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English Idioms and Sarcasm


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I know that when learning (American) English one of the hardest things to overcome is the fact that we often don't say what we mean. Can I help by explaining some of our confusing idioms and the use of sarcasm?

For example:

"That's just peachy." - This makes very little sense in literal terms. It means, "that's just great," and is almost always used sarcastically.

"That takes the cake." - That's just unbelievable; it's over-the-top

"Over-the-top"  :grin: - Far beyond belief; just too much to accept

"Icing on the cake" - The final touch to something already wonderful

Which other ones have you heard that seem bizarre?

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I would still like to know the origins of some sayings we use on a regular basis:

"Hunker Down" we hear all the time during storms, emergencies, or any other event that a person has to "make it through". So where did that saying come from?

That is the one saying that bothers me the most because I do not know its origin. Perhaps someone would be willing to enlighten me...

Thanks.

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I feel like 'icing on the cake' and 'over the top' are at least understandable. I mean, both of those sayings make sense as metaphors for whatever you're talking about. The ones that really get me are those that don't make much sense at all, like 'screwed the pooch,' or 'kicked the bucket.'  I like to use them a lot though:) They make language colorful and quirky- and playing with language is the basis of the art of language.

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I've been hearing about this more and more lately, how English speakers use a lot more sarcasm than many others.  I've heard lately that many European countries don't necessarily pick up on it, and it causes offense between people.  I don't have much experience with Europeans, other than a couple I met from Holland.  I'm a pretty sarcastic person and I didn't feel that that were barriers when we were talking. 

Anyone else?

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Sarcasm is very American. It goes along with our rebellious, independent nature.

Some of my favorite sarcastic remarks are:

"I'll wait" - it's something every American born student has heard in school. An angry teacher who hears students chatting while a lesson is being taught will say this but it really means "shut up".

"Sure you will" - This is usually used in a fight, argument or when somebody says they're going to do something but another person doesn't think they will.

Sarcasm is fun but it definitely gets annoying.

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  • 2 months later...

Sarcasm is really something you have to decipher from context. You can't know if a statement is true or not without context, and we decide if something is sarcastic or not by seeing if it makes literall sense. When told he is going to be fired, Bob says "Oh great" sarcastically. But when told he is being given a promotion he says "Oh great" genuinely. Tone and context are your friends here.

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Sarcasm is really something you have to decipher from context. You can't know if a statement is true or not without context, and we decide if something is sarcastic or not by seeing if it makes literall sense. When told he is going to be fired, Bob says "Oh great" sarcastically. But when told he is being given a promotion he says "Oh great" genuinely. Tone and context are your friends here.

I so agree that inflection and tone are so important.  Even as a native English speaker, when I first heard some of the trendier ones, I did not understand why they were using a word or phrase.  "Seriously?"...has become so overused that I hear parents using it with children, over and over and over to refer to a behavior and it is not an inquiry at all.

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I feel like English lends itself best to sarcasm. That, or English speakers just are better at it. Even without the idioms, with just a change of tone and a few regular words they convey distaste in what I find to be a very fascinating way. "That's just great" is one of my favorite ones.

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Sarcasm is not limited to any language, it's just that English speakers use it most often. It also depends on how sportingly the listener takes it and if it ends up offending them it could be a problem for you. Try to crack sarcastic, witty remarks with your closest friends to ensure you don't end up with a black eye. One of my favorite ways of annoying my friends if they ask me to do something. I reply back "Yeah sure". They don't believe me and and ask "Really?". Then I go "Yeah, you can see me doing it right now." when I'm just sitting there doing nothing. :P

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Sarcasm is a part of human nature, not a trait of English as a language and it definitely isn't "very American". There are a mot of other idioms in other languages that are used to convey sarcasm but I guess English ones will be the ones familiar to most forum members.

"That's so peachy" is definitely a good one of those.

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"Give it some razzmatazz!"  -- This basically means to make something brighter and more outlandish -- think Liza Manelli;

"I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole!" -- This comes from a time of great disease when the rule of thumb was to stay at least 10 feet away so you wouldn't become infected. Items were given to these individuals on a 10 foot pole.

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Sarcasm to me is second nature, because both my parents were VERY sarcastic. Sarcasm fascinates me, because it shows exactly how the inflection defines the word. Without being able to physically hear you, "Yeah, you're cool." could literally be two different meanings.

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I think that idioms aren't meant to be sarcastic, although I agree that a sentence can be well meaning or sarcastic depending on tone of your voice and how you say it. Like the other day, a friend of mine said "Good luck" to me in a sarcastic tone, because he thinks that I won't be able to do something right. So I guess the real essence or intent behind a sentence all boils down to the tone of the voice and how it was said.

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when I was learning English, i had some difficulties trying to understand some idioms because they mean something completely different. I don't think English in general is sarcastic though. I think it all boils down to the tone of the voice.

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  • 4 years later...
On 11/24/2013 at 8:32 AM, sidney said:

I think that idioms aren't meant to be sarcastic, although I agree that a sentence can be well meaning or sarcastic depending on tone of your voice and how you say it. Like the other day, a friend of mine said "Good luck" to me in a sarcastic tone, because he thinks that I won't be able to do something right. So I guess the real essence or intent behind a sentence all boils down to the tone of the voice and how it was said.

My best way to deal with sarcasm is to act as oblivious as possible, pretending I don't know that it was meant as a sarcasm.

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