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Sarcasm: Good, Bad, Ugly, Funny?

Sarcasm is a common form of irony- it refers to an indirect speech in a conversation. It is a comment made mockingly or in a teasing manner. It is a short scornful utterance designed to avoid hurt, pain and negative attitude. For instance, a speaker may make a statement such as, ‘How pleasant the weather is!’ with a disgusted voice during a stormy day. Here, the actual intent of the speaker is to express hatred in a causal slang through positive content. Sarcastic statements are often termed as ‘true lie’.

Sarcasm is usually an emotional and a cognitive tool,

  • used to shield and cover the scathing condemnations

  • paves the way to communicate their inner feelings implicitly

  • used to humorously convey disfavour

  • intended to keep away the resentment although it seems to be playful and humorous.

It is used to provoke adverse effects though it disheartens people in the receiving end. It often lessens the feeling of being safe, protected and respected as it builds up mistrust and also, it is quite harsh, hostile and hurtful to the listener.

Researchers stated sarcasm is sometimes people’s way of subtly hurting and insulting the less bright ones. Most of the time, sarcastic comments look like compliments and get misinterpreted. It can be recognised using subtle signs such as kinesics and prosodic cues. It may involve body movement communication such as facial expression, gestures, non-verbal behaviours and elements of speech such as tone, pitch, frequency, rhythm, respectively (Diana Boxer, 2002). People with damage in their brain areas such as dementia- memory loss and autism- a developmental disorder have difficulty in understanding irony as well as sarcasm (Shamay Tsoory, 2005). Under this constrain, researchers designed vocal assessment tools because it is incredibly challenging to evaluate sarcasm in written formats.

In some families, the use of sarcasm is habitual. Individuals from such families wound the person outside using critical comments in hurtful languages. Most of the people receiving sarcastic views feel low and dispirited, despite smiling superficially. It is also considered as an unintended form of bullying in some parts of the world.

On the other hand, few researchers proved sarcasm is neither ugly, funny, nor weird. They have documented the following,

  • Sarcasm makes the brain work harder by fastening the electrical activity inside and helps the brain exercise consistently

  • Sarcastic ones are enabled with good socialising skills and possess healthier brains (John Haiman, 1998)

  • They are smarter and more creative than other people assume

  • They effortlessly understand others emotions and their state of mind (Shamay Tsoory, 2005)

  • They are smart enough in hiding their sufferings rarely and also frequently unbeatable in handling emotional warfare; they are much defensive as well.

  • They possess sharper brains and mind-reading superpowers (Richard Chin, 2011).

Finally, in my opinion, sarcasm is neither good nor bad or funny. It is like adding the right spice while cooking – just best to be used sparingly to avoid overwhelming effects (Lazarus, 2016). Occasional use of sarcasm/ satires in a befitting conversation makes it more exciting and friendly rather than being serious. Besides, it is better to avoid the use of sarcastic comments in sensitive places and in a formal setting to maintain a happier relationship.


Chin, R. (2011). The science of sarcasm? Yeah, right.

Haiman, J. (1998). Talk is cheap: Sarcasm, alienation, and the evolution of language—Oxford University Press on Demand.

Kinesic/prosodic cues are among five cues to sarcasm’s presence noted by Diana Boxer, 2002:100; the other cues are counter-factual statements, extreme exaggeration, tag questions, and direct cues

Lazarus, Clifford N. “Think Sarcasm is Funny? Think Again: Sarcasm is really just hostility disguised as humour” Psychology Today, June 26, 2012; accessed 15 Oct 2016.

Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G., Tomer, R. Aharon-Peretz, J. (2005). The Neuroanatomical Basis of Understanding Sarcasm and Its Relationship to Social Cognition. Neuropsychology. 19 (3): 288–300. DOI:10.1037/0894-4105.19.3.288. PMID 15910115.

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