Printable Version
Pronunciation: snah(r)-ki Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Irritable, snappy, cranky, grumpy.

Notes: The noun from which today's Good Word is derived is a bit snarky itself from being ignored for a century or so. (See Word History for which noun it is.) The adjective, however, is still alive and well with a healthy, happy family. It may be compared as snarkier and snarkiest, while snarkiness is the stuff that makes us snarky. You may behave snarkily, too, on a bad hair day.

In Play: The English language presents us with so many words to express being out of sorts, it is a pleasant surprise to find one that isn't a clich: "I'm not surprised that Parker Carr is a bit snarky with Rita; she treats him like her personal valet." Of course, we all have those moments: "Well, yes, Andy Doat did get a bit snarky when Leticia spilled the beans on his new toupee." (This sentence works with either meaning of beans.)

Word History: Snarky is remindful of the target in Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, the imaginary animal that cohabits an island with the jubjub, bandersnatch, and jabberwock. However, it is unrelated. Today's Good Word comes from Middle Germanic snarken "snore, snort", found today in Swedish snarka "to snore" and German schnarchen "to snore". A German dialectal variant, Schnorchel "nose" (= snorer) gave us snorkel. By the 1880s it had come to mean "to grumble or complain" and by 1906 it emerged with today's meaning. (This lexical sparkler among the dull and dreary words meaning "cranky" came from Christine Casalini, an editor and writer living in Boston.)

Dr. Goodword,

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