Social Question

ETpro's avatar

What is a snark?

Asked by ETpro (34217 points ) April 25th, 2012

People accuse me of acting snarky. Apparently that’s bad, so I’d like to avoid doing it. But how will I know when I am acting snarky if I have no idea of what a snark is? What steps do you take to avoid being mistaken for a snark? Or is it snarky to even ask about snarks?

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68 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

Its a shark with a nasal problem.

I thought everyone knew that.

tinyfaery's avatar

Part shark part snake.

chyna's avatar

I think of it as having quick, smart aleck remarks to things people say.

tom_g's avatar

Not exactly sure what it is (even after doing some googling). But whatever it is, keep it up!

janbb's avatar

The term comes from British slang originally and has been picked up here. It means sarcastic or cutting. There is no noun form as far as I know, unless perhaps “snarkiness?”.

Lightlyseared's avatar

A Snark was a creature invented by Lewis Caroll for a poem called The Hunting of the Snark.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I love snark. Don’t stop on my account. :-)

thorninmud's avatar

I occasionally yield to the temptation, but @janbb usually calls me on it. She’s right, of course.

Trillian's avatar

The Snark was a boojum.

Coloma's avatar

My personal definition of “snark” is someone who is, overall, just a sour grapes kinda person and delights in being pissy just because they can and because they are usually unhappy types, grievances just looking for a cause/person to project their repressed issues onto.
I don’t percieve you to be that way @ETpro

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Lightlyseared He does have whiskers.

Pandora's avatar

Someone who is snarky to me can usually be called bitchy but not full on bitchy. They are usually condescending and bitter.

janbb's avatar

I did forget the Snark; how could I have?

And @thorninmud Buddhist snarkiness is sui generis and quite refreshing.

Pandora's avatar

Here, I found it on line in the dictionary.
World English Dictionary
snarky (ˈsnɒːkɪ)

— adj , snarkier , snarkiest
informal unpleasant and scornful

[C20: from sarcastic + nasty ]

wundayatta's avatar

The best people are snarky. You should consider it a compliment. It’s like most comedians. Snark, snark, snark. But it’s better when amateurs do it than professionals.

I think of a snark as a kind of mongoose-like creature that snuffles through the woods, digging up grubs and termites. Every once in a while, it jumps out of a whole in the ground, shouting “Snark! Snark! Snark!” This startles everyone and they immediately start spinning around in circles, chanting mantras and eating jelly beans. Well, except for the crowd that sings Beatles tunes and blows bubbles.

Snark is delightful to the cognoscenti. It is associated with cynicism and liberalism and mistrust of large bureaucracies. Snark parties are often held during the Oscars and also during Political conventions. Snarky people generally have IQs about 40 points higher than average, although they don’t believe that IQ means anything.

As Kurt Vonnegut would have said, so it goes.

Keep_on_running's avatar

I’ve heard this a few times on Fluther. I think it means being sarcastic and/or snide and inviting an argument.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I have only heard this term in England.It means smart-alec, smart-mouth, snide.

wilma's avatar

To me snarky is not usually a compliment. I think of it as being rude, sarcastic, bitter, condescending and generally not very nice.
I suppose that in some instances snarkiness might be called for, but when used liberally and often, I think of the user as being a mean, bitter and jealous person.

wundayatta's avatar

@wilma Whether you like it or not depends on the way you like to look at things. Some people find niceness to be boring and unexciting. Snark is the opposite: edgy and smart. I think it’s more an urban taste. More a NorthEastern taste. I think Southerners and Midwesterners like niceness much more, and probably don’t approve of snark, as a general rule.

I think snark is a minority taste, but for those who like it, it’s a very good thing.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Lightlyseared is correct in stating that the term “Snark” was originally coined by Lewis Carroll. His definition was a creature that was fuming and furious. Today, it represents a combination of “snide” and “remark”, thus Snark. It isn’t a favorable judgement of one’s character.

So, how does one avoid being judged as snarky? It’s really difficult to turn off one’s thought-process. What can be done is to think before speaking. Just ask yourself (in your mind; not out loud), “If I make that sarcastic/witty comment, will it make the receiver feel bad?” If the answer is “yes”, keep your thoughts to yourself.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer That is very interesting. I wondered where the term came from. “Snide” and “remark” makes sense. Now if anyone every asks, I can give them an intelligent answer. Thanks!

janbb's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Since Caroll was an inventor of “portmanteau” words, I wonder if that combination was what he intended when he created the Snark.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Snarkiness gets old after awhile.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

“Some people find niceness to be boring and unexciting. ”

I’m not trying to impress anyone.

Aethelflaed's avatar

How very interesting – most people seem to be complaining about snark, and yet, on virtually every Fluther question about politics and religion, it’s the snarky response that gets the high GAs.

I myself love the snark that Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the Gawker websites have made so common.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Aethelflaed A “snark” is a noun. “Snarkiness” is an adjective that would be better suited for your last statement. This is not a snarky remark; just fact.

marinelife's avatar

I love snarkiness! Snark on!

