Getting snarky

Jan 25, 2015

Remember that time you were kind enough to upload some of your fan fiction to your blog for others to enjoy? Merging Game of Thrones with Twilight was obviously a genius move, so you decided to break the cardinal rule of the Internet. 

You read the comments.

It’s not that they were mean. No, that’s not true. Most of them were pretty mean. Still, others were critical but in a slicker, more sarcastic way. 

They were snarky.


University of Michigan Professor of English Anne Curzan said that the verb form of “snark” traces back to the 19th century, when it originally meant to snore or snort.

“Over time, the verb ‘snark,’ through metaphorical extension, came to mean to find fault with someone or something or to nag them,” she said.  

The adjective “snarky” pops up near the beginning of the 20th Century, but Curzan found it didn’t really take off for another hundred years. Right around the time we all started criticizing each other online.

Facebook trolls and YouTube critics may be claiming “snarky,” but other generations have had their own forms of slang.

Cockney rhyming slang, for one, dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.

“This was a secret language where you could talk about things without people knowing what you were talking about, and you did it through rhyme,” Curzan said.

To make one of these rhymes, you’d create an expression in which the second word rhymed with the thing you were talking about. 

For example, “trouble and strife” meant “wife.” “Apples and pears” meant “stairs.”

If you really wanted to be tricky, you’d drop the second word. So instead of “bread and honey,” you’d just say “bread” to talk about money.

Let’s merge slang generations and make up a rhyme for “snark.” How about bite and bark? Teeth and shark? Pull over and park? 

Okay, there’s a chance slang creation isn’t our strongest asset. No need to get snarky!