Arrogance vs. Sarcasm

Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time will know by now that I am sarcastic. Beyond sarcastic I am also brutally honest. This combination sometimes makes me come off as “mean”. There is something I want to make clear, often I am not trying to be mean, rather I am trying to be funny.

It has shocked me to learn that many (and I mean many) people do not understand nor appreciate sarcasm. My friends sarcasm is my second language, someone would even argue it is my primary language! I use it most often with the people I love. But there is something new I have learned that comes with sarcasm, people might think you are being arrogant.

This news came to me during our last book club meeting. The club had just read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and one of the comments was that they didn’t like that the author came off as “arrogant”. Now, I should state I am a very critical reader. If there is a detail to catch I will sniff that out like a bomb sniffing dog. And NOWHERE did I find this author being arrogant. In fact I found him rather funny.


Just for a little background, the book is about a man (Bill Bryson) who set out to hike the Applachian Trail. He details his journey and all that happens along the way.

As the person started stating the reasons they found him arrogant I realized that his sarcasm was coming off as arrogance. Here were here reasons in generic terms for those who did not read the book:

1) He had less than positive thoughts about the complete strangers he met on the trail:

Alright, yes he did think parts of Georgia was not the greatest town to be in. Yes he did come across people who were not exactly hikers and made fun of them. But please remember 95 % of this “making fun” he did was in his own head. He did not actually make fun of these people to their face. Yes, he chose to write these observations in his book but I think he was poking fun at himself as much as he was about the people he ran across. Many of the people he thought were a little nutty actually ended up being helpful to him or better than him on some part of his journey. I think he was poking fun at his own pre concieved notions just as much as he was poking fun at others as he met them.

2) He made fun of others technology on the trail:

Alright at one point he met a man who had a completely useless device on the trail and he made a comment of “does it bake cookies.” Yes the man got mad. But I think the reader should remember the author just embarked on a hiking journey with a man who got so fed up with the weight of his backpack that he threw out food! Yes food! He might have been poking a little fun at this man but I think in his head he had a little more reason to do so.

3) He acted like he knew more than some of the experienced hikers (which he was not):

Alright, this one is a bit of an exaggeration. I think he fully embraced the fact that he was an amateur. Yes he liked to believe he knew more than others but that fact came crashing down around him. Culminating in the end of the trail when these young hikers just walked right by them while they tried to trudge through water. I think we were supposed to laugh at his confidence because it became clear by the end of the book despite how confident he felt, he couldn’t complete a trail even a “grandma” completed.

I think the problem is people often feel that if someone makes a dry, less than nice joke, that they are intending to be mean. But sarcasm has many shapes, forms and reasons. I think its important to look past the comment and delve deeper into the meaning behind the comment.

If anyone has actually read this book I would love to hear if you felt the author was arrogant. If you have not read the book do you feel sarcasm comes off as arrogance?

16 thoughts on “Arrogance vs. Sarcasm

  1. Okay Shae, this is just too wired because I actually HAVE that book (which was given to me as a gift) but haven’t read it yet. So now I’m going to read it.

    And you know me…I LOVE sarcasm!

    You’re right, there is a huge difference between a mean/arrogant sarcasm and a dry, funny sarcasm. And I think you can tell the difference in just the ‘tone’ of how it’s being delivered.

    FAB post, girl!

    And keep on being sarcastic because I love it!


  2. I can totally relate because I come off much the same way. I’ll put up a blog post which had me laughing as I wrote it and the comments suggest that most readers took me seriously and even get a bit huffy about things I’ve said. I’m rarely serious on my blog even when I’m trying to be really serious.

    Maybe it’s a lack of intelligence on the reader’s behalf or maybe my own lack of intelligence that causes me to say stupid things. Actually I think it’s more an issue of readers not reading closely and trying to rush through without catching the subtleties. Sometimes I think I’ve pissed a lot of people off so that they no longer want to read my posts.

    I haven’t read any Bryson yet though I have a few of his books on my shelves. From everything you’ve indicated I do think he’s going for humor and not arrogant at all. After all, he is considered to be a humorist isn’t he? It probably helps to know that a book is supposed to be funny before we start reading it just in case the humor is subtle and perhaps a bit dry and intellectual. To me that’s the best kind of humor. I want to take away some thoughts and ideas besides having a good laugh.

    Some people don’t have a good sense of humor. To them funny has to include farts and bodily functions and profanity. Get a brain folks! Maybe if you start thinking lofty and arrogant sarcastic funny then maybe your farts will start sounding more intelligent.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

    • First of all hello Arlee! Its been awhile! And I have to say I agree with you 100 percent. A lot of confusion it seems is people don’t take the time to read carefully. Instead they are so focused on finishing they miss some of the smaller details that let the reader know its actually meant to be funny. However, having to let a reader know the book is humorous before they read is like having to label a coffee cup with a caution sign “contents may be hott” seems superfluous.

  3. I haven’t read the book, but I understand what you mean about people not understanding sarcasm. My husband is super sarcastic, and I can be too. I have trouble relating to people who don’t have a sense of humor and look at me blankly when I say something sarcastic. My sense of humor is a big part of who I am, so if someone doesn’t get it, we aren’t likely to be spending much time together.

  4. I heard it was a funny book, so now I’ll have to try it! I’d hate to think what that book clubber would think of Sedaris!

    Like Arlee, I have often cracked up as I write my blog, but then get comments from people who act as though I’m being serious! I’ve felt the need to now preface some posts, stating that I really do love my kids, etc., but sometimes I need to poke fun.

  5. I totally get you here (but I haven’t read the book). My family is very sarcastic and we have certain jokes – one being when someone does something nice we say things like, ‘you’re so thoughtless!’ We all understand it but one day my mother-in-law heard a friend say this to hubby after he cooked a lovely meal and she was mortified and ready to thump someone. It took a while to convince her otherwise (but I still don’t think she ‘got it’ in the end).

  6. Read this book and loved it. I don’t think it’s easy to write an entertaining and funny book about walking in the woods, but he does. I didn’t think he was arrogant. I felt he was probably exaggerating for humor’s sake maybe, but arrogant no.

    • I am glad others loved it! And you are right it is hard to right something funny about walking in the woods but he certainly does it! Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

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