, because people don't like negativity. I was...neutered. I started backsliding into bad taste. I was totally unsure of my real opinion on anything, because it could never be expresses aloud. I ended up wasting time entertaining a lot of people who did absolutely nothing to stimulate my mind. It was stagnant, horrible.

Then I started to reevaluate my perfectly nice universe and allow room for trial by fire. Things got a lot better. Not enough people are snarky enough, imo. "Niceness" has nothing to do with actual morality and is arguably more cowardly.

I mean, I'll take Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain over this lady.
posted by Nixy at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am kind of overly anti-authoritarian [...] Snark can be a great indication of critical thinking, and gives you verbal power against things you otherwise have very little control over (Daily Show snarks about politics, for example).

Sincerity, when used correctly, is an incredibly powerful tool. In this day and age there is a huge fatalism towards the idea of bridging the gaps between people and ideology.

One of the favorite silencing comments around here is, "that [passionate response] is so silly. It will never change any one's mind."

There's no power in fatalism. The radical humorists were rarely snarky and more often biting.

Attendence at the Daily Show Sanity rally blew the doors off every single tea party gathering. But we still hear about the political power of the tea partiers and their sometimes fake (Glenn/Palin) and sometimes real (grassroots) sincerity every day. I can't remember the last time someone brought up the Sanity Rally except in hipstery nostalgia.

There are plenty of stories of huge gaps like racism and homophobia being bridged by honest sincerity and human connection. Snark is a tool in human connection, but it's not a bridging tool. It's an in-group identifier. Sincerity brings groups together.

Sincerity can be pretty scary to those of us who grew up on irony and snark -- especially when we learned to use them as ego defenses in school. It's a lot like the story of the elephant chained at the circus who is switched to a cheaper rope after the learned helplessness has set in. Fuck. That. Shit. I've gone from serious depression and navel gazing to having a career that makes a difference, however small, on the national scale for causes I care about. I've made lifelong, closely sharing friends where before I had acquaintances and social anxiety. Snarkiness and negativity have their place but they ultimately close more doors than they open.
posted by Skwirl at 2:49 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


totally slighted in a very embarrassing way by a man she had dated and she said of the incident "he's....funny" when what she really meant to say was "he's a fucking asshole."

Actually I think that "He's... funny" coming from the right person can be much more damning than "he's a fucking asshole." Communication isn't always black and white.

I LOVE the Dorothy Parker story! I don't even know if she was being snarky. "Get me a new husband" - there's some sincerity there, you know, combined with probably a bit of snark at the idea that there's something you can do for someone in her position. The second line was maybe more pure snarkiness - but you know, if we talk about snarkiness as a way of disengaging, what's a more appropriate way to use it than not to spend another drop of energy on someone who's going to critique your mourning of your husband?
posted by Salamandrous at 2:53 PM on April 6, 2011


Snark: the native tongue of MeFites around the world.

vs

Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2011


I think she's managed to combine far too many things under the "snark" heading. It's turning into "irony."

"Not nice" is not the same thing as "not snide." And negativity is hardly the same thing as not being sincere. I can be quite sincere when pointing and saying, "Yeah, that is crap. Here is why ..." And a straitjacket of restraint is certainly nowhere near mindfulness.

This:
Granted, near the end of the month, I had dreams that I was screaming into a crowd stuff like, "The stroller is smaller than your shopping cart, god damn it, so stop giving me that look!" I also found myself sublimating by reading British film reviews that said things such as, "The sex scenes were reminiscent of a slug rolling in salt."
simply does not jibe well with her conclusion, "Kindness doesn't have to imply repression."

Had she just restricted herself to refraining from the actual and specific practice of snideness (snark = SNide remARK), that would have meant that she could have been a bit more forthright and possibly not have dreams about screaming at people.
posted by adipocere at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


My moment wasn't anything so profound. I went to a cult film night at a local pub and got to talking to the guy who runs it. I explained I was there because of MST3K and the guy running it (who's one of the kindest people I know) said he hated the show. Why not take the movies on their own terms?
I did, and found that even the worst movies had something to offer - some scary or moving scene.
There's too many people in pain to be snarky all the time. I also don't have the knack for snark and irony. I hate things and I'm sarcastic but I'm still painfully sincere and earnest all the time. It's hard, since it's not encouraged online or in Australia but I can't seem to stop it. People seem to like me well enough, though. I was hoping the 'new sincerity' movement would catch on.

