Offended by sarcasm: cultural idioms

c: | f: /

Oh great, now you’ve set my legs on fire. Thanks a bunch.

I helped someone out the other day on the Textpattern forum. Everyone’s so friendly and it’s wonderful to be a part of it. That’s why I was a little taken aback when that person replied to my assistance with:

Thanks a bunch!

If you’re American, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering why I’m even mentioning this when the comment clearly means, “Wow, thanks dude, that’s a massive help.”

In England, however, the phrase is often incredibly sarcastic and is equivalent to them saying, “Gee, thanks, that didn’t help at all. I could have figured that out myself. Why did you even bother trying to help?” so it’s easy to see how someone could be offended. The sincerity or otherwise of this phrase in particular is mostly in the inflection, tone of voice or context in which it is used, none of which may be obvious in written form. Perhaps that’s why emoticons were invented.

It does highlight how difficult it is to write sarcasm and have the intent understood by your audience. Another favourite of mine is “You think?” in response to a statement, which can either mean “you recommend this as a good course of action?” or “that’s bloody obvious, ya chump!”…

Keen gardener: “You need to dig out the root to prevent the weed returning.”
Me: “You think?”

I’m sure there are plenty of other idioms that translate poorly in written form, so it probably pays to check the context or figure out which part of the world a person is from before deciding how to react. As for me, well you can safely assume that I’m being sarcastic most of the time because, when you’re as culturally empty as I am, it’s the only form of wit I have.

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