Online Encyclopedia

SARCASM

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 208 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SARCASM, an ironical or sneering remark or taunt, a biting or satirical expression. The word comes through the Latin from the Greek aapt av, literally to tear flesh (aapE) like a dog; hence, figuratively, to bite the lips in rage, to speak bitterly (cf. Stobaeus, Eclog. ii. 222). The etymology of this may be paralleled by the English " sneer," from Dan. snarre, to grin like a dog, cognate with " snarl," to make a rattling r sound in the throat, Ger. schnarren, and possibly also by " sardonic." This latter word appears in Greek in the form oap&avios, always in the sense of bitter or scornful laughter, in such phrases as aapMviov yeXav, 'yaws actpMvtos and the like. It is probably connected with aatpew, to draw back, i.e. the lips, like a dog, but was usually explained (by the early scholiasts and commentators) as referring to a Sardinian plant (Ranunculus Sardous), whose bitter taste screwed up the mouth. Thus, later Greek writers wrote Eap&iv1ov, and it was adopted into Latin; cf. Servius on Virg. Ed. vii. 41 " immo ego Sardois videar tibi amarior herbis."
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