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Why is a noun wrong? If I replace snark in the last sentence with wit (another noun), it still works.

janbb's avatar

@Aethelflaed Snarkiness is actually a noun but it is the correct term I believe. However, it may also be possible that snark is coming to be an acceptable noun form for this too.

Coloma's avatar

Lets play with some variations shall we?

How about..
“Snark alec”
” Persnarkity”
” Snarkastic”
” His snark is worse than his bite”
“Land snark”

Aethelflaed's avatar

@janbb I think it has come to be an acceptable noun form – 30 Rock parodied Jezebel a couple years ago as “Joan of Snark”.

janbb's avatar

@Aethelflaed I think you are right; what does an old fart penguin librarian know? :-)

wilma's avatar

@wundayatta I don’t equate snarky with smart or witty. In my opinion, people who are smart and or witty rarely feel the need for snarkism.
Perhaps it’s just a regional thing.

wilma's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I had always thought that it meant “snide remark”.
I didn’t know about the Lewis Carroll connection.

wundayatta's avatar

@wilma Maybe regional. Maybe many other reasons. I’m not sure we’ll figure it out. But it is clear that some people love snark and others…. not so much. What I find odd is that some people have a different assessment of their own snarkiness than others. So I guess you can be snarky and not know it.

wilma's avatar

@wundayatta I suppose that one could be snarky and not know it, or one could assume snarkiness where none really existed. I think it would be easier to determine that in person. Tone of voice, facial expression and all, intent is often misinterpreted on the internet.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@wilma There’s different kinds of snarks too. Some have feathers and bite. Some have whiskers and scratch.

janbb's avatar

And some have flippers!!

chyna's avatar

And some have fur.

ratboy's avatar

If you don’t know whether you’re snarky, then you’re not.

jerv's avatar

Watch House or catch me on a bad day and you’ll see snark. It’s a mix of brutal honesty, smartassedness, and (often) cynicism and/or sarcasm.

Coloma's avatar

Right @ratboy like what “they” say about crazy people. Crazy people never ask themselves if they are crazy, only sane people do this. lol

cookieman's avatar

Where I grew up, (outside of Boston) a “snarky” person might be called a “fucking wiseass”. It’s taken as a compliment by some.

I also agree that it’s a regional attitude that doesn’t necessarily export well.

wilma's avatar

I agree with @ratboy . I think snarkiness is probably intentional.

ETpro's avatar

@john65pennington How did you ever find out? Every time I’ve gotten close to a shark they act so snarky I don’t even want to talk to them.

@tinyfaery Sounds dangerous. If the bite doesn’t get you then the venom will.

@chyna So a snark might be anything from Robin Williams to any political party or customer service for your cell-phone provider. With such diversity, no wonder I still don’t know what a snark is. :-)

@tom_g Looks like I’m doomed to, cause I sure ain’t finding out what it is from this batch of answers. :-)

@janbb That’s for “snarky” but that just begs the question of what a “snark” is—and as @tom_g accurately notes, Google isn’t much help there.

ETpro's avatar

@Lightlyseared Yes, that is indeed one meaning for snark. But I am pretty sure I am not either “a creature invented by Lewis Caroll” or acting like I am. So that’s little help in how to avoid acting like a snark.

@GoldieAV16 If you love snark you must know what a snark is. How will I know whether I stop of not if you keep me in the dark about what I shouldn’t stop being? :-)

@thorninmud You do it, but won’t tell what it is? @janbb calls you on it, and is usually right, but her answer just begs the question of what a snark is. Will I ever be delivered from the curse of snark? :-)

@Trillian Now I am even more confused. Some Lewis Carroll snarks were boojums, but a boojum is also a type of tree; or, in the physics of superfluidity, a geometric pattern on the surface of one of the phases of helium 3 superfluidity. Instead of lasering in on one definition here, we are branching out to an ever wider scope of nonsense. No frigging wonder I’m snarky!

@Simone_De_Beauvoir You are a snark? Well hell, I like you. So I am cool about being snarky, and whoever has a problem with it can go kiss a snapping turtle.

ETpro's avatar

@Coloma Damn, I just cop a plea and now you tell me I wasn’t guilty. It’s enough to make a fella snarky, whatever a snark is. :-)

@Adirondackwannabe Anybody who has whiskers is a snark? Spoony THE Cat is an snark?

@Pandora Let me see if I have this right. A snark is a condescending and bitter something that’s like a female dog, but not full-on like that?

@janbb The snark? But there have been so many.

@Pandora Yes, that’s what snarky means, but there are so many people.animals.things that are unpleasant, scornful, sarcastic and nasty that I was really hoping to learn what the root snark might be.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Given that thrilling expose on being a snark, I will just stay as I am—which I had every intention of doing anyway—except for the fact I am always changing. Thanks for the license for mongoosian snuffling. Snark, snark, snark!

@Keep_on_running The term does get bandied around here from time tom time, doesn’t it?

@Skaggfacemutt Fluther is in England?

@wilma I believe you are right, the people who called me snarky were not paying me a compliment.

@wundayatta Amen. I think Bostonians and New Yawkers are as delightfully snarky as they come.

