Sunday, December 17, 2006

Seriously Sarcastic

A sarcastic person will chew you up and spit you out, speaking metaphorically. Sarcasm is defined as a sharp, bitter, or cutting remark. Sharpness, ripping, chewing--it’s almost like watching an animal tear flesh from a bone. And that’s an entirely appropriate image, since the Greek origin of the word, the verb sarkazein, meant to tear flesh.

Sarco-, a combining form from the Greek word meaning flesh, is very useful in scientific terminology, as the following examples will show.
• Sarcoderm: The fleshy layer in some seeds lying between the internal and external integuments.
• Sarcoid: resembling flesh
• Sarcolite: A silicate of aluminum, sodium, and calcium found in flesh-colored crystals.
• Sarcology: That branch of anatomy which treats of the fleshy parts of the body.
• Sarcophagal: Flesh-devouring, flesh-consuming.
• Sarcotic: Producing flesh; inducing the growth of flesh
• Sarcotome: an instrument for painlessly cutting through the soft tissues of the body.

The terminal combining form -sarc is used in fewer words, but they, too, are scientific in nature, occurring mostly in zoology.

• Cenosarc: The common living basis or ‘flesh’ by which the several individuals forming a compound zoophyte, or polypidom, are united together.
• Endosarc: the inner sarcode-layer of certain rhizopods, such as the amoeba.
• Perisarc: An enclosing horny or chitinous layer secreted by many colonial hydroids.

Some -sarc- words are not very pretty to picture, as anasarca (a dropsy producing a very puffed appearance of the flesh), or polysarcia (excessive accumulation of fat).

Finally, an APA report indicates that scientists may have found the area of the brain responsible for interpreting sarcasm.

Sidebar: sarcastic quotations

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