Episode 20: Everything About Slang & Sarcasm

Episode 20: Everything About Slang & Sarcasm

Funny and mean at the same time. Yeah, right.

The Greek root for sarcasm is sarkazien : tear flesh like dogs

Understatement and Irony: What is it?


Billboard: This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness. Tagged with the words, NO WE WON”T

People saying the opposite of what they mean. Usually done because they think the original statement made was foolish or that it should be obvious that they are kidding. Often said with a slight change of voice, sounding more serious or more naive, mocking your own words.

From a math test:

Bob has 36 candy bars. He eats 29. What does he have now? Answer: Diabetes. Bob has diabetes.

Evolutionary biologist believe that it’s our ability to recognize and keep track of hundreds of relationships and how we live by social calculation that makes humans so successful.

  • Where does sarcasm come into the picture? Humor is super important. If someone doesn’t get your jokes, they aren’t as “attractive” to you. Sarcasm is humor’s dark side, people also look for people who get their snide remarks.

Why Do We Do it?

  • According to Neurophysiologist Katherine Rankin at the University of California, Evolutionary
  • Perhaps an emotional tool to poke around the boundaries of a conversations. A safe way to show dissent without getting in trouble for it.
  • More empathetic people tend to use and pick up sarcasm.
    • People most likely to be hurt by it are the most likely to notice it
  • Exposure to sarcasm may enhance creative problem solving
  • Exercises the brain more than sincere statements do
  • College students in Israel listened to complaints to a cellphone company’s customer service line. Researchers found that the students were better able to solve problems creatively when the caller’s comments were sarcastic than just angry.
  • Sarcasm “appears to stimulate complex thinking and attenuates the otherwise negative affects of anger.”
  • Children start getting it around the ages of 6-8
    • Although, it can take some kids up until high school age to get it.
  • Sarcasm is picked up in the right side of the brain. According to Neurophysiologist Katherine Rankin at the University of California, if you don’t “get” sarcasm, there might be something wrong with your Parahippocampal gyrus. The part of the brain that helps with social context.
    • Awareness of Social Inference Test developed to test people for dementia. If you loose the ability to detect/translate sarcasm it is a very early indicator of a kind of dementia.
    • In children, the lack of ability to detect sarcasm can be an indication of Autism or schizophrenia OR they might just not have a sarcastic family. Those that do are usually snarky little balls of joy by the age of four.
  • Sarcasm can help people cope as a way to express both expectation as well as disappointment. When a rain storm ruins a trip to the park, you can say, “Well, we picked a great day for this.” You’re saying you hoped it would be sunny and that you are upset about the rain.
  • More likely to use sarcasm with friends than enemies.

Got to the UK with Vikings, maybe:

  •  Dr. Matthew Townsend an expert in Old Norse from the University of York says Anglo-Saxon texts show a fondness for terse understatement often of a humorous kind. For example, Grettir’s Saga: the hero’s brother Atli is stabbed fatally through the stomach. His dying words are (more or less) ‘I see that broad spears are in fashion this year.”
  • The use of sarcasm and irony as humor is distinct in places like the UK and parts of the US
    • For example, if you use sarcasm in France and Germany it will often be taken literally.
    • Trace’s Southern California theory
    • (United States) Northerners are more likely to use sarcastic jibes and more likely to think its funny. 56% of Northerners found sarcasm funny. Only 35% of Southerners did.
  • Exists in many different languages: Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, English

BuzzFeed 28 great moments in the history of sarcasm

Smithsonian Mag Explains Sarcasm



Oh Jo, please don’t say awful; it’s slang.  1994 Little Women

University of South Carolina Cocky Talk: Slang

What is slang?

  • deliberate alternative vocabulary that sends social signals
  • “an inside joke” and it “depends on the consciousness of shared knowledge between speaker and hearer

Why is it taboo?

  • varying levels of taboo throughout society
  • A word can gradually become degraded
  • Level of formality/familiarity. Some languages have formal and informal-not English, but we still have conventions.

How does a word become slang?

Degredation: totally>totes, administration>admin, ammunition>ammo

Mashing together:Ginormous, frenemy, bromance

Abbreviation: text slang-lol



Merriam Webster Ginormous

Recent research has found the word used in British newspapers as early as 1942

Historical Slang

Merriam Webster Historical Slang

Holy Joe was originally a term used by 19th century sailors to refer to those who ventured to the seas to minister to the saltier souls in need of salvation. It also referred to prison chaplains before expanding to refer to more generally to any parson or chaplain.

Long green has been around since the late 1880s, but it isn’t as popular as some more recent slang terms for money, like moola (or moolah) or even scratch. Also rather unpopular are a couple slang words for money that seem more at home in the produce aisle: kale and cabbage.

Roscoe: Refers to handgun, but unknown which Roscoe. Playable in Scrabble though.

Gasser: Something Outstanding

Before something that was a source of pleasure, or a delight, could be called a gas, the word gasser made its way onto the scene. The “something outstanding” use of gasser dates—in print, anyway—to Cab Calloway’s 1944 Hepster’s Dictionary. Almost a century before that tome, gasser had developed a different slang use—”a talkative or bragging person”—which is also obscure but still in use.

Cockney Rhyming Slang



My daughter just got braces on her teeth. She is really in pain. So am I. It’s going to cost a lot of money. I went to the bank and got my last few dollars, lets go have a drink.

My bottle of porter got air and graces on her Penelope Keith. She’s really in Michael Caine. So am I. It’s going to cost a lot of bees and honey. I went to the pedal and crank and got my last few Oxford scholars. Let’s go have a tumble down the sink.

Braces: Airs and Graces

Daughter: Bottle of porter

Teeth: Penelope Keith

Pain: Michael Caine

Drink: Tumble down the sink

Dollar: Oxford Scholar

Bank: Pedal and crank

Bar: Near and far