What is #SnarkFreeDay?
It’s a social media campaign launched by a bunch of PR agencies (PRCG) representing a range of high-profile clients and harboring deep concern about the “mean spirited sarcasm and contempt” that is “seeping deeper into our everyday interactions” and “replacing decency and civility as the new norm.” It may also be their attempt to sway the Internet into going 24 hours without ragging on Walmart shoppers and the infinite sadness of TGI Fridays’ Endless Appetizers.
What is “snark”?
According to the #SnarkFreeDay website, snark includes smirking, rolling your eyes, ending a sentence with “just saying,” or, presumably, kicking Radio Shack while they’re down.
(And actually, on a serious note, you really should ix-nay the arcasm-say at Radio Shack if you know what’s good for you.)
Where did snark come from?
According to #SnarkFreeDay, “snark” is a combination of “snide” and “remark,” which it’s not. “Snark” actually has its origins in mid-19th century Low Germanic (snarke) and Swedish (snarka) words for snoring or snorting. By the early 1880s its verb form came to mean nagging or finding fault with something, like the amount of research PR agents put into simple etymological inquiries.
Lewis Carroll soon after re-appropriated the term for his 1876 poem “The Hunting of the Snark” to designate a perpetually elusive beast that sleeps late, has a lousy sense of humor, tastes “meagre and hollow, but crisp” and that may or may not have been an allegory for our unattainable happiness.
I meant snark the thing, not the word.
I’m getting there. Technically, snark is a subset of sarcasm (which itself is derived from the Greek word sarkazein, which literally means “to tear flesh like a dog”). But the exact origins of snark in action are hard to pinpoint.
Some would point to Roman guards writing “INRI” on the cross as the original snark. The satires of the second-century poet Juvenal were themselves rather snarky. Chaucer and Shakespeare even more so (Hamlet, for one, was what PRCG would call a major “snark shark”). Then there’s Voltaire, and Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain, and Dorothy Parker. Oh, and then Basil Fawlty, Alex P. Keaton, Dorothy Zbornak, Geoffrey Barbara Butler, Roseanne’s entire family, Karen Walker, and pretty much everybody on “Seinfeld” and every stand-up comedian ever. Snark is also the raw fuel of Internet discourse.
Some research even suggests snark and sarcasm play a vital evolutionary role as a sort of binding agent in our social intelligence.
Meanwhile, the video for #SnarkFreeDay seems to suggest Liz Lemon and Chandler from “Friends” as the bizarro Eve and Adam of snark.
What can we do about snark?
PRCG hopes that #SnarkFreeDay will encourage people to “make a conscious effort to be civil, think before we speak, and hold snark sharks accountable for their unwanted bites.” They also have a selection of snark-shaming JPEGs you can nonsnarkily share with your friends. But the real answer is nothing can be done about snark.
Just remember, that “fighting snark with snark only leads to more snark.” Snark.
(This seems as good a time as any to mention that this PR conglomerate who would like us to hold off on expressions of contempt for a 24-hour period fondly recalls a time when they took Julia Child through a McDonald’s drive-thru.)
That just makes me sad. Any way to end this snarky fake FAQ on a lighter note?
Sure. I’m paraphrasing here, but Lewis Carroll’s own words toward the hopeless endeavor of subduing the snark may be of some use:
“For the Snark’s a peculiar creature, that won’t
Be caught in a commonplace way.
Do all that you know, and try all that you don’t:
Not a chance must be wasted to-day! Just saying.”