Witty satire can be many things—ridiculous, hilarious, poignant, and even brutal—but the one thing it’s not is a half-man, half-horse creature of the wood.
There is no alternate spelling of “satire” that makes it cleverer or more in line with its roots. You might be able to spell “theater” as “theatre” in the English language, but “satire” is never the same thing as “satyr.”
- “Satire” is speech, writing, art, film, or another form of expression that highlights weaknesses or faults through exaggeration, irony, or humor—ideally with the goal of giving a new perspective or driving change.
- “Satyr” is the name for a mythological creature, with the body and ears of a horse but the torso and head of a human. They show up many places, from romps around the ancient Roman woods to Narnia, but your favorite online “news” publisher isn’t one of them. (Although maybe if we give The Daily Show some time, who knows?)
“Satire” has its roots in Roman theater; “Satyrs” have their roots in Greek theater and storytelling. I know it looks confusing, but remember that though their origin stories come from similar ancient eras and locales, that doesn’t mean much.
Political satire can be poignant and brutal. Political satyrs, on the other hand, are a bit non-nonsensical. (There’s satire just waiting to be written about political satyrs, I know it. Can’t you just see it in The Onion?)
Another incredibly unfortunate misspelling is when someone talks about a “Satyr dinner.” I promise you, that is not the Jewish tradition. A Satyr Dinner might involve Dionysus and a lot of debauchery. A Passover Seder is an entirely different, sacred affair.
Please take the time to get these words right, folks. People and mythological creatures everywhere will thank you.
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