I'm starting to get intrigued by the word's history, though. The noun snark 'imaginary animal' apparently goes back Lewis Carroll's famous "Hunting of the Snark" written and published in the 1870s. This is Denby's story, as described here by Snarkmeister Kirn:
The humor that stirs this wrongful laughter is “snark,” named for a fictional creature from the poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” by Lewis Carroll. As a species of vicious contemporary humor, it is defined by Denby in many ways — so many, in fact, that the creature never materializes as anything more than a shadow on a wall that Denby keeps shooting at yet never hits.Whether Denby hits the shadows or not, I'm thinking this story is wrong. Here's the OED Online entry for the verb snark:
[Corresponds to MLG. and LG. snarken (NFris. snarke, Sw. and Norw. snarka), MHG. snarchen (G. schnarchen,schnarken), of imitative origin: cf. SNORK v.]The early meaning is attested before Carroll and it's easy to get from that meaning to the one we're talking about. And the relevant meaning comes not long after, in a source (a Scottish dictionary) that's very unlikely to be listing a then-new coinage in some even newer meaning. OED gives snarky as deverbal, and that seems straightforward to me. The noun used in Denby's title seems more likely to be a cropping from snarky than a development from Carroll's animal. I wonder if Denby just mechanically checked the noun since he's using the noun?
1866N. & Q. 3rd Ser. X. 248/1, I will not quite compare it [a sound] to a certain kind of snarking or gnashing. 1907Westm. Gaz. 9 Nov. 4/1 All of a sudden she (the mare, I suppose he meant) snarked an' begun to turn round. 1882Jamieson's Sc. Dict. IV. 314/2 To Snark, .. to fret, grumble, or find fault with one. 1904E. NESBIT Phnix& Carpet x. 185 He remembered how Anthea had refrained from snarking him about tearing the carpet.
There are other stories out there too. Various sources connect it to nark, narky, meaning irritable. Urban Dictionary has what's surely a folk etymology: a blend of snide + remark. Cute, though.
*OK, I confess: I read the first chapter on the NYT website. It was painful.
Image from here. And a big HT to Monica.