"If I have one regret it’s letting this whole nihilistic shit charade live on! You know it scares the hell out of me when my friends think they have nobody to lean on!" - Defiance, Ohio
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:01 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm for the death of snark. The word, not the concept, to the extent that it's coherent – RogerB has a point way up above that "snark" has come to mean irreverent comedy, completely witless pissing, and everything inbetween. But the word is terrible: you can type it, but you can't say it. Especially "snarky". To say it aloud is to beg someone to pull you up by the suspenders and stuff you in a locker. Try it. It's horrible. It's an internet word that recoils from actual conversation like vampires to river rapids made of garlic. Every time I've had that word slip out of my real life mouth, I wished I could turn into bats. Hisssss!
posted by furiousthought at 4:20 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


My Metafilter experience improved a great deal once I could participate without feeling like the act of posting a comment opened me up to being the inadvertent springboard of someone else's snotty rebuttal, cutting wit, or dismissive joke. I think the tone shift slowly began with AskMeFi where sincere advice was not only encouraged but automatic snark discouraged. The past couple years have really been a change, from my POV - partly with the larger influx of new members? There's a lot more sincerity and acknowledgement of other people's humanity (funny enough, much of that through "favorites", which I disliked at first because I felt they would make commenting into a popularity contest; but it allows support and involvement on a quieter, often-overlooked level that's given less space online).

I don't think "less snark" = "no strong opinions", "bland niceness", or "no negativity" (although it seems to me the author pretty much does). I think snark is more about asserting superiority at other people's expense, and while we all do it a little bit (because humans are judgy by nature), too much of it is toxic. It uses people as props, and many times mocks them for being sincere and human. It puts both the user and the used on a constant defensive, which is exhausting and disconnects us from each other.
posted by flex at 4:36 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Because nothing says "sincerity" like selling a stunty confessional think-piece.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:02 PM on April 6


Let the bidding begin!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:46 PM on April 6, 2011


It uses people as props, and many times mocks them for being sincere and human. It puts both the user and the used on a constant defensive, which is exhausting and disconnects us from each other.

THIS. There's an inhumanity in so much 21st century art that's just wearying. Emo and the mockery of it were a symptom of how ironic and distanced and artificial so much music has gotten. I can't listen to indie or dance anymore without getting a panic attack.

Titus Andronicus sum it up nicely:
"is there a human alive ain't looked themself in the face without winking or saying what they mean without drinking without leaving something without thinking 'what if somebody doesn't approve?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:04 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even Jesus was snarky sometimes.

Yes, that's an interesting insight. He practiced compassion with the people he met, but he unleashed the edge against the authorities and people in power when the time was right.
posted by ovvl at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2011


"I often used sharp humor with my friends when I was younger, but I eventually grew out of it. I realized that I was taking out my aggression on people whom I felt comfortable with. Once in while I might share a bit of barbed wit with a fellow, but just for old time's sake."
posted by ovvl at 5:13 PM on April 6, 2011


Letting go of snark, which made me feel angry and small (and at which I was never very good at anyway) and embracing sincerity has helped me hone my opinions rather than allowed them to devolve into bland all-acceptance, because I can approach things with as few pre-conceptions as possible, and judge them for their merits. And I give things a chance to surprise me, rather than just eschewing them altogether.

My turning point moment came when I was in college. I was sitting on public transportation and across from me was a woman with an all pink velour jumpsuit with an Om symbol on it, and she was reading a book about spirituality. I don't remember exactly what I thought about her, just that it was snarky and something I'd never say out loud. But then I realized, this is a person who's trying to center themselves, is physically fit (she appeared to be returning from yoga) and has a grasp on their own philosophy and self. And what the hell do (/did) I have? Not that much.

It was a small moment but it represents a profound change in my way of thinking, and I've tried to stick to that ever since. It's hard, because a lot of my friends are British and clever and are masters of snark. Maybe it's just that, as I said, I'm not quick with responses or good at wordplay. But I've also come to realize there's a difference between irony, and wit, and just being nasty. I think the type of snark the article is referring to comes from cynicism. And cynicism is a disease that robs you of the ability to see beauty in the world.

My life has been richer for striving for accepting things with sincerity, in experiences as well as finances, particularly because I've been open to things that appear nerdy or lame. (Example: playing alternate reality games. They require you to do a lot of puzzle type things, scavenger hunts, or gathering your friends together for random and potentially embarrassing public activities. But I've had a ton of fun doing them, traveled a lot, and met a bunch of friends through them. I also won a significant amount of money from one and it's allowing me to live the type of life I want to live. It's hard to pooh-pooh something like that.)
posted by lhall at 5:15 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


lhall: "But then I realized, this is a person who's trying to center themselves, is physically fit (she appeared to be returning from yoga) and has a grasp on their own philosophy and self. And what the hell do (/did) I have? Not that much."

