Humour et al.
From H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (second edition, revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, © Oxford University Press 1968):
humour, wit, satire, sarcasm, invective, irony, cynicism, the sardonic. So much has been written upon the nature of some of these words, and upon the distinctions between pairs or trios among them (wit and humour, sarcasm and irony and satire), that it would be both presumptuous and unnecessary to attempt a further disquisition. But a sort of tabular statement may be of service against some popular misconceptions. No definition of the words is offered, but for each its motive or aim, its province, its method or means, and its proper audience, are specified. The constant confusion between sarcasm, satire, and irony, as well as that now less common between wit and humour, seems to justify this mechanical device of parallel classification; but it will be of use only to those who wish for help in determining which is the word that they really want. See also satire.
|MOTIVE or AIM||PROVINCE||METHOD or MEANS||AUDIENCE|
|humour||Discovery||Human nature||Observation||The sympathetic|
|wit||Throwing light||Words and ideas||Surprise||The intelligent|
|satire||Amendment||Morals and manners||Accentuation||The self-satisfied|
|sarcasm||Inflicting pain||Faults and foibles||Inversion||Victim and bystander|
|invective||Discredit||Misconduct||Direct statement||The public|
|irony||Exclusiveness||Statement of facts||Mystification||An inner circle|
|cynicism||Self-justification||Morals||Exposure of nakedness||The respectable|