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Advanced Sarcasm

Having been described as "the lowest form of wit" by Oscar Wilde, traditional sarcastic methods have been abused for centuries. Although we appreciate the sentiment voiced by Wilde, we here at Boop Humor believe that the blame should not fall on sarcasm itself, but on the lack of advanced sarcasm education. We hope this article sheds some light on these infrequently used forms of sarcasm.

To understand higher-order sarcasm, it is first essential to break down simple "first-order" sarcasm into its integral parts: intended meaning and inflection. In first-order sarcasm, the intended meaning is always the opposite of the literal meaning. For example, if your face has just been torn off in an automobile accident, and someone asks you if you are okay, a first-order sarcastic response would be, "I'm fine, but can you help with this list of obvious questions?" This statement is accompanied by a sarcastic inflection to indicate its duplicity.

We were initially able to infer the existence of higher-order sarcasm a priori using intuition from the system of imaginary numbers. In that system, the letter "i" is used to indicate that the number exists on the imaginary plane. For our purposes, the letter "s" will represent a statement that exists on the plane of sarcastic inflection. Whether or not the value of the statement is positive or negative depends on whether or not sarcastic inflection is used. Sarcastically inflected statements are positive if the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning, and are negative if the intended meaning is the same as the literal meaning. The converse is true of non-sarcastically inflected statements: if the intended meaning is the opposite of its literal meaning its value is negative, and if the intended meaning is the same as its literal meaning the value is positive. Although this notation may seem difficult, we believe that our peers will not take us seriously unless it is sufficiently obtuse.

Note that in the system of imaginary numbers, "i" is equal to the square root of -1. Therefore i 2 is equal to -1. As you can see from the chart below, there is a cyclical nature to both sarcastic and imaginary powers, and that after the fourth power, the pattern is repeated.

Imaginary powersReduced imaginary numbers
Sarcastic powersReduced sarcastic numbers

Note: Sarcasm to the 0th power is a special case, and is equal to one. The proof is beyond the scope of this paper.

There is one more condition that needs to be satisfied for sarcasm to occur, which is that at least one rational sarcastic observer must be present. This person must know the intended meaning and be able to differentiate between a sarcastic inflection and a non-sarcastic inflection. In almost all cases, at least the originator of the sarcastic comment satisfies as the rational sarcastic observer (more on this later). In our examples, we will assume that a rational sarcastic observer exists. Although critics will claim that we are "assuming away the details", without this assumption our theory would not work, so we feel it is necessary to include it.

The easiest higher-order sarcasm to grasp initially is sarcasm cubed. Commonly known as anticasm, sarcasm cubed is familiar as it uses a sarcastic tone to indicate its existence on the plane of sarcastic inflection. However, unlike first-order sarcasm, the intended meaning of an anticastic statement is equal to its literal meaning. Using our car accident scenario, an anticastic response would be, "Terrible, I can't believe you would ask that question to someone who lacks a face" with a sarcastic inflection. Since a rational sarcastic observer is aware of the true intended meaning, and will be able to properly interpret the inflection as sarcastic, the comment is easily understood as anticasm.

At first sight, sarcasm squared looks to not have a sarcastic element at all, since it does not have a letter "s" to indicate that it is on the plane of sarcastic inflection. With only its intended meaning being opposite of its literal meaning, it would seem as if it was merely contradiction or some form of lying. However, this is where the role of the rational sarcastic observer and sarcastic intent is integral. Assuming there are no outside pressures that would cause the originator of the sarcastic comment to hide his or her true meaning (such as being involved in foreign espionage), a rational sarcastic observer would have to assume that there was sarcastic intent in the comment, since its intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning. In our favorite scenario, a sarcasm squared response might be, "No, I'm fine. I think the other guy might have had his face torn off, check him out" with no sarcastic inflection. The rational sarcastic observer would then identify the inflection as non-sarcastic, and could then easily classify the statement as sarcasm squared.

Raising the order of the sarcasm again, to sarcasm4, has a contradictory effect. The fourth power of sarcasm actually returns the comment to a state that looks rather like a normal comment, since the intended meaning is the same as the literal meaning and the inflection is non-sarcastic. But how does sarcastic intent fit into this picture? While you might argue it is impossible for a rational sarcastic observer to differentiate the statement from a normal statement, one mustn't forget that the originator of a sarcastic phrase is a rational sarcastic observer themselves. However, in light of the Old Wives Tales Society's rigorous logical proofs supporting the axioms of "the more the merrier" and "it takes (at least) two to tango", using sarcasm4 is shunned upon in the sarcastic community. For example, in our standard scenario, a sarcasm4 comment would be, "Oh my god, my face, please help me" with no sarcastic inflection. Clearly only the originator of the comment would be able to enjoy the wit of this comment, leaving all others in the dark. While we do recognize the possibility of additional types of signals being used to indicate sarcastic intent, such as rapidly rubbing one's nose or gently tossing cotton balls, we will maintain our stance of sarcasm4 statements being equivalent to normal statements, until the usage of other signals becomes more widespread.

The following chart summarizes higher order sarcasm. All of the examples use the automobile accident scenario.

Sarcastic PowerReduced sarcasmCommon nameIntended meaning vs. literal meaningInflectionExample
sssarcasmoppositesarcastic"I'm fine, but can you help with this list I'm trying to make of obvious questions?"
s2-1n/aoppositenon-sarcastic"No, I'm fine. I think the other guy might have his face torn off, check him out"
s3-santicasmsamesarcastic"Terrible, I can't believe you would ask that question to someone who lacks a face"
s41normalsamenon-sarcastic"Oh my god, my face, please help me"

Editor's note: If you'd like to know more about advanced sarcastic theory, a good place to start is Moskovciak's Uncertainty Principle. This field of study deals with the scenario of a sarcastic comment being made without the originator of the comment knowing whether it was sarcastic or not.

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