AEE 914: The Nuances of Sarcasm! How to Know the Speaker’s Intention

how to detect sarcasm in English

Are you a sarcastic person?

Do you tend to be the type of person that jokes around a lot? 

If you do use sarcasm, is it in a fun and playful way?

Or does it come off as snarky and sometimes negative or aggressive?

We talked a few weeks ago about different forms of humor.

You may not remember but we mentioned sarcasm as another form of humor.

First let’s start with understanding what sarcasm is in today’s episode.

 

What is sarcasm?

So we know it’s another form of humor, but what exactly does it mean?

To be sarcastic means that we make a statement and yet we mean just the opposite.

It may not sound very funny, but it can be when used in the right context.

 

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Examples:

So here’s an example–it’s a hot day out, and it’s the type of day where it’s just another level of hot.

You might say “oh it’s like 1,000 degrees out, no big deal!”

Clearly it’s not 1,000 degrees out because that’s impossible.

You are using sarcasm to convey that you know it’s hot out.

Nobody believes it’s actually that hot out, and so it’s funny because it’s so extreme.

 

Is there a darker side of sarcasm?

BUT there is a darker side of sarcasm, and this is one to really watch out for.

It can be used in an aggressive manner to attack someone in a passive-aggressive way.

This is a more vengeful and negative way of talking and it generally doesn’t make people feel good.

You have probably experienced this type of sarcasm in your own life.

Somebody says one thing but clearly means another.

Sometimes it’s funny and you can laugh because you find the humor in it.

Sometimes though it’s meant in a rude or aggressive way.

This is the type that is almost cutting.

Somebody says something and you instantly feel defensive.

This can be the type of sarcasm used when somebody wants to say something that may be a bit rude and get away with it.

They hide behind the sarcasm so that they don’t come off as rude.

 

Sarcasm is a key skill for connection.

Sarcasm is a great skill to learn and it’s certainly something to be aware of.

It is huge in the US and so it really pays to know how to use it and take it.

So how do we know when it’s either:

  • A collaborative sarcasm
  • An aggressive, passive aggressive sarcasm

 

The Biggest indicator:

Tone of voice–always pay attention to the tone of voice of the person delivering the sarcasm.

Here’s an example. 

A: Hey we got a discount on our rent this month-our landlord is going to charge us $10 less.

B: Oh whoa- I can’t believe that- $10 whole dollars! (sarcastically)

This is collaborative, and it usually involves nodding at each other, smiling, and a friendlier tone in general. 

With the aggressive type of  sarcasm, the tone is more flat .

There is less eye contact and it’s almost like somebody is spitting something out to get a point across.

Another big indicator can be the nonverbals.

If they deliver the message and don’t smile then they are using aggressive sarcasm.

If they avoid eye contact or look angry or annoyed when they talk to you.

Their body language or the way that they hold themselves can tell the story.

It may be as simple as somebody having a bad day and therefore coming across sarcastic. Though you can’t always tell the reason for sarcasm, you can certainly tell when somebody is using it in an aggressive way.

 The humorous sarcasm can be great and make people laugh.

The more aggressive form of sarcasm can be mean and hurtful.

You need to pay attention to the differences to build real connection in English. 

 

Takeaway:

These are the nuances of communication- sarcasm is part of our humor.

Sometimes it is used to be mean, angry, or aggressive.

If the person is using it collaboratively, then it’s because they want to laugh with you.

They are waiting for you to chime in with another sarcastic remark.

It’s fun and playful and not mean at all.

You need to know the difference and now you know how to tell in the way that it’s delivered.

Use this information to build the connections that you want in your English-speaking life.

 

What questions do you have today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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