Most of you have probably heard about sarcasm. Sarcasm is used to express a person’s feelings or thoughts (usually negative) through harsh or bitter irony. However, what makes sarcasm different than ordinary refusal or criticism is that it can deliver a person’s thoughts more effectively and strongly. Also, despite sarcasm being an indirect expression, sometimes it can make a response more direct. It is because sarcastic responses make people think twice about them in order to look for the true meaning. This means that when used properly, sarcasm can maximize the expression of a response.
If you are a big fan of American dramas, you would be definitely familiar of the concept of sarcasm. Sarcastic expressions are commonly found in American dramas not only because they can express feelings better, but because they are humorous too. In fact, humor is the main point of sarcasm. Fun can be found in sarcastic expressions when the audience finally understands the true meaning of the speech. For this reason, sarcasm can be found in all kinds of movies and texts regardless of its genre. You don’t get it? Then here are a few examples of sarcastic conversations, since showing is better than telling!
At a hospital, a religious patient claims that he can hear from God. However, his doctor, Gregory House, thinks it’s ridiculous.
(At his office)
House: God talks to him? Chase: It’s not psychosis, he’s just religious. The only medical issue that showed up on the blood work is low sodium. House: No, you talk to God you’re religious, God talks to you you’re psychotic.
Here, we can see how sarcastic expression can be used to emphasize his firm denial while making it more humorous than the ordinary “I don’t think so”. Not only can we see Dr. House’s disbelief in god, but we can also see how ridiculous he thinks it is to believe that one can communicate with god.
After taking a full body scan of the boy, the doctors found out that he has a tumor on his head and notifies him and his father. However, they refuse to remove the tumor for religious reasons. Dr. House finds himself unable to handle this patient and asks for Dr. Wilson’s (his friend) help.
(At the boy’s hospital room)
Wilson: Hi. I’m Doctor Wilson. Boy: I knew they’d send somebody else. House: That God has a big mouth. Wilson: House. Can I ask why you don’t want the tumors removed? Boy: God put them there for a reason. House: You think God needs a telephone in your head to talk to you? Isn’t he everywhere? It’s not a long-distance call.
@ Tumor : 종양.
@ Has a big mouth : 입이 가볍다, 떠들기를 좋아한다.
In this scene, we can see how sarcasm is used to show that he just cannot understand his patient’s thoughts, at the same time mocking his stupidity (in his point of view). What he is saying is the whether God actually exists or not, the tumor is still unnecessary.
A man called Zack visits his girlfriend’s friends who are exceptional scientists; Howard, Leonard and Sheldon (even though someone only has a master’s degree). Unfortunately, however, Zack is only an ordinary (in this case; comparatively stupid) person who has not achieved a high level of education, but he decides to talk about science which seemed “funny” to them.
@ no match for A in~ : A에게 ~로 상대가 안되다
@ Master’s degree : 석사 학위
In this scene, we can see that the effect of sarcasm is maximized when it is used to mock somebody.
(At the room of Penny’s friend) Zack: Were we here earlier? Penny: Okay, we should, we should go. Zack: Ah, not yet. I want to talk science with the science dudes. Howard: Oh, and the science dudes want to talk science with you. What do you want to talk about, rocks, dinosaurs, our friend the beaver?
Rocks, dinosaurs and beaver are a common science topic for elementary-level kids. With it, we can see that Howard is making fun of “the obvious and low level science topic” he will discuss with them.
Zack: You know, I saw this great thing on the Discovery Channel. Turns out that if you kill a starfish, it’ll just come back to life.
Sheldon: Was the starfish wearing boxer shorts? Because you might have been watching Nickelodeon.
@ Beaver : 비버(동물), Caltech (등장인물들이 다니는 미국 대학교)의 마스코트.
@ Come back to life : 되살아나다
@ Boxer Shorts : 사각형 속옷 혹은 짧은 반바지
@ Nickelodeon : 미국 어린이용 TV. 스펀지밥(송)이 여기서 상영됐었음
Nickelodeon is a TV channel for children and teenagers and “the starfish wearing boxer shots” is a reference to a character on that channel. So, what Sheldon is practically saying is that Zack’s mental state is immature as a child’s.
Zack: No, I’m almost sure that it was the Discovery Channel. It was a great show. They also said dolphins might be smarter than people. Leonard: They might be smarter than “some” people. Zack: Well, maybe we can do an experiment to find out. Sheldon: Oh, that’s easy enough. We’d need a large tank of water, a hoop to jump through, and a bucket of whatever bite-sized treats you find tasty.
@ Discovery Channel : 세계적인 과학 TV 채널
@ Treat : 과자, 사탕
Practically, what Sheldon and Leonard are saying is that Zack’s intelligence is lower or at least equal to dolphins. In other words, they are saying Zack is stupid.
So, we can see that sarcasm highlights the expression. Making an opposition or objection through sarcasm can be more effective rather than saying no. It is effective in delivering a person’s opinion both directly and indirectly. Therefore, when used correctly, sarcasm can be one of the best ways to express your feelings and thoughts. However, regarding the fact that sarcasm is mostly (practically always) used to express negative opinions, the abuse of sarcasm could bring unexpected consequences. So think carefully before you use sarcasm!