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'Snarky guy' meaning explained as Judge Penney Azcarate quote goes viral

Bruno Cooke May 26, 2022
snarky guy meaning
Photo by STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images


A clip of Judge Penney Azcarate calling Johnny Depp’s lawyer Benjamin Chew a “snarky guy” has tickled those following the Depp Heard defamation case – what is the meaning of the phrase, and are there any other memorable Azcarate moments?

What did Judge Azcarate mean by ‘snarky’?

“Snarky” is an informal adjective used in American English but can also be heard in the UK. Its meaning reflects either a“sarcastic, impertinent or irreverent in tone” or “crotchety, snappish”. 

At least, that’s how Merriam-Webster defines the word.

It comes from the early 20th-century word “snark”. Snark can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it describes a critical or mocking comment made in a sarcastic way. To snark means to make such comments.

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Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not dissimilar from the more common (and less informal) word “sarcastic”. Snarky remarks are basically sarcastic ones, although they’re less likely to be funny.

The earliest recording of “snarky” in English was in 1906, so it’s been around for more than a century. Merriam-Webster notes that the “sarcastic, impertinent, irreverent” meaning of the word has overtaken the original “crotchety, snappish” definition.

‘Snarky guy’ meaning explained in the context of the Depp v Heard defamation case

Yesterday, the Judge handling the Johnny Depp Amber Heard defamation case called Benjamin Chew – Depp’s lawyer – a “snarky guy”.

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Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Chew was telling Azcarate, “for the record”, that he had known TMZ lawyer Charles Tobin “for several years”.

“I meant no snarkiness toward him”, Chew says, to which Azcarate replies, “well, you’re just a snarky guy”.

She didn’t appear to mean it seriously. The court laughed, and she suppressed a smile. And the remark itself has proved so popular that some people are hoping for T-shirts bearing it.

Watch the clip below. Note that, despite the hashtags in the embedded video, The Focus does not side with either party in the case.

Judge Penney Azcarate is popular, but not universally

Over the weeks, the Johnny Depp Amber Heard defamation case has captured the public attention like few other media events. 

And it has led to some memorable moments. Some involve Depp or Heard, or one of their respective lawyers. But Judge Penney Azcarate has for the most part been controlled.

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The Los Angeles Times reported on 25 April 2022 that she had “laid down the law against giggles” in the courtroom. And a video of her looking “over it” went viral on TikTok days later. Her “snarky guy” remark is just the latest titbit social media users have latched onto. 

But she is not universally popular. 

Stanford professor Michele Dauber argues that the decision of Judge Azcarate to put the Amber Heard Johnny Depp defamation case on television has “created a toxic environment for all victims of sexual and domestic abuse”.

Meanwhile, others have called her a “saint and trooper” through the six-week proceedings.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or