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Meaning of “A Sardonic Smile” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

A Sardonic Smile

and with Sardonian smile

Laughing at her, his false intent to shade.

-SPENSER : Faerie .Queen, v, ix (1596).

When a person smiles sardonically, we know well that it is not a smile which emanates from pleasure; rather the contrary. It is one expressing contempt or irony, as when forced to swallow a “bitter pill” of disappointment.

John de Trevisa, the 14th-century translator of Higden’s Polychronicon, says, in that famous work: “The ilond Sardinia . . . hath nother address nother venym (neither adders nor venom), but they have an herbe that hatte apium, that maketh men laughe hem selve to deth.” This story is said to derive from Homer ; and the explanation is that the island, owing to its noxious air and poor cultivation, produced certain poisonous plants which, if eaten, caused painful facial con-tortions, outwardly resembling a horrible caninoid grin, with the teeth showing repulsively. It is not an improbable story, though the evidence for it is dubious. In a work on Greece, published in 1794, the author states that Pausanias said it was Homer who “first called that sort of laughter, which conceals some noxious design, Sardonian.” In the original Homeric passage, however, the word used is not “Sardonian” but “Sardanion”; and Murray observes that the two forms are just the difference between modern and ancient Greek for the same thing, namely, Sardinian. Perhaps the plant was from Sardis, for another writer discounts this Homeric legend on the ground that “there is no evidence that Sardinia was known to Homer” and suggests that the word derives from the Greek “sairo,” meaning to draw back the lips and show the teeth like a dog,” which one does precisely on eating anything bitter teeth are “set on edge,” as we say.


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