Yes. The way we're seeing people is not static - it's coloured by our own life experiences; it's distorted by our own lackings of experience in other ways of being. Not only that, but what you see is not always the full story.

Being mindful extends not just to surface appearances but to possibilities. There's a good chance that a person's outward personality is just one of the many roles they play; one of many masks they wear. To paraphrase a quote: each of us contradicts ourself, we are large, we each contain multitudes.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2011


Even Jesus was snarky sometimes.

No he wasn't.

What behavior or speech of his could be best described as 'snide'? One can denounce without being snide.
posted by BigSky at 7:02 PM on April 6, 2011


Does anyone have actual evidence for this claimed "snide remark" portmanteau-word etymology? It really seems like a totally fabricated back-formation to me.
posted by RogerB at 7:13 PM on April 6, 2011


I can't believe the woman who wrote this article is so clueless that she thinks going without snark means she has to find something nice to say about Gadhafi - when speaking with a friend from the Middle East, no less! What respecful intention does he deserve?
posted by citron at 7:50 PM on April 6, 2011


What behavior or speech of his [Jesus] could be best described as 'snide'? One can denounce without being snide.


Sorry, I wasn't using the actual definition of snarky ("snide"). I agree that Jesus was never snide, but according to the Salon.com article and most folks' understanding of the concept of snark (including my own) I think Jesus did have some moments that could be classified as such.

Some examples: The pharisees are getting in Jesus's face about letting his disciples pick corn on the Sabbath and he basically says: "your precious David broke the rules and you don't seem to mind so there" (yes I know he said more than that but it was a pretty good zing)

Or when everyone's like "hey Jesus we caught this woman committing adultery LET'S KILL HER" and Jesus was all "alright but non-sinners get to throw first"

And then there was that time when Jesus was eating at this one pharisee's house and this woman came in and was all weeping and washing his feet and the pharisee was like "what's up with THAT" and then Jesus was all "this woman rolls into your house and washes my feet when you didn't so much as offer me a hand towel, so what's up with you, dude"

Granted this is my own interpretation of the recorded events and I supposed most people will maintain this image of Jesus as a very reverent, solemn person (a man of sorrows, as they say) and that's fine but when I read some of his exchanges with the pharisees especially I imagine it was a pretty warm banter among academics and that Jesus was okay with being flip (and still being right) from time to time.

This of course is all based on my concept of "snark" not being tied to the classic definition and I don't think Daisley's was tied to that either, because certainly she took it so far as to not be able to say anything of substance about a dictator who planned to murder his own people in order to retain power.

But I fully (and non snarkily) respect your dissent from this view of Jesus and recognize that I'm probably in the minority with this concept.
posted by jnrussell at 8:57 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only time I ever gave up snark was actually an involuntary act as I was suffering from an advanced case of Snarkolepsy. Fortunately, I got better and all was right with the world one more.
posted by motown missile at 10:28 PM on April 6, 2011


Does anyone have actual evidence for this claimed "snide remark" portmanteau-word etymology? It really seems like a totally fabricated back-formation to me.

There isn't much on wiktionary. It has snarky (1906), based on snark (1866) as in "to snort" (there are cognates in other germanic languages meaning to snort).

I wonder sometimes if back-formations can "create" words. For example, perhaps snark was very rarely used, and really just meant to snort. But was only really used to describe the kind of snorting one does when being snide. But it's not used too often, and no one really pays it much mind. Then someone comes along and says "oh it's short for snide remark" and then the word kind of comes into its own and becomes used more often. And the meaning shifts again slightly, from snort - to snide snorting- to remarks that express in words what would otherwise be expressed as a snort.

Like with the origins of "OK" - there could have been many similar-sounding, similar-meaning expressions floating around but not too often used. Then some guy comes along and makes this "oll korrekt" joke, in a newspaper no less, and then this word which many people would have heard occasionally suddenly crystallizes into an actually used word with a solid definition (there are recorded uses of words sounding like "ok" since well before 1830, among african-americans, and native groups, and others too i would expect).
posted by molecicco at 12:55 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a timely thread for me, as I'm currently working and being lunch pals with a very snarky person. Fine in small doses, but it's wearing me down over time. Currently I'm coping by being more and more sincere with him, and hoping it will rub off. Other suggestions are welcome.
posted by Harald74 at 12:59 AM on April 7, 2011


jnrussell,

We can agree to disagree, but I'll readily admit that I love your phrasing.
posted by BigSky at 4:34 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea of my own real opinions anymore, because everything was "nice" - I had nothing bad to say about movies/other media that was frankly trash, because people don't like negativity. I was...neutered. I started backsliding into bad taste. I was totally unsure of my real opinion on anything, because it could never be expresses aloud. I ended up wasting time entertaining a lot of people who did absolutely nothing to stimulate my mind. It was stagnant, horrible.

If trying to be less snarky made you essentially stop thinking for yourself, then (at the risk of being snarky) you did it wrong.

The author of the article didn't seem to stop having snarky thoughts. She just tried really hard to stop voicing them out loud, which is something I totally support and strive to do in my everyday life. I still have the judgmental thought about my coworker who calls in sick about once a week (and ends up screwing me over in some way), but I don't voice it. That way I don't have to worry that whatever snotty little thing I said about her is going to find its way back to her (and it would, it always does).

As for snarking on pop culture -- when you share an office with someone who has a deep and abiding love for all things Twilight and is also very sweet and kind and generous to a fault, you learn to keep your damn mouth shut about how you think Twilight is just about the dumbest thing on the planet (and let's not even get started on the thinly veiled religious indoctrination throughout the whole series aaaaagh). Because how is it helpful or kind to tell her I think the books she enjoyed (and that got her into reading for pleasure at the age of 30, hot damn hooray) are a steaming pile of crap?

That doesn't mean I lied to my officemate and pretended to enjoy what she likes, either. When she told me how much she loved Twilight and asked if I'd read it, I told her the truth: I'd read the first book and it was pretty enjoyable, but I couldn't get into the second book and ultimately it wasn't for me. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. She's not offended by my rudeness, I'm not hiding my true feelings. It doesn't have to be as hard as one might think.

Actually, I run into the snark issue CONSTANTLY at work. I'm on an admin team with about 12 other women. They're all lovely women and I enjoy them quite a lot, but we don't have much in common. Our lifestyles don't match up (they mostly have kids already or kids on the way, I'm childfree), our politics don't match up (I'm a dirty socialist ultraliberal, most of them refuse to talk politics or current events at all -- I was asked to "explain Egypt" when the demonstrations were going on, as none of them follow the news very closely outside of celebrity gossip and weather), our pop-culture tastes really really don't line up. If most of the team meets up for lunch, the conversation usually turns to whatever happened on The Bachelor or Dancing With The Stars that week, or whose kid did a cute thing, or what "clever" thing Charlie Sheen's up to now. I don't have any interest in any of these things (and in some cases would have a hard time finding anything nice to say). You know what's easier than letting loose with whatever cutting, vaguely nasty thing that pops to mind? Just keeping my mouth shut when I have nothing constructive to say.

But aside from the most disparate of personalities or belief structures, it's really not hard to find common ground with someone. And it's so, so much better for me personally to be kind instead of snarky. I can still snark with the best of 'em (and at times I do), but for the most part my days go much more smoothly and people treat me with more respect and kindness if I hold back on the acid tongue. And I find that I like myself more when I am kind than when I am gratuitously mean.
posted by palomar at 8:32 AM on April 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


There isn't much on wiktionary.

Nor is there anything about the portmanteau idea in the OED's entries, which give it pretty much the same derivation from Germanic "snort"/"snore" verbs. It might be useful to consider "sniffy" or "snotty" as parallel sn-words — and words that also relate the basic nasal-snorting meaning to passing judgment or casting aspersion. The portmanteau-word thing just seems nothing like a real etymology by comparison.

I wonder sometimes if back-formations can "create" words.

I think it's certainly true that a punchy new folk etymology can help lend a veneer of acceptability to a word that might otherwise seem slangy. But there's a chicken-and-egg causality problem here, I think; people don't circulate punchy folk etymologies for totally obscure words, they do it for words that are already becoming popular. It seems just as possible that the folk etymology is a symptom of the word's increasing currency as that it's a cause of it.
posted by RogerB at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2011


I can't think of an instance when Jesus was snarky, but God certainly was when He addressed Job.

[Insert rant about people who only know the "story" of Job as it is commonly told not really getting the Book of Job at all. They basically know the prologue and the epilogue, but the meat of the book is all the discussion that takes place in the middle.]
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2011


As a person who understands only the most obvious unveiled sarcasm, I must say, my life is not the better for it.
posted by tehloki at 5:39 PM on April 7, 2011


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