Sarcastic quotes are a great way to help you begin to learn the refined art of sarcasm.
Merriam-Webster, the ultimate prize in all things to do with the dictionary, defines sarcasm as “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” A second definition describes sarcasm as a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual.” Now, these definitions might lead one to believe that people who use sarcasm to get a point across are somehow inherently mean-spirited. However, this is not always, or even usually, the case. In fact, sarcastic quotes can often convey meanings and point in ways that usual modes of communication may not. Therefore, they are useful, in the right setting.
Sarcasm is the kind of language skill that requires one to have a sharp, skilled wit, and generally good social intelligence overall. There is a time and a place for everything, and in order to achieve the desired effect, sarcasm must be perfectly timed and even more perfectly executed. If it isn’t, the satire, and, more importantly, the point, does not land, thus obliterating your entire intent. In fact, the object of your sarcasm might actually get one up on you if you fail at the art. To that end, here is a list of sarcastic quotes to help you get the idea of when, where, and how to use sarcasm. Why, when you are done with this list, you are sure be well on your way to becoming a professional connoisseur of the art of sarcasm. Maybe you will even make it onto a list of sarcastic quotes yourself some day.
Sarcastic Quotes to Help You Master the Refined Art of Sarcasm
Everyone wants to appear witty and bright at dinner parties. Some people tell great jokes. Others have a knack for embellishing their life’s adventures into breathtaking stories that will keep the whole room on the edges of their seats until the very last word hangs in the air. Still others might have awesome skills such as dancing to impress a crowd. However, there’s nothing quite like executing the art of sarcasm to make people do a double take. However, this is the sort of thing that has to be done just right in order for it work. Otherwise, it could easily backfire. So, without further ado, here is a list of some of the best sarcastic quotes we could find, to help give you an idea of how to use sarcasm to your advantage.
1. “Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.”-Steven Wright
Steven Wright is a renowned American comedian and actor, and what better way to start off a list of sarcastic quotes than with one from a comedian. After all, these are people who often traffic in sarcasm for a living, if they are any good at what they do. According to Wright’s official website, his short bio reads, “I was born. When I was 23 I started telling jokes. Then I started going on television and doing films. That’s still what I’m doing. The end.”
Wright is clearly a man of few words when it comes to talking about himself, though he literally talks for a living. It’s the words that are spoken that matter, rather than the volume. Quality over quantity. People can talk all day and say nothing at all, or they can speak a few carefully chosen words and change the world. Most intelligently sarcastic people realize this and act accordingly. That is why Wright could take something as simple as the scientific fact that light travels faster than sound, and turn it into a brilliant burn against people whose words often betray their ignorance in ways no one and nothing else ever could have done.
In this case, knowing synonyms helped as well. Of course, “bright” is a synonym for “smart.” Couple that with the word “light” in the statement of scientific fact, and you have yourself one of the world’s greatest sarcastic quotes when it comes to exposing people’s ignorance in a way they will never forget.
Of course, this is one of those situations where people who frown upon sarcasm will say that you could be bullying the objects of your sarcastic quotes. However, ignorance is something that can be incredibly damaging, especially when it is used as an excuse to discriminate or hurt others. I highly doubt a few minutes of discomfort caused by your cutting down the purveyor of the ignorance is any match for the damage done by their misguided and damaging words. So, zing away!
2. “Sarcasm – the ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.”-Common quote
You simply cannot have a list of sarcastic quotes without this rather biting definition of sarcasm on it. While the person who originally coined this definition of the word is unknown, it is as iconic as if it had been said by any number of famous connoisseurs of sarcasm. You can even find t-shits and other clothing items with this quote on it. Essentially, that is what sarcasm is in an everyday context. And it does often come in handy.
We all have people in our lives who just annoy us. Maybe it’s that flaky co-worker who you really, really like, but who you keep having to cover for because she simply doesn’t know anything. Or maybe it’s your ignorant uncle who thinks he’s the world’s smartest man, but indeed is quite the opposite. You get the picture. Rather than telling these people straight out that they don’t know what they are talking about, you can use sarcasm to get your point across.
This works to help you deal in a way that does not involve letting the pressure build until you either explode or lose twenty IQ points due to listening to their stupidity, or some combination thereof. After all, stupid people often do not know when they are being made fun of. It gives you a little bit of pleasure and spares their feelings. Win/Win. That is why this quote is so iconic among fans of sarcasm, and is a definite must for any good list of sarcastic quotes.
