Is Sarcasm Genetic?

So is sarcasm genetic? I guess you could make a case for that being true, but I think it’s generally taught. My five-year old niece (who you will be familiar with if you’re a regular reader of my blog) is walking evidence that this may not be the case.

A lil background on me. I’m a 32 year old English male who has been living in the United States for nine years. If you grew up in my household, you should have a firm grasp on sarcasm. Myself, my brother and sister were always jibing at each other growing up. I have to feel sorry for my poor mum. I’d always pick at her with my sarcastic humour. Not in a malicious way though. She actually enjoyed it in some kind of twisted way. So you see, I had a firm base in sarcastic humour, and when I moved to the States all those years back, I faced the task of having to adapt my humour style to mesh with your average American citizen.

Chalk and cheese. Oil and water. Ice cream and horse manure. Somethings just aren’t compatible. And it turned out my sense of humour wasn’t tailor-made for the Stateside peeps. Besides having to slow down my thick Norfolk accent, I had to figure out how to connect with them on a humour level. This blog is in no way a dig at the American people. The English have their ways and the Americans have theirs.

Case in point. One time I was working a concession stand with a girl who is a close friend of my wife and I. She made the comment that whenever she hears me talk, she pictures me as somebody drinking tea with a little teacup, wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella. My natural sarcasm kicked in and I exclaimed “That is so racist!” I waited for her to laugh. It never came. Instead she apologized to me and asked if she had offended me. I said of course not, but I could really see that she felt bad about it. I tried to reassure her it was okay, but the damage was done. Whoops!

So what about my little niece? Well, I’ve been there for her since she was born and have babysat her on numerous occasions. I’ve taught her how to draw, colour, read the alphabet and many other things. One other thing is that she’s learned from me is my sarcastic sense of humour. Say that I trip over. She laughs at my misfortune. In response I quickly snap “Why are you laughing?! Did somebody tell a joke?!” Does she feel bad and apologize profusely? Nope. She just quips back “Because you just fell on your butt!”

Now genetically her and I are no relation. Meaning that my sarcastic streak has not been genetically passed down to her. But through nurture, instead of nature, she’s picked up sarcasm. This is why I think sarcasm is not genetic. It’s brought on by learning through example at a young age. And boy did my little niece ever learn it!

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8 comments on “Is Sarcasm Genetic?

  1. Tact is for People who aren’t Witty enough to be Sarcastic . . . I want a refrigerator magnet. Nature vs nurture . . . in my case, nature. Dad is a sarcastic SOB. I was raise by Mum. None of my siblings (even the half-brothers and sisters) have that sarcastic streak. I just figured being the oldest of the brood, I got it all. Go figure.

  2. Definitely taught, nobody in my family gets sarcasm…they think I’m just being mean and don’t see the humor in the words I use. Oh well. But my son seems to be picking up on it well enough, so hopefully he’s not a big cry baby like the rest of the family.

  3. Genetic. My entire extending family on my mother’s side are sarcastic bastards! I love them! Big family too. Third generation is just as sarcastic. Maybe’s it’s all learned from the first generation here in the US but it just seems so improbable. We spent a lot of time a part growing up. A lot of us American’s are as sarcastic and ironic as you Englishmen if not more so! It all depends on where you are in the US.

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