My son’s dog is not exactly the Arnold Schwarzenegger of canines. He looks a little like a Wookiee, weighs 28 pounds, and he has a long-haired fluffy tail that curls upwards so he looks like he’s got a feather boa tied around his ass. He’s a total babe magnet, but with a catch. Women love adorable fluffy dogs; they practically swoon over this little pooch. But I can’t imagine they’re feeling much attraction for the poor schmuck on the other end of the leash. You know, the guy holding that suspiciously saggy little plastic bag.
Anyway, I was walking the pooch through the neighborhood last night when a big, deep-throated dog started barking from behind a tall fence. Our little mutt raised his hackles and produced a reasonable facsimile of a growl, and I said, “Ohhh, yeah! You show that dog who’s boss!”
As soon as the words left my mouth I had an insight. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the feeling sarcasm is lost on most dogs.
This, of course, got me thinking about who else doesn’t understand sarcasm, and that got me thinking about people who write letters-to-the-editor.
To use sarcasm successfully, one really has to know one’s audience. Writing a column for a general newspaper in a small town as diverse as Hood River virtually guarantees that I have no idea who I’m talking to. So, here’s a little test to see if we’re all on the same page. Try to guess which of the following sentences are meant to be sarcastic:
n “I’m sure glad we spent all that money on the new bypass for Country Club Road! What a time-saver!”
n “I just hate it when they block cars off Oak Street for First Friday. All those people should stay on the sidewalk where they belong!”
n “Health care in America would be much better if we just let the insurance companies handle things! I mean, they’ve done a great job so far!”
n “Sure, son, you can borrow the new car! While you’re at it, would you like my credit card to pay for gas?”
n “Hey, no worries, son. I don’t mind a few dents in my new car!”
n “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
n “I’m not prejudiced. I hate everybody.”
n “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s sell all our coal to China!”
n “Shut up and mind your manners!”
n “There’s nothing wrong with America that a few Tea Party candidates couldn’t solve!”
n “You’re right, son. It was wrong of me to expect you to actually do what you were told.”
n “Corporations are people, too, you know!”
n “Bush won the election fair and square!”
n “I smoked, but I didn’t inhale.”
n “Fruitcake? Sure, I’d love some fruitcake!”
n “What rich people need, more than anything, is fewer taxes.”
n “If I were president, I’d let them eat cake!”
n “Ever since the hospital bought out my doctor’s practice, it’s been easier and cheaper than ever to get in to see her!”
n “Wind? What wind?”
n “What this country needs is more prisons!”
n “I felt a lot safer when Bush was president.”
n “Who needs privacy if you never do anything to be ashamed of?”
n “I just hate it when people who love each other get married!”
n “You can take my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!”
n “I’ve got an idea! Let’s move our troops out of Afghanistan and put them over in Syria!”
Go ahead and score your own test. And it’s okay if you cheat, because everybody else does.
Craig Danner is a novelist and physician assistant living in Hood River with his wife and two teenage sons.