3. “Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.”– P.J. O’Rourke
Patrick Jake O’Rourke, better known as P.J. O’Rourke, is a political satirist. That, of course, means that he is quite likely to land on any list of sarcastic quotes. He is also a journalist who has many pieces written in The Atlantic, which is a prestigious American publication. In addition to these accolades, Mr. O’Rourke is also the H.L. Menchken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, which is a libertarian think tank. He is also the author of nineteen books.
At the ripe old age of 71, P.J. O’Rourke has likely seen a lot of life, including watching people rear many children, along with just watching the state of generation after generation as they grow up. There is no doubt that parenting trends change from generation to generation, and the effect on society can certainly be enormous. Hence this quote.
Every generation thinks they knew how to raise kids right, and those that came before and after were unleashing badly prepared and poorly raised and educated people on the nation and world, thus ensuring societal destruction in the near future. Now, of course, generally, things are rarely that bad. However, there is a growing movement that has many people jumping on the “childfree” bandwagon. With this movement has come some controversial ideas.
There are now things like childfree dining establishments, and entire online communities dedicated to deciding not to have children, and the discussion of the frustration with the expectation that everyone must reproduce. There is also frustration at modern parent culture. TIME Magazine even did a feature on being childfree, with the tagline, “When having it all means not having children.”
This trend is at least partially driven by people who simply cannot stand the current crop of children and parents and want no parts of it. That could be a social reaction to current child-rearing trends. To that end, sarcastic quotes that make fun of the way children are being reared definitely land in an environment where that criticism has merit in an ever-increasing number of circles. So, P.J. O’Rourke is definitely in tune with the social trend lines on this subject right now.
4. “I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.”-Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was, of course, a famous Victorian Era poet, playwright, and author. Studying, creating, and writing about human being was his specialty, and Wilde was exceptionally good at it. He never took anything for granted or at face value. Further, he was unafraid of critiquing sacred cows – including the Almighty, as the above quote shows. In fact, one could easily say that Oscar Wilde’s critique of the human condition, its creator, and how it came to be might be shocking to some – even here in 2018. Therefore, such a person definitely has earned his place on any good list of sarcastic quotes.
Everyone knows that people who are faithful do not want their god(s) criticize. After all, part of being God is the perception of absolute perfection, that no mistakes are made. That is what makes Oscar Wilde’s willingness to “go there” on this subject so daring. The faithful would describe man’s free will as the reasoning behind humankind’s failing condition and often absurd circumstances. However, a skeptic would ask the following questions, at a bare minimum:
- If man is created in God’s image, then why is God perfect, but man is so obviously and deeply flawed?
- Why would God give man free will if he already knows best?
- If man is created in God’s image, why does he not possess the same abilities to make good decisions that God does?
- Why did God make the human body so susceptible to debilitating and horrifying illness?
- Why is the process of reproducing more humans so difficult and painful?
That is neither here nor there, though. The reason a remark like this Oscar Wilde quote lands, offensive to many though it may be, is because it is true. The world has been full of war, famine, poverty, disease, culture and social wars, religious wars, and all manner of depravity since humans landed upon it and took it over. If we’re in the image of some all-perfect creator, folks like Wilde would say, he sure needs to come back and have a do over.
That is the beauty of sarcastic quotes, though. Sarcasm is often deeply offensive, but only if people get it. These things land the hardest when there is a nugget of truth there. Clearly, Oscar Wilde understood that. This is why his work is still so influential, even today.
5. “Sarcasm helps keep you from telling people what you really think of them.”-Unknown
Now, once again, the use of sarcasm can be pretty controversial. After all, there is ample evidence to suggest that when people use sarcasm, they are being arrogant, condescending, or even just downright mean. However, everyone has people in their lives that they are forced to interact with but cannot stand. This person might be a relative, a co-worker, a schoolmate, a neighbor, a fellow PTA mom – it could be anyone. This is where sarcasm comes in, and what makes it so great.
Everyone has a breaking point. When you have to constantly interact with someone who drives you up the wall, there will come a time when you go off onto a terrible tirade that will get you into lots of social trouble – or worse. For instance, if the person who makes you nuts is a co-worker, or even your boss, you definitely cannot go cursing that person out and saying what you really think of them. However, what you can do is offer up little, subtle bits of sarcasm every time they start to get under your skin. You could even do it just when you see them, if they are the type that is too dim to catch on to what you are doing.
