Is Sarcasm Dead?

Michael KellyThis is amusing. Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote an article about Michael Kelly who for less than a year was the editor of The New Republic. Chait worked under Kelly and remembers him foundly as students often remember their mentors. Kelly was apparently very protective of his young writers. But that can get a guy in trouble. Below is a scene from Shattered Glass that shows why Keely might be a hero to the writers but still lose his job. In the clip from the movie, Marty Peretz, the publisher, has made all of the writers go through their recent stories and circle all of the commas. He wants to instruct them on the proper way use commas. “He said commas should always appear in pairs.” (BTW: that’s so not true!) Kelly (played by Hank Azaria) is having none of it; he protects the writers but undoubtedly make an important enemy.

Anyway, I posted what I thought was a very amusing comment about Peretz’s pedantry:

So clarify this for me: grammar pedantry is a bad thing? No wonder I have no friends!

Unfortunately, few people saw the comment because there are almost no comments because no one knows or cares who Michael Kelly was. But one person responded to me. Now maybe I’m wrong and what he wrote is just really subtle sarcasm. But it seems pretty clear to me that he didn’t get the joke:

Why yes, yes it is.

A glance at a definition of the word can shed some light. Pay attention especially to the words “useless”, “slavish”, “undue”, and “petty” in the definitions.

If this is a joke, this guy is brilliant, because that response is the very definition of pedantic. And as such it is fantastic! Unfortunately, my experience on the internets is that people are usually as clueless as they appear at first glace.

I’d be interested to hear what any of you think.


Here’s the clip from the film:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

1 thought on “Is Sarcasm Dead?

  1. Commas should always be in pairs, married if you will, in a purely heterosexual sentence, just like in the Bible, it says.

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