Sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt." Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, although sarcasm is not necessarily ironic. "The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in the spoken word and manifested chiefly by vocal inflections". The sarcastic content of a statement will be dependent upon the context in which it appears.
Origin of the term
The word comes from the Greek σαρκασμός (sarkasmos) which is taken from σαρκάζειν meaning "to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage, sneer".
It is first recorded in English in 1579, in an annotation to The Shepheardes Calender by Edmund Spenser:
However, the word sarcastic, meaning "Characterized by or involving sarcasm; given to the use of sarcasm; bitterly cutting or caustic", doesn't appear until 1695.
Distinguishing sarcasm from banter, and referring to the use of irony in sarcasm, Bousfield writes  that sarcasm is:
John Haiman writes: "There is an extremely close connection between sarcasm and irony, and literary theorists in particular often treat sarcasm as simply the crudest and least interesting form of irony." Also, he adds:
While, Henry Watson Fowler writes:
Understanding the subtlety of this usage requires second-order interpretation of the speaker's or writer's intentions; different parts of the brain must work together to understand sarcasm. This sophisticated understanding can be lacking in some people with certain forms of brain damage, dementia and autism (although not always), and this perception has been located by MRI in the right parahippocampal gyrus. Research has shown that people with damage in the prefrontal cortex have difficulty understanding non-verbal aspects of language like tone, Richard Delmonico, a neuropsychologist at the University of California, Davis, told an interviewer. Such research could help doctors distinguish between different types of neurodegenerative diseases, such as frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to David Salmon, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego.
In William Brant's Critique of Sarcastic Reason, sarcasm is hypothesized to develop as a cognitive and emotional tool that adolescents use in order to test the borders of politeness and truth in conversation. Sarcasm recognition and expression both require the development of understanding forms of language, especially if sarcasm occurs without a cue or signal (e.g., a sarcastic tone or rolling the eyes). Sarcasm is argued to be more sophisticated than lying because lying is expressed as early as the age of three, but sarcastic expressions take place much later during development (Brant, 2012). According to Brant (2012, 145-6), sarcasm is
Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely with more than a few cultures and linguistic groups finding it offensive to varying degrees. Thomas Carlyle despised it: "Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it". Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was "usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded." RFC 1855, a collection of guidelines for Internet communications, includes a warning to be especially careful with it as it "may not travel well." A professional translator has advised that international business executives "should generally avoid sarcasm in intercultural business conversations and written communications" because of the difficulties in translating sarcasm.
In English, sarcasm is often telegraphed with kinesic/prosodic cues by speaking more slowly and with a lower pitch. Similarly, Dutch uses a lowered pitch; sometimes to such an extent that the expression is reduced to a mere mumble. But other research shows that there are many ways that real speakers signal sarcastic intentions. One study found that inCantonese, sarcasm is indicated by raising the fundamental frequency of one's voice.
Main article: Irony punctuation
Though in the English language there is no standard accepted method to denote irony or sarcasm in written conversation, several forms of punctuation have been proposed. Among the oldest and frequently attested are the percontation point—furthered by Henry Denham in the 1580s—and the irony mark—furthered by Alcanter de Brahm in the 19th century. Both of these marks were represented visually by a ⸮ backwards question mark (unicode U+2E2E). Each of these punctuation marks are primarily used to indicate that a sentence should be understood as ironic, but not necessarily designate sarcasm that is not ironic. By contrast, more recent proposals, such as the snark mark, or the use of a following tilde are specifically intended to denote sarcasm rather than irony. A bracketed exclamation point or question mark as well as scare quotes are also sometimes used to express irony or ironic sarcasm.
In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm and unreal phrases are indicated at the end of a sentence with a sarcasm mark called temherte slaq, a character that looks like an inverted exclamation point ¡. The usage directly parallels John Wilkins' 1668 proposal to use the inverted exclamation point as an irony mark. A proposal by Asteraye Tsigie and Daniel Yacob in 1999 to include the temherte slaq in unicode was unsuccessful.
A French company has developed an analytics tool that claims to have up to 80% accuracy in identifying sarcastic comments posted online.
In June 2014, the United States Secret Service requested bids for software that would identify sarcasm in tweets.
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