I have recently seen the word snarky in The New York
Times and in a cartoon in The New Yorker. What does it mean? Does it come from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark?
The Hunting of the Snark (1876) is a nonsense poem about the quest to find an imaginary creature called a "snark." The creature's name was coined by Lewis Carroll. Since they go on a sea voyage, Carroll may have intended a blend of "snake" and "shark," though the poem gives no description of how the creature looks. The "snark" proves elusive, but the Baker does find a nasty "boojum," a variety of the snark.
The poem has nothing to do with the word snarky, which means 'sharply critical'. More precisely, snarky means critical in an annoying, sarcastic, grumpy, wisecracking, or cynical sort of way. Maybe you're referring to the recent headline in The New York Times: "The Stars of Reality TV Are Snarky, Whiny and Loud. But They Look Fabulous." The comedian David Spade has been called snarky, and so has David Letterman. The young star of the TV show Malcolm in the Middle is very snarky. And a cantankerous curmudgeon is snarky by definition.
The following analysis of words beginning with "sn-" is from The Guardian (London): "And few groups of words are as useful for verbal snipers, those who sneer, snap and snarl, who resort to the snide, sniffy, snarky, snooty and snotty, as those which begin with an s and an n. That is not to say that all belong exclusively to the world of vituperation. Snug and snuggle are cosy agreeable concepts."
The adjective snarky is first recorded in 1906. It is from dialectal British snark, meaning 'to nag, find fault with', which is probably the same word as snark, snork, meaning 'to snort, snore'. (The likely connection is the derisive snorting sound of someone who is always finding fault.) Most dictionaries label snarky as "Chiefly British Slang." But for the last five or more years, it has become increasingly common in American publications, maybe ones infiltrated by British or Canadian writers and journalists.
Previous Words of the Day: Alphabetical