AEE 1190: Are You Living the Dream? Sarcasm in American English

Do you consider yourself to be sarcastic?

Do you know how to use sarcasm properly in American English?

Americans are sarcastic. Is it sometimes hard to tell when someone is being sarcastic?

We’re going to look at a common phrase that is used sarcastically, and how and when you can add in this little bit of humor.

Our listener Masood asked about a phrase that is commonly used in a sarcastic way.

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Hello Lindsay, 

I am not able to express my gratitude for what you have done for my English. It’s been close to 2 years, and I listen to the show every morning on my commute to work. Quite honestly, you have been part of my daily life and I think of you as two friends who hang out and have fun together.  It’s been a game changer. 

So, I have recently changed my job. There is a colleague that would respond to the question “how are you doing” very often with “living the dream”. People around us would smile or make jokes when he would respond in this way.  What does that mean? When do you use it? What should I say in return?

Again, I really appreciate what you are doing for us.

Warm regards,

Masood from Iran

Using This Phrase

First off- let’s talk about why people are laughing. 

“Living the dream” is often used in a sarcastic way, such as it is here.

What does it mean?

Well in a non sarcastic way, it would mean that he is living his dream – living what he always hoped his life would be like for him.

However a lot of people use this in a sarcastic way and that’s a bit harder to understand.

When you see others laughing that’s usually a good indication that the way that they are responding is sarcastic.

So because it’s sarcastic in the example– what does it mean?

It means he is NOT living the dream.

He is being humorous about it but probably it means he doesn’t like his job or something about his life.

He has a sense of humor about it but that may be how he feels. People may laugh because they may feel a similar way. 


It’s All About Tone of Voice

When you’re not sure if it’s a joke or not, then you have to look at the tone of voice that the person uses in their response.

“How are you doing? Oh you know, just living the dream”

That’s how it likely sounds when the person is being sarcastic in their response.

So how should you answer when the person is being sarcastic?

You may want to just say something like “oh okay gotcha” or “Sounds good.”

Say something general and broad.

It’s more important that you answer in a way that shows you may get the joke, by laughing or smiling in your response.

That’s a great way to get your point across that you get the underlying tone of sarcasm.


Remember Some Important Parts Here

Sarcasm can be fun but it can be a bit tricky sometimes.

When you find yourself in a certain situation, you want to be careful with sarcasm at times.

If at anytime you don’t feel that sarcasm is appropriate, then that’s a good time to avoid it altogether.

Say that you are in a scenario where you are new to this job.

You want to connect with your coworkers but you also don’t want to come off the wrong way.

When in doubt, try to remember a couple of things:

  1. You don’t want to end up with a negative attitude yourself.
  2. You wouldn’t really want to use this phrase in the same way at work because your boss or someone else may hear you and it may show you don’t like what you are doing.
  3. Your response should be minimal in case someone higher up was around.
  4. If you feel uncomfortable or inappropriate using sarcasm, then by all means avoid it.
  5. Consider who you are talking to, what type of environment it is, and if it will be received well.

It may therefore be recommended that you use this phrase sparingly and only with close friends.

Be sure that you feel comfortable and that it’s the right environment to add in this little bit of humor.

Takeaway

This is a phrase that is commonly sarcastic.

Be careful who you use it with and how you respond depending on the context.

It’s good in ways because it can lead to connection but it can also lead to a negative environment.

It is a funny phrase and people may laugh so decide if it fits your English needs!

Whenever you use sarcasm, be sure that you are in the right environment and with the right person to use it appropriately.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.