Who started and when did :rolleyes: become to mean sarcastic?

The tittle pretty much says it all.

To me it almost feels like it’s instinctive. But I know that can’t be right, could it?

William J. Mahoney on April 17, 1981.

Puh-leez! Mahoney stood on the shoulders of giants. He was just the first to publish. It was all politics! :mad:

If you’re referring to the scurrilous claims of the Radulovich faction, they have been debunked time and time again. I think Cecil even devoted a column to it, though the search doesn’t seem to find it.

If Radulovich had not had the courage to defect and face to perils of living as a penniless refugee the Soviets would have had the rolleyes years before we got it.

We should have awarded that man a medal, rather than toss him to the CIA the way we did. :mad:

Anyway, so far as I know, the meaning of “rolleyes” is closer to exasperation than sarcasm.

The first time was in the Marianas Trrench. In 1942. For just 20 minutes.


As ascenray notes, the usual communication can be described as exasperation, (although when one expresses exasperation with another after reforming or restating the other’s opinion, it can certainly be an expression of sarcasm).

The OED cites variations of the phrase “to roll [one’s] eyes” back as far as Chaucer. Unfortunately, the meanings of the citations fall into one of two categories: either the phrases indicate a person overcome with passion, whose eyes are “rolling around in their head” or the phrases are too cryptic to indicate the precise intent of the phrase. None of the citations clearly indicates exasperation.

So, do we have a gesture that has taken on a new meaning in recent years? Or do we have a gesture that is so universal that it rarely draws comment? I dunno (yet).

How about it Dopers from non-British/North American/Antipodean cultures? Does the facial expression of rolling one’s eyes up to look away from a person indicate that one does not believe or accept their statements? Or does that expression not occur in other cultures?

I believe it may be a heavenwards imprecation - “what did I do to deserve this ?”

Over here - mediterranean and thereabouts - it seems to be mainly used for the benefit of a third party (ostensibly) behind the main target’s back.

I always thought the gesture of rolling one’s eyes originated as an appeal to a higher power for assistance in dealing with idiots.

Actually, though, the movement of the eye rolling is almost essential. I haven’t been rolleyed at much here, but the first time it did happen, I thought it was being used to express profound disappointment and sadness at an uncomprehending world, rather than sarcasm toward me personally. Our :rolleyes: looks kinda sad to me, rather than sarcastic.

Maybe someday we could have an animated rolleyes smiley?