Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The Language of Sarcasm

September 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

Sarcasm (n): harsh or bitter derision or irony; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark. For the English, the national language- my addition.

It says something interesting about a nation when strangers make sarcastic remarks to you to indicate that they are trying to be friendly. In fact, the first time I truly felt welcome in London was when an older English gentleman made a silly, sarcastic remark to me at the Discover Greenwich museum. Another interesting thing is that the English seem to think that they have cornered the market on sarcasm.

Jesse was taking a picture of me wearing a replica of a jousting helmet- the tag said “try me on!” and you don’t need to tell me twice- when the man apparently said, “Well, that’s an improvement!” As there was essentially a snug metal bucket on my head, I couldn’t exactly hear him, so Rachel repeated it to me after I took the helmet off. When I smiled at the man and said, “You’re probably right about that,” he grinned back and explained that he was “only joking.” This event made me ecstatic and I bounced around to all my friends, telling them that I was starting to fit in in England.

This is an improvement...

Shortly after, when we needed directions to the tunnel that runs under the Thames, we asked the docents at the museum. They seemed eager to direct us toward the tunnel and added that “the tunnel doesn’t usually flood and people rarely ever die in it.” We laughed along with them, but they continued to act as if we must have no idea that they were joking. We’re Americans and therefore must not understand sarcasm. Because our country is entirely full of earnest people, right? (Wink wink, nudge nudge…)

I find it very interesting that- and this is a huge generalization- for a nation of overly standoffish people, the English sure love their sarcasm. It seems odd to me that no one makes eye contact on the street or on the tube, but it is totally acceptable to poke fun at a stranger at a museum.

Even though this probably sounds like a criticism, don’t get me wrong: I’m totally fluent in sarcasm, too.

Categories: 2010 Jessica

1 response so far ↓

  •   Elizabeth Barr // Sep 21st 2010 at 11:29

    “Sarcasm- that’s original!” Please tell me someone gets the Dr Horrible reference . . .

You must log in to post a comment.