Justice Scalia might have a different objection. “I’m a snoot,” he once said. “Snoots are those who are nit-pickers for the mot juste, for using a word precisely the way it should be used,” he explained. Professor Hasen, on the other hand, used a broad definition of sarcasm. “We’re talking about a combination of harsh language and irony,” he said. Many standard reference works agree, defining sarcasm to include hostile or contemptuous remarks. But Justice Scalia would probably differ, based on a database search that revealed him to be a student of the question. He seemed to define sarcasm in a narrower way, as limited to saying one thing while meaning another. The word sarcasm or a variant appeared five times in Supreme Court opinions since he joined the court, and he is the author of four of those opinions. (The fifth use of the word was in a quotation.) All four used the narrower definition.
In 1994, he rejected the argument that “modify” can mean “to change fundamentally.” “ ‘Modify,’ in our view, connotes moderate change,” he wrote. “It might be good English to say that the French Revolution ‘modified’ the status of the French nobility, but only because there is a figure of speech called understatement and a literary device known as sarcasm.”
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