I was wondering yesterday who came up with that idea, where a person asserts a fact, pauses a moment, and then shouts the word “NOT!”, thus negating everything that had been previously said. For example: “I love flip-flops… NOT!”
What a douche.
That catch-phrase is at least twenty years old, judging by my own recollections of having heard it used in everyday speech. I’m supposing it was in some movie, or maybe on Saturday Night Live. No matter. It annoys me, much the same way a bald guy is annoyed when you hand him a fine-toothed comb and tell him to straighten up his nappy do.
You see, I may not know where the “NOT!” phrase originated, but I certainly recognize its function. It’s for people who want to test out sarcasm, but still need their training wheels. They’re still too afraid to really let a sarcastic comment fly, because they might be misunderstood by those around him. Every true sarcasm aesthete understands that if nobody around hears the S-Bomb fall in a forest, by all the hairy gods and lesser angels, it’s still done its work! Gawd I love sarcasm. Why go and ruin it by pointing out what should be obvious to everybody?
I’m quite the sarcastic person myself. (No… REALLY?) I don’t know how I came into the craft. I remember being 10 years old, sitting on the couch on a Saturday morning and watching SuperFriends (and what a great show that was). My dad would silently join us, and to gain his approval I’d want him to be impressed with my choice of morning programming. He would sit impassively, never smiling, never commenting. I mean, that show was gold! How could somebody not snort with laughter at the antics of Gleek the Space Monkey? But he didn’t. So I chose the second tact of gaining his approval: I made fun of the very show I was watching. I’d say, aloud, “Aquaman is stupid. You can’t really breathe underwater.” No response. So I’d venture, “Invisible plane? Right? How could she see the controls?” Nothing.
Then at some point I realized I could do both things at once: I could both praise, AND cause people to think, I was insulting, the show. Those truly “in the know” — the few, the proud, the sarcastic, would know the true meaning behind the oblique statements, but I’d be free to (1) state my opinion (2) make fun of an easy target and (3) maybe garner a laugh from the people who pick up on the vibe of irony.
Yes, it’s a learned skill. Read all directions before use. May cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. I once had a pastor’s wife tell me I had to monitor my sarcasm; after all, the term itself comes from ancient Greek word Sarkasmos, “the cutting of flesh.” That’s why you hear the phrase “she made a cutting remark.” Every time you use sarcasm, you cut someone a little bit? Like any rhetorical tool, it can hurt people if overused. I have to admit though, when I think about sarcasm, I still think of its Greek root of flesh-cutting. Am I hurting someone? Hope not. It’s become second nature now. Cutting isn’t always bad; say, in the hands of a surgeon, or a skilled chef. And I hope that’s what I am. Sarcasm has become a part of my daily regime, like blood pressure pills and a nice bowel movement: I just don’t leave home without it. I hope I don’t hurt anyone, but I like to think I’m skilled enough that I won’t skewer, flay, or otherwise kill a person with sarcasm. If I do, I hope my friends will let me know.
In the meantime, I’ll refrain from ever, ever being sarcastic again.