Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Peanut Butter Propensity

Revenge, the conventional wisdom has it, is a dish best served cold.

Makes sense when you think it through. Similarly, irony, particularly the sarcasm part of irony, is as difficult to control as a watercolor; it slides, slops, dries; it becomes as dangerous as eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich while wearing a white shirt (which is one reason I don't have any white shirts).

Accordingly, this peanut butter propensity is one of the many reasons I seldom read Maureen Dowd, who began her career as a reporter, then allowed her attitude to run away with her to the point where facts weren't enough; she became a columnist. It is true that a columnist needs opinion and/or attitude in order to reach beyond mere fact. But Maureen Dowd is no better at controlling her sarcasm than I am of controlling peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches. I tried marmalade, thinking that would help and because I am fond of the so-called Seville marmalade. I even tried lemon curd, but that was scant help.

The simple truth is that I should--but don't--eat peanut butter sandwiches over the sink. Maureen Dowd should--but doesn't--sign up for anger-management classes. There are some nifty ones on line, some of which have working arrangements with Traffic Schools, allowing you to burn off citations for such offenses as rude gestures, or that particularly L.A. offense, throwing cell phones at other drivers. Maureen Dowd appears to hate everyone, even people she does not know. No sarcasm left behind. More and more, she is becoming a salient reason for calling 1-800-NYTIMES and saying, "Cancel." Reading her allows me to take sides against her and show sympathy for persons I ordinarily would dislike. There were some moments a few weeks back, for instance, when I found myself beginning to feel sorry for Dick Cheney. I'm happy to report that didn't last long.

This has turned out to be more about her than I'd intended, but it is ample demonstration of my point: You can't mess around with sarcasm.


R.L. Bourges said...

i used to read maureen dowd online until the New York Times started charging for the privilege - i can produce my own sarcasm for free, so that was an easy call...

(but...feeling sorry for Cheney? What DID she say?)

Lori Witzel said...

Sometimes a word comes intact with its own insight.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary on "sarcasm" (my bold italic for emphasis):
1579, from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos "a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery," from sarkazein "to speak bitterly, sneer," lit. "to strip off the flesh," from sarx (gen. sarkos) "flesh," prop. "piece of meat," from PIE base *twerk- "to cut" (cf. Avestan thwares "to cut").