sarcasm – Word Origin & History:

1579, from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos “a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery,” from sarkazein “to speak bitterly, sneer,” lit. “to strip off the flesh,” from sarx (gen. sarkos) “flesh,” prop. “piece of meat,” from PIE base *twerk- “to cut” (cf. Avestan thwares “to cut”). Sarcastic is from 1695. For nuances of usage, see humor.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

In my early days of recovery, I was ever-ready with the witty repartee, or so I thought.  What I really had on the tip of my tongue, were words intended to verbalize my dissatisfaction in a vicious manner, all the while, claiming it was just a joke.  Can’t they take a joke…   It wasn’t until I came across a reading one day in the Alanon daily meditation reader about sarcasm and how we use it to “tear down” the alcoholic in our lives.  It went on to say that the word comes from the Greek word “sarcazo” which means to TEAR FLESH, that it was a form of irony.  And again I said, in a state of shock, “it’s just a joke, can’t they take a joke??”

I was appalled to find that my, at that time, favorite form of communication was really a form of verbal abuse.  A very passive-aggressive form of belittling someone.  Everyone I knew back then used sarcasm and used it well.   It was the place where I found one of my first character defect.

Watching my behavior, and my mouth, became a full time job for a while.  Whenever I wanted to say something sarcastic I would stop and ask myself, “are you really upset with that person?  are you meaning the words that you are saying??”  I found out some interesting things about myself at that time.  Yes, I usually was upset with the person and yes, I usually did mean what I was saying.  All of a sudden it dawned on me, it WASN’T a joke.  I meant all the mean things that I was saying.

Thus began my first venture into making amends.  The way that I chose to make those amends in the very early days of my recovery, was to simply stop the behavior.   If I found myself in a situation where I felt a sarcastic remark would fit well, I stopped and examined why did I want to say something so mean to that person.  I was then able to begin to make new choices in my communication style.  I could choose to walk away and not say anything.  I could choose to find a more direct way of saying what I was upset about.  I could choose to be gentle with myself and the person I was upset with by finding a new way to have a discussion.

As I began shifting my behavior, I also started becoming aware of how much people meant all those snide little remarks that they made and how much I no longer wanted to be the Queen of the Caustic Quip.