Trendspotter: Snark

BY BRIAN DAU | APRIL 17, 2009 7:30 AM

To fully understand what snark is and how it is used today, we must first look at the history of the word. “Snark” was originally used by Lewis Carroll in his 1876 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” not as a way to describe Arts and Culture reporters but in reference to an imagined and entirely nonsensical species of animal. In true Lewis Carroll form, nobody really knows what a snark is or looks like.

Well, that wasn’t helpful at all. These days, snark is a term applied to snide and generally mean comments made by pundits, reporters, and other social/political critics. On the wit scale, snarky humor ranks somewhere between the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and quirky Wes Anderson movies. In other words, sometimes it’s funny in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, but often you just can’t understand how these people continue to get paid for what they do.

Snark wasn’t really a problem until our good friend the Internet hit the scene, when anyone with a computer could present her or his opinions alongside established sources. This immediately proved the hypothesis that people in large groups can’t be funny. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being mean to people if they deserve it, especially if you can make some good jokes in the process, but that’s not a gift everyone has.

So what have we learned today? I think Lewis Carroll sums it up appropriately:

*In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away —
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.*

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