This is a way to keep your cool, give yourself a bit of pleasure, and have a secret little way to let off some steam. The moral of the story here is this: Sometimes sarcasm really comes in handy in situations where there is simply no way to get away from someone who just knows how to push all your buttons. In fact, it just might save your job.
6. “Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”-Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky was a Russian novelist and short story writer. He was known for works that focused on the deepest recesses of the human mind and heart, such his famous novel, Crime and Punishment. Perhaps it is this fascination with writing fictitious works that focused on the very real elements of the human condition that informed Dostoevsky’s opinion on those who use sarcasm.
This quote is interesting on a list of sarcastic quotes because of the fact that people who are described as sarcastic are often accused of being mean. Dostoevsky takes a different view: That they are protecting themselves. This is definitely a legitimate way to look at it. After all, when someone drives the average person to sarcasm, they’ve likely pushed some pretty sticky buttons. There does not have to necessarily be anything even remotely resembling the truth or some nugget of wisdom or anything like that for someone to push your buttons.
Perhaps the person who makes you so crazy is just socially clueless and thinks asking really personal questions in the workplace is just A-OKAY. Perhaps they think that giving unsolicited advice on your life is the right thing to do. Maybe they are just too dim to take the hint when you are too busy to talk to them. Maybe their penchant for office gossip when they should be working means you have to cover for them, and you snap one day and go, “You know, I really, really love doing all of these invoices at the end of the day while you sip coffee and talk to John. Thank you for the opportunity to move up the ladder a little faster.”
That is the perfect answer to a lazy, clueless co-worker, and if the person is dim enough and your tone just right, they might miss the sarcasm. It protects you from further conversation, because you are so happy for the extra work, as far as the co-worker is concerned – and you avoid anymore soul invasions to boot. Maybe Dostoevsky had the right idea about sarcasm. His could blow the “mean” theory out of the water.
7. “Sarcasm doesn’t read sarcastic in print.” – Kristen Schaal
Kristen Schaal is a voice actress, actress, and comedian. So, we get more wisdom here from another person who makes others laugh for a living. What Ms. Schaal has to say here is very, very important, though. Remember, there is a time and a place for everything. That is especially true of something like sarcasm. If sarcasm is not done right, or it does not read as sarcasm, the entire point is lost, and you have potentially done very real damage. One of the places this is most prevalent is in our increasingly digitized world.
The internet, text messaging, and social media apps are rife with the potential for disaster in just normal conversations, much less in those built around sarcasm. Conversations that occur via text message, social media, or internet forums lack something that is built into more natural forms of human communication. Tone, body language, and nuance are completely missing. All you see are words on a screen. Add to that fact that those words often have a dehumanizing effect because we often forget that there is an actual living, breathing human on the other side of all that technology, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Sarcasm is something that requires all the nuance and social cues of more natural forms of communication. Kristen Schaal is correct. Sarcasm does not read sarcastically over any form of text communication. To that end, make sure you’re using the lessons you learned from these sarcastic quotes in person rather than on your phone, tablet, or computer. You’ll definitely thank us for that piece of advice later, mark my words.
8. “Canada has a passive-aggressive culture, with a lot of sarcasm and righteousness. That went with my weird messianic complex. The ego is a fascinating monster. I was taught from a young age that I had to serve, so that turned into me thinking I had to save the planet.”-Alanis Morrisette
Alanis Morrisette is a Canadian singers who captured the imaginations of the earliest manifestations of the Millenial generation in the 1990s. She charmed the world with hits like “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know,” making every angsty teenage girl wish they were their own version of this singer with the gorgeous, raspy voice. Alanis Morrisette is more than just a great singer, though. She is an amazingly wise woman.
As the quote above implies, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Sure, use sarcasm when the dim person in the cubicle next to you at work is getting on your last nerve, or when your drunk, uneducated, hillbilly uncle is ruining Thanksgiving dinner with his usual, never ending torrent of conspiracy theories. However, this is not how you should conduct yourself all the time. Like anything else, sarcasm should be used in moderation. It does foster, as Alanis Morrisette alludes to, a culture of passive aggressiveness in which people never truly learn to speak their minds. In the best case scenarios, we are able to be honest with people about what we think. We can tell that ex-partner who wants to be our friend that we no longer want them in our lives, or we can tell ignorant Uncle Joe to stop ruining everyone’s holidays. We can tell our best friend we think she drinks too much, or we can tell our jobless cousin that she really should not compound her impoverished situation by having another child so soon.