The hour is now late. More tomorrow and thanks to all who answered.

janbb's avatar

@ETpro Since I am a Victorian there is only one real Snark to me. The rest are mere impostors. There are, however, many snarky people; mainly from Britain and now from places like New York and Boston as well (and perhaps, on occasion, a Penguin from New Jersey.).

The hour is now early. Back to bed.

Trillian's avatar

@ETpro Since “the Snark was a boojum” was written by a master of nonsense, and since I ate him up since I was able to hold a book, I often forget that everyone may not appreciate my references. The Snark of Lewis Carroll was, of course, to what I was referring.
I never questioned what it was, because I always felt like I just knew, just like the Jabberwok.
And the word “snarky” when applied to a person was something I also just sort of extrapolated from context. The idea of good or bad would be entirely up to the individual.
If I, in exapseration with a question, make a remark which is then branded as “snarky” I would acknowledge it as such. You’re damn skippy, that’s how I meant it! And the speaker would feel vindicated as having told me off, and I would feel that I had made my point. You see?
Now everybody move one seat to the right, I need a fresh plate!

ETpro's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Yes, I think that is what @janbb & @Trillian are explaining to me. And indeed that is the first use of the word as far as I can see. So that should stand as the definitive answer, and anybody that doesn’t like that can snort wasabi.

@Skaggfacemutt See? How would one ever become a true polymath without Fluther to guide the learning?

@janbb Now that is truly a Great Question.

@Mama_Cakes “I’m not trying to impress anyone.”

Humm. Trying to imperss us with your humility, are you?

@Aethelflaed Great examples. I feel so vindicated.

@Pied_Pfeffer I believe that you’ve been accurately nailed. Snarkiness is, indeed, a noun. Snarky would be the adjective, and snarkily the adverb form, and the accurate description of this comment of mine. I think since I asked how to connect the adjective to its underlying noun; using them interchangeably here is fair game.~

mothermayi's avatar

It’s a little weasely thing that hides in the grass, waiting for the perfect opportunity to sneak out and steal your shoelaces.

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife Snarking even as we converse.

@Aethelflaed That was a wit comeback.~

@janbb In this thread, we have certainly crossed any line preventing such sue of “snark”.

@Coloma Those are all truly snarkastic, you snark alec. :-)

@Aethelflaed There you go. We’re snarking up the right tree, here. Oops. It’s a verb?

@wilma According to Merriam-Wbester Dictionary it means:
1   crotchety, snappish
2   sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner <snarky lyrics>

I think you are right that, as @wundayatta suggests, it can be unintentional and done unawares, or done for fun where no underlying crotchety feelings exist.

@Adirondackwannabe, @janbb, & @chyna I like the kind that have feathers, fur, whiskers, flippers and that bite. Platypusses.

@ratboy Is that like, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”?

@jerv Curmudgeonly tough love. :-)

@cprevite True. In some of the highly hospitable, sown-home friendly parts of the USA, acting a bit snarky will get your head blown off.

@Coloma Is there still hope for me if, when I ask, the voices answer?

@wilma Is that what @ratboy was trying to say?

@mothermayi I’m in the clear. I may be a little weaselly thing but I have zero interest in stealing people’s shoelaces.

ratboy's avatar

@ETpro, No it’s more like “if you believe it, then it’s a lie.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

You ever been snark hunting? They’re related to snipes.

mothermayi's avatar

@ETpro Well, it wouldn’t matter to me anyway, because I don’t wear shoes with laces!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Neither do snarks, @mothermayi. They don’t even wear shoes.

mothermayi's avatar

@Dutchess_III I hate to tell you this and shatter your beliefs, but snarks can’t tapdance barefoot.

Ron_C's avatar

A snark is a mythical animal often caught as a ship crosses the equator. Mostly its a reason to get a person to bend over so you can smack his ass with a broom.

I don’t think you’re snarky,

ETpro's avatar

@ratboy Unfortunately, while it may be true that lots of things that require belief are lies, the definition of lie makes it true that if you believe it, it’s not a lie.

@Dutchess_III When I was in the Navy, I was a boiler tender, which is a Snipe. I definitely wore shoes.

@mothermayi If snarks don’t wear shoes, why do they want to steal shoelaces?

@Ron_C I wonder if the nautical meaning even predates Lewis Carroll. And thanks for the vote of confidence.

mothermayi's avatar

@ETpro Snarks do wear shoes. Dutchess is mistaken.

janbb's avatar

@mothermayi Presumably only Landsnarks; I’m not sure about Watersnarks, unless they wear Tevas?

mothermayi's avatar

No, they wear watersocks.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Landsnarks! Choking!!

Knock knock.
Who is it?
Just the Landsnark maam.

ratboy's avatar

@ETpro—I apologize if my examples of snarkiness are not efficacious; my natural kindness makes such exercises difficult for me. Since, however, I have some time to waste, let try to explain the concept to you in words of one or fewer syllables.

ETpro's avatar

@mothermayi Since a Google search on “Do snarks wear shoes” turned up nothing regarding the footwear of either land or sea snarks, I will leave it to @Dutchess_III & @janbb to sort out snarks’ sartorial selections.

@ratboy Please stick to words of fewer than one syllable.~ (How’m I doin on the snark scale)?

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