Students definitely don’t overuse sarcasm

Technically speaking, sarcasm isn’t a word that ends in ‘-ism.’ I realize readers care deeply about my adherence to my column’s theme. Please forgive me. It’s just that sarcasm is everywhere.

Jovanna Tosello | Daily Trojan

This form of humor is especially popular with blasé college students. Did someone just recount a mundane anecdote? Cool story, bro. Are you about to study for your midterms? Have fun raging at Club Leavey.

The USC Memes Facebook page can thank sarcasm for much of the page’s success. If you don’t know what the page is, congratulations for managing to stay off Facebook for that long.

One meme — the one where Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka looks especially condescending — features the following lines: “You say you won’t drink that much ever again? Let’s talk about that tomorrow morning.”

Another meme mocks one DPS officer’s obvious warning: “If you get hit by a car, it will hurt.” It’s hard to hear something like that and respond candidly.

Even Student Affairs recognizes our love of sarcasm. Last Monday, USC Spectrum hosted writers from The Onion, that bastion of journalistic integrity. Unsurprisingly, the event was well-attended.

Nevertheless, sarcasm proves a rule college students tend to disregard: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

One idiom calls sarcasm the lowest form of wit. That’s no reason to look down on it; one could say that Jersey Shore is the lowest form of television programming, but few people are going to look at you funny if you make a joke about Snooki.

Still, would you watch Jersey Shore every day? I hope not.

Along that vein, think about every time you’ve responded to something with a sarcastic comment. I’m sure it took you tons of thought to say the opposite of what you meant. I know I’m having a really hard time injecting sarcasm into this article.

Sometimes, sarcasm isn’t just about humorous flourish. It can be a substitute for well-thought-out humor. It can even be a reflexive response.

Sarcasm becomes problematic when people use it to respond to events they actually care about. Think of a roommate that says you’ve been really organized as she steps over a pile of your books. Using sarcasm in this manner might make you sound less uptight, but it also prevents people from understanding what you actually want.

Sarcastic humor is especially hard to decipher in the age of electronic communication. To those of you who have never experienced the dread of sending a sarcastic text and realizing the recipient might think you’re being serious — well, good for you.

The same goes for social media. I’ve seen plenty of students post sarcastic messages such as “life is rough” under instagram photos of pristine beaches, dramatic skylines and famous monuments. On one hand, we’re all dying to hear about how cool your life is, but on the other hand, you’re putting rubbing alcohol on the wounds of people who are genuinely going through hard times.

Signing onto Facebook doesn’t require you to suddenly become considerate of 500 peoples’ feelings, but all the same — if you’re going to brag, why not go all out? Just brag. Own it.

If each brand of humor were a spice, sarcasm would be salt: It makes almost anything a little tastier, but too much of it can ruin a dish that would’ve been fine on its own.


Maya Itah is a senior majoring in communication. Her column “Tackling the ‘-isms’” runs every other Thursday.

3 replies
  1. Jett Rucker
    Jett Rucker says:

    Similar to sarcasm, but differing in having no humorous intent, is disguise-by-inversion (term my awkward invention). Examples abound: for example, calling the military arm of the American Empire (forever adventuring abroad, to the misfortune of American taxpayers, the residents of their theaters of operation, and many of the soldiers themselves) the “Defense Department.” George Orwell immortalized this in 1984 with slogans such as “Freedom is slavery.”

    My favorite, of course (you were waiting for this), is the Anti-Defamation League, whose sole business today is defamation with scurrilous labels such as “Anti-Semite,” and “Holocaust Denier.”

    By the way, application of these labels to people having no such inclinations or motivations is VERY insensitive. It hurts our feelings.

  2. Alan Wondra
    Alan Wondra says:

    General sarcasm about life and events can take the tension out of a situation for a good laugh and fun. For example, getting wet in the rain can be funny if someone says ” Our personality is all wet “.

    On the other hand, personal sarcasm about someone’s meal can be unfortunate, for example, ” We need to eat with heavy, weighted spoons to get exercise while we eat the ice cream”.

  3. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    No, students don’t overuse sarcasm. They, like, overuse, like, y’know? basically, like, y’know, is what they, like, overuse.

    Like, y’know?

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