Use sarcasm sparingly, folks, and in the right and necessary contexts. You don’t have to save the planet, as Alanis Morrisette was led to believe she must do. She is right regarding a person’s ego. Sometimes sarcastic people are seen as arrogant, because they have consumed too much of a good thing. They have mastered the art of insulting people through sarcasm, and their ego is inflated due to the rush they get out of taking a shot at someone who they believe deserves it. As much of a fan of sarcastic quotes as I am, I hope no one reading this uses it to inflate their own ego in this manner.
9. “I’d like to do more stuff with less sarcasm.”-Sara Gilbert
Sara Gilbert is the actress who played daughter Darlene on the hit situation comedy Roseanne. Gilbert is now playing that same character, several decades later, on the Roseanne spin off show, The Connors. The fact that Gilbert is asking for less sarcasm is quite funny, considering the character she plays. Darlene was always a wildly sarcastic character with a knack for using humor to get under people’s skin. She also used those same skills to taunt her older sister Becky, who often got into trouble during their teenage years on the show. Some of that sarcastic taunting even flirted with being blackmail in certain scenarios.
However sarcastic Darlene was, though, she always knew when to be serious. That was a side that almost no one saw for that character, and often people had a hard time discerning whether or not she was being serious. That is one of the pitfalls of being a deeply sarcastic person for most of your life. You get the laughs and the zingers and the ability to cut anyone off at the knees, but when it comes down to getting serious, you often get the short end of the stick.
Fast forward three decades, and in addition to reprising her role as Darlene on The Connors, Sara Gilbert is also a co-host on the CBS daytime talk show The Talk. Since her role as Darlene is what she is known best for, Gilbert is often expected to be that sarcastic as herself as well. While that comes out sometimes, it is clear that as a wife, mother, and serious adult, she is more than just the lovable, but oh-so-sarcastic Darlene. So, when you master the art of sarcasm, remember to use it wisely, even if it means using it sparingly.
We’d like to accomplish more with less sarcasm too, Ms. Gilbert.
10. “Old people at weddings always poke me and say, ‘you’re next.’ So I started doing the same thing at funerals.”
Now, I could not round out a list of sarcastic quotes without giving an example of what people mean when they say that sometimes this sort of humor and poking fun at others can be downright mean. Now, this is an extreme example. We all know that sometimes when they mean well, folks from older generations can annoy us until the cows come home. This is especially true of their behavior at family reunions, weddings, funerals, holiday gatherings, and other functions where there is a huge dose of extended friends and family that are otherwise not a big part of our day to day lives.
The key here is to suck it up, grin, and bear it. It’s one day in like, what? Every two-three years? It’s not like this is the sort of thing people would be dealing with on a daily basis. This is the sort of quote that it is important to put on any list of sarcastic quotes for one simple reason: It demonstrates how not yo use the art of sarcasm once you have mastered it.
This is a great example of using the art of sarcasm as a form of casual cruelty. Jokes are never appropriate at a funeral anyway, unless it is during a eulogy where people are remembering the deceased. To use such an occasion to jokingly suggest that the death of a fellow mourner is imminent is truly beyond the pale. This is the sort of behavior that gives sarcasm a bad name.
Sarcastic quotes can be useful in our daily lives, but their effect must be respected.
Sarcasm is a beautiful art that often gets a bad rap. After all, sarcasm is a great way to poke fun at someone who drives you crazy in an environment where just telling them off is not acceptable. It is also a great way to show off your sharp wit and social intelligence. However, there is a darker side to sarcasm, as demonstrated in many of the quote explanations above. Sarcasm can often inflate egos and cause an addiction to tearing people that we view as beneath us down. Remember – do not let your mastering of the art of sarcasm turn you into a person who views others as beneath your contempt. Oh, and make sure to use your new found sarcasm skills in person! Things always work out better that way. You’ll enjoy it more, too!
If you liked this list of sarcastic quotes, and if it helped you pull off a few zingers, let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to tweet, Facebook, or Instagram this article if you are really impressed!
Martha lives in the Bay Area and is a dedicated reader of romance novels. She runs a yoga studio and taught yoga for many years. She always says that yoga fuels her writing. She’s also a vegetarian and advocate for living a healthy life. Martha has been writing for us for a while now, giving readers a glimpse into her lifestyle and work.