Sarcasm? Nobody uses that!
by Thomas Lipschultz

Do you know about sarcasm? Yeah, I’ll bet you do. You’re a real expert on the subject, aren’t you?

If you actually are, then you probably realized that the sentences I typed above are sarcastic. But if not, don’t worry! I’ll help you to understand, as best as I can.

There is a word in Japanese for sarcasm: 皮肉. But sarcasm doesn’t seem to be used very often in Japan. At least, it’s not used as often in Japan as it is in English-speaking countries like the U.S.A., the U.K., and Australia in particular. In those countries, sarcasm is almost a way of life.

For example, if you’re having a bad day and someone asks you, “How are you?”, it’s very common to say, “Oh, just great. I’ve never been better!” But you say it with an angry tone of voice, and you really mean the opposite: “I’m unhappy. I wish the situation were better.” In the U.S.A., the U.K., or Australia, if you say this, everyone will understand your real answer. This is a very normal conversation.

Another way sarcasm is used is when someone makes a very big mistake. “Oh, look at the master at work,” you might say. Normally, this might mean that you think this person is very good at his/her job, but if you use an angry tone of voice, it wil instead mean, “How are you so bad at this task?” This may sound rude — and of course, it can be used to insult someone — but it can also be very friendly. You can use sarcasm to tease your good friends, and they will usually enjoy it and think it’s very funny.

Have you ever used sarcasm before? Do you think you’d like to try? If so, please be careful. Sarcasm is mostly about the tone of voice, so if you don’t say the words correctly, it may be easy for the person you’re speaking with to think you’re serious. He/She may feel very insulted by your words. So please try practicing sarcasm with your NOVA instructor next time, instead! Your instructor can tell you if you’re ready to use sarcasm with native speakers, or if you need a little more practice.

I know I almost never write blog entries for the Ikebukuro Nishi branch of NOVA, so I hope you enjoyed this rare, special occasion! Please take care, and I’ll talk to you again next time. 😉




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