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  1. #1
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    Why don't Thais understand sarcasm?

    Has anyone else noticed that many Thais display a total inability to detect and understand sarcasm (i.e., ironic statements meant to disparage someone in a subtle fashion)? If I say, for example, "your friend Noi is quite the housekeeper" when she is actually a total slob, the response might be a look of puzzlement and something to the effect that "no, she is actually very messy". Are Thais living so much in the here-and-now that abtract thoughts are beyond them? Are they dim? A more charitable explanation is that they are so adverse to negative statements that they simply ignore (perhaps subconsciously) verbal violence. I would like to believe the latter, but I'm really perplexed by this. Any opinions?

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    Because sarcasm and irony require an in-depth knowledge of the English language that most foreigners don't have IMO. Most sarcasm is pretty subtle and even good but non-native English speakers have trouble noticing it. The cruder forms of sarcasm are often perceived as bad-manners and insults here according to my Thai friends (who were asking me why farangs often call their friends ugly, fat, or gay and still manage to keep those friends) and accordingly ignored. How good are you at recognising Thai humour which is mostly based on the differences between similar sounding words with slightly different tones? Also ignoring verbal violence is nothing to do with stupidity or ignorance but a deep and integral part of Thai culture. Have you any idea how insulting it is to say that abstract thought is beyond any group of people, you do know that Thais have turned out some of the deepest and most abstract commentaries on the Buddhist scriptures? Where are you from - do you have enough insight and knowledge of Thai culture, languages, and history to legitimately make such sweeping statements.
    Last edited by DrB0b; 06-06-2007 at 08:33 AM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by floorpotato View Post
    Has anyone else noticed that many Thais display a total inability to detect and understand sarcasm (i.e., ironic statements meant to disparage someone in a subtle fashion)? If I say, for example, "your friend Noi is quite the housekeeper" when she is actually a total slob, the response might be a look of puzzlement and something to the effect that "no, she is actually very messy". Are Thais living so much in the here-and-now that abtract thoughts are beyond them? Are they dim? A more charitable explanation is that they are so adverse to negative statements that they simply ignore (perhaps subconsciously) verbal violence. I would like to believe the latter, but I'