Snark abounds. Is there a medical treatment for that?
A friend of mine has landed in the hospital. I’m feeling for him, and I’m also feeling remiss. For many weeks, I’ve been thinking I owe him a phone call to banter about life, the universe and everything.
Then, this happened. Among other things, he’s having trouble with his speech. And I’m sitting here, thinking, Wow. These are the moments where one castigates oneself for not being a better friend.
Come to find out, one of the things my buddy enjoys about our calls is the snarky tenor of the conversation. I’m humbled, as he is easily more skilled at snark than I. But that tidbit got me thinking about the word, “snarky.” What does it really mean? Is it a good thing? What is the etymology?
The first time I recall hearing the word in regard to myself was during my foray into standup comedy during the 1990s. I was alternately referred to as “snarky” and as a “poor man’s Dennis Miller.” The latter might be a snarky compliment, but I’m not sure. But I do know that my ailing friend’s hair is more like Dennis Miler’s 1990’s hair than my own ever was. Mine lacks the ability to bounce and behave like a 1960’s TV shampoo model. That notwithstanding, our respective levels of snark seem to be about even.
But anyway, the etymology of “snarky.” First, the word means “critical or mocking in an indirect or sarcastic way.” OK. Flattering. But it gets less so. “Bad tempered or irritable.” Eegad. I don’t want to be that person. So, where does this all come from?
Root words for snarky date from the 1800s, including “nag,” and literally, “to snort.” Pht. But most interesting is the British slang word “narky,” from the earlier word “nark,” which means an “annoying, unpleasant or quarrelsome person.” And then, it gets even more unflattering.
“Nark” is a verb dating to 1859, meaning “to act as a police informer.” All of this probably comes from the Romany word “nak” for “nose.” Now, I’m no nark, a word I always assumed was a product of the 1960s hippie culture and was spelled “narc.” It’s not. I’m also pretty sure my friend is no nark, either. And the word is more likely related to the idea of sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
And to become even more twisted, it may also have a similar root word in Sanskrit. That’s the language we usually associate with Nirvana (the state of being, not the grunge band) and attempting to attain true enlightenment. And the latter desire often has something to do with misguided Nirvana seekers and their controlled substances about whom one narks to the narcs, eh?
This is so complicated and unseemly. And all I know is I’m now questioning how much snarking I want to be known for, as it comes at a price. Sarcasm and its cousin, satire, are often misunderstood. But as an often misunderstood lawyer to whom I was recently speaking said, “Dude!” (Yes, he said “Dude!”) “Dude! We all grew up reading Mark Twain and Mad Magazine! This us what you get from us!”
There’s a reason The Fabulous Honey Parker and I have enjoyed working with lawyers at Slow Burn Marketing. They’re often smart people for whom snark abounds. But anyway, my being snarky is something my medically inconvenienced friend enjoys. So perhaps he’ll appreciate this snarky madness from his hospital bed.
And if you, faithful reader, have a new and useful perspective on things snarky that you find helpful in any way, well, that’s a bonus for me. Proud to serve. I look forward to seeing you further in the snarky ether, seeking true ill-tempered enlightenment at the ends of our Romany noses.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
LIGHTNING BRANDING ON AMAZON
The Kindle edition of our new book is now available at Amazon for the REDUCED bargain price of $9.95
For details about our new Lightning Branding courses, both do-it-yourself and we-do-it-with-you editions, click here. (There's even a video of us!)
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.