A Brief History of ‘Snide Remarks,’ by Noted Mythologist Joseph Campbell

The oldest “Snide Remarks” column known to man, dated about 30,000 B.C., was found scratched on a cave wall in France in 1910. It reads in part:

Me love wheel. Wheel is great invention. But what is deal with wheel going slow on fast path? If you on fast path, you go fast! Me hate slow wheelers.

It was accompanied by mankind’s first angry letter:

Me shocked. Me appalled. You not funny.

Additional “Snide Remarks” columns were found in nearby caves, on subjects such as the killing of mastodons, wooing mates, the advent of “fire” (“Just a fad”), and the large yellow ball that hangs in the sky during the daytime.

Many millennia later, “Snide Remarks” pops up again in the annals of western civilization, this time in the ruins of Pompeii, carved elaborately on pillars. (That is how the author came to be known as a “columnist.”) In one instance, the columnist writes:

After a recent hike to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, it came to my attention that I hate hiking. Vesuvius is beautiful, though, if you like things that belch smoke and fire at you. And if you’ve met my Fat Brother Jeffrius, you know I do.

It is assumed that the columnist perished when Pompeii was destroyed, which some feel was the consequence of God’s wrath against the city’s wicked ways. The angry-letter writers were very smug about that.

“Snide Remarks” was a part of Eastern culture, too. In the early 1200s, Chinese writings by the columnist show his views on political issues of the day:

This massive Chinese wall — some are calling it “great,” but I think it’s merely so-so — has been constructed to keep Mongol hordes and other evil-doers out. But have you seen this wall? It’s like 20 feet high. Are the Mongols not acquainted with the technology of the ladder? Some conquering horde they’d be, unable to get over a 20-foot wall. Besides, maybe our focus should be on helping Mongolia improve its own conditions so that its citizens aren’t always trying to come into our country. Has anyone thought of that?

Around the turn of the 15th century, the columnist wrote theater reviews to supplement his meager “Snide Remarks” income. Among his more trenchant observations was this analysis of the opening-night performance of “Hamlet,” published in The London Daily Tut-Tut & I-Say-There:

Far beeth it from me to instruct Mr. Shakespeare in the workings of his business, but sooth, if his pen doth excrete a play of four hours’ length — yea, four hours, I crappeth you not — should not the play feature characters in the act of, oh, I knoweth not, perchance DOING something? I’m just sayin’-eth.

The Colonial period was especially fruitful for the columnist, who wrote essays and treatises on a variety of subjects, generally sympathizing with the American Colonists over Britain, except when it was funnier to side with the British. “Snide Remarks” frequently appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper, The Morning Colonial Timef and Seasonf, where this, published Dec. 20, 1773, days after the Boston Tea Party, is a typical entry:

I’ve always felt the best way to get the attention of one’s leaders is to dress as if for Halloween and dump groceries in the water. Why, just last week, when I felt my employer ought to give me a raise in my wages, I garbed myself in a vampire costume and threw a sack of potatoes into a bathtub. And a month ago, when I wished to impress upon a police officer that he ought not write me a citation for double-parking my horse outside the post office, I did so by donning a French maid’s outfit and tossing a barrel of oatmeal in the public fountain. (I always keep a French maid’s outfit in the trunk of my horse for just such an occasion.)

Most of the columnist’s observations throughout the 1800s dealt with the pop culture of the day, particularly music and literature. To wit:

On Beethoven: “He’s deaf, so I’ll have to speak up: YOU SUCK.”
On Charles Dickens: “Or, as he’s known in the territory of Deseret, Charles Wienerens.”
On Edgar Allan Poe: “It’s amazing the effect literature can have on a person. For example, the more I read Poe’s stories, the more I regret killing that old man and burying him under my floorboards. I especially regret that the old man was Nathaniel Hawthorne.”
On Jane Austen: “These books are so girly, they actually remove the manliness from other books. I left ‘Pride and Prejudice’ on the shelf next to ‘Treasure Island,’ and when I went to read ‘Treasure Island’ later, it had begun ovulating.”

“Snide Remarks” continued to be popular over the next century and a half, addressing all manner of politically and socially relevant topics and offering thoughtful analysis of the issues of the day, finally reaching its height of importance in 1998, when it talked about “Titanic” and made a bunch of girls cry. And the rest is history.

(Joke explanation: The territory of Deseret is what Utah was called before it became a state.)

"Snide Remarks" No. 500! Hooray for even numbers ending in zeroes!

Of course, taking into account the four in-between columns (#21.5, 59.5, etc.), this is actually the 504th "Snide Remarks." Of course, taking into account the 24 columns that weren't actually published under the name "Snide Remarks," either because I hadn't thought of it yet (No. 9 was the first to have the name) or because they were published under some other heading, this is actually only No. 476. Of course, taking into account that Salt Lake City Weekly ran three of my Sundance Film Festival diaries this year under the name "Snide Remarks" even though I don't consider them "Snide Remarks," that brings the total back up to 479. But now we're just being silly.

Part of me wanted to celebrate the milestone with some kind of "special" column, while part of me wanted to celebrate it the way TV shows celebrate their 100th episodes: with just a solid, enjoyable episode. Ultimately, the urge to be self-reflexive won out, and I hope you'll pardon the indulgence.

I hope you'll also pardon the fact that I stole the idea from a previous column I wrote, "A Century of Snide." If you can't steal from yourself, whom can you steal from?

Thanks to my brother Jeff for running the technical aspects of the site and for handling the "Snide Remarks" subscription database, and to the various people throughout the history of "Snide Remarks" who have allowed it to appear in their publications (John Gholdston at The Daily Universe, Mike Patrick and Mike Fitzgerald at the Daily Herald, Scott Renshaw and Ben Fulton at Salt Lake City Weekly, and Eric D. Snider at EricDSnider.com). And thanks, of course, to you people, the readers. I daresay some of you have been following the column ever since No. 1, some nine years ago! That must deserve some kind of prize, or something.

And thanks to noted mythologist Joseph Campbell for writing this brief history of "Snide Remarks" despite having died in 1987.

(P.S. Keep an eye out for "Snide Remarks" No. 1,000, to be published on Jan. 4, 2016!)