Vocal Expression or Cruel Expression?

David - LaGrange Park, Illinois
Entered on October 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Sarcasm. One of the greatest tools in human linguistics, it has the ability to either show approval in a roundabout way, create a complex joke, or simply get your point across without being rude. For some it is the most often used verbal context in daily speech, for others it is just a way to accent a point. Personally, I feel that I fall into the latter group, although I do have moments where the former seems more fitting. Sarcasm can be used to great benefit. However, like a coin, sarcasm has two faces. It can be interpreted incorrectly, which I have often experienced, and in the end the misinterpretation can, at times, be irreversible. The key to this mysterious speaking tool is to know how to avoid these catastrophes.

Personally, I enjoy sarcasm. It’s the starting point for most of my quips. For me, there is nothing better than getting a person to laugh with just a simple change in tone. But the multifaceted sarcasm doesn’t only feature one benefit, it is also essential in warding off verbal attacks. There’s nothing more enjoyable than reversing the intended words of an abuser into a complement. Sarcasm, produced in situations of tension with friends, can be the dissolving factor in the fight. Unfortunately, if asked in general, the populace would say that sarcasm is a detrimental act in verbal contact. But why?

A tumble with the wrong side of sarcasm can create a depressing situation. My little sister has had reason, at times, to call me a “big meany” because of my misinterpreted sarcasm. It’s something experienced by all. A sarcastic remark made in the best of intentions somehow goes horribly wrong and, instead of a positive laugh, in its place is an expression of pain on the receivers face. For example, at the beginning of this year I ran across a positive, soft spoken child who shared the same interests as me. As our relationship developed, I quickly became more comfortable around him and began to use more joking sarcasm. However, this particular child was so positive that he didn’t realize my sarcasm for what it was and took a few statements at face value. A few days later he made a comment about how much I must hate him. I was aghast at this statement for the previous night I had been telling my parents about this awesome child I had met at school. Although the situation was cleared up I learned a clear lesson on how to be more careful with my jokes. I also developed the conclusion that this is how sarcasm gets a bad reputation.

So, is sarcasm a definitively bad method of vocal expression? No, but it can be a double-edged sword and thus must be wielded with care. I believe to the core of my being that sarcasm is one of the greatest ways of vocal expression. But, it must be used only occasionally, lest it be misinterpreted.