Smirking

WaylanderToo

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#1
I've noticed recently that the word "smirk" seems to crop up in stories quite a lot - and it drives me nuts!

IIRC smirking is not a synonym for "smile" which is the context in which it is being used, but a more caddish type of behaviour (at best)...

Am I irrational here or am I justified?
 

Toby Frost

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#4
I imagine it as an unpleasant smile, probably wide and with closed lips, suggesting a superior, knowing quality. So I think you're entirely justified.
 

WarriorMouse

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#6
A smirk is the look you get from someone who thinks they are smarter than you. Thinks they have pulled the wool over your eyes. A slight uptick of the corners of their mouth with a hint of snideness about the eyes.
There is in no hint of a smile involved so yes your justified.
 

TheDustyZebra

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#7
Smirking is not the same as smiling, but I haven't noticed it being intended as such. I have, on the other hand, noticed it being used more lately than in previous eras, and I'd hazard a guess that it dates to the advent of Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is also, I point out as a copy editor, NOT another way of saying words, as in "'Blah blah blah,' he smirked." It's not. Just don't.
 

tinkerdan

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#8
Smirking can be both irritating and conceited smiles; however it can also be a silly smile, which may account for most uses though I wouldn't want to take away from someone who really used it to mean irritating and conceited.

However the silly smile might account for the synonyms listed ::snicker and snigger.
 

Randy M.

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#9
For myself, I'd use snicker/snigger for a childish sense of superiority, and reserve smirk for an adult sense of superiority. Chances are neither sense of superiority would be merited.


Randy M.
 

Toby Frost

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#10
It is also, I point out as a copy editor, NOT another way of saying words, as in "'Blah blah blah,' he smirked." It's not. Just don't.
I completely agree. And to go further, I think it's things like this that make a book look amateurish just as much as huge mistakes. Run-on sentences are another one for me. It just looks a bit shoddy.
 

Montero

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#11
I'm just reading Jodi Taylor's Throgmorton Farm series and there was a nice scene where everyone was ganging up (in a friendly way) to pick on the fun, but scatty and eccentric husband (who tends to declare he knows what he is doing when he really doesn't) and his response was to smirk at their insults. Worked for me. Also a slightly difference nuance to the use of smirk.
 

tinkerdan

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#12
I use the word smirk in my material.( I also use snigger and snicker)
I was, in fact, just working on the exact chapter of one of my pieces that contains the word smirk and paused to see if I should remove it, however I managed to recall that I used it with some notion of what the actual definition is and how I wanted to use it and now I'm seeing the perceptual understanding of readers might require some adverbs or adjectives to reduce the possibility of misunderstanding do to a variety of possible interpretations.

Point in case being that the dictionaries I have do not use 'sense of superiority' anywhere in their definitions of all three words. And though conceit might come close(too much conceit might lead to a false sense of superiority) it is really only one facet of a word that seems to have at least three possibilities, which lead to ambiguity.

This means that left alone it tends to be an abiguous word that has a reasonable probability of being misinterpreted. That means that adverbs and adjectives might be necessary to clear that up unless the situation you are using the word in calls for ambiguity. (And even so as a writer you should be prepared to have all sorts of people misunderstanding what you intend when you do leave it ambiguous.)

Bottom line there is nothing wrong with the word or using the word as long as you as a writer know what you are doing and what the stakes are in the possibility that some readers might read too much into it.

I must point out that when I used smirk and snigger and snicker I looked the words up to be certain that there was a definition that fit what I felt the character meant and I did overlook the possibility that each one used alone can, under some circumstances, create an unnecessary ambiguity.
 

Toby Frost

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#13
If I had to say what a smirk looks like, I'd point to Ian Holm's expression after he says "You have my sympathies" in Alien. That expression.
 

tinkerdan

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#14
Sure maybe we should fall on our old saw and show not tell: what does a smirk look like?

His face sort of twitched incessantly from one half of his lips up, one half down to something almost flat and back again that looked as though any moment now he might bite off his nose to spite his face.
 

Montero

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#15
Smirk also seems to be used quite a bit with the phrase "self-satisfied" - which by implication means that smirk doesn't mean self-satisfied.
 

Parson

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#16
If I run across smirk, or snigger I always assume an attitude of condescension. The one doing these things is utterly convinced that they are smarter than you and untouchable beside. Snicker, I see a bit differently. I hear snicker as something done when one sees something as slightly funny. I can see it as condescending as well, but that's not the first thing I think of without context.
 

Overread

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#17
I tend to encounter it more in roleplay (text) when people will often go into almost a hyper level of repeat description on events and actions. Smirking thus often comes in as an attempt to avoid always having a character smile every time its their turn and they are describing their actions. Basically they know smirking is another form of smile and so use it, whilst being unaware of its more specific actual meaning; which of course means when they read other authors using the word they don't pick up on the actual event in full detail, but see it just as a smile.

There are other words done for the same thing, where they are used in a very casual sense (such as one might do when talking in person) instead of being used in their correct sense. Through time this can change the meaning of a word or add a new meaning to its list.

Of course at times its needless and can devalue a word; the use of smirking to denote just a simple smile would be one such example.
 

Montero

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#18
@ Parson - snigger - my first response on that is someone told a grubby joke. Not the superiority but it is the kind of laugh that fits with the sort of joke a nicely brought up person shouldn't laugh at but does.
 

Parson

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#19
@ Parson - snigger - my first response on that is someone told a grubby joke. Not the superiority but it is the kind of laugh that fits with the sort of joke a nicely brought up person shouldn't laugh at but does.
I hadn't remembered that use of snigger, but in context I would find that a perfectly acceptable use of snigger.

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Sum Dude

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#20
Maybe think about using "scoffed" or "chortled" some of my favs.

So long as you make clear there is a sound being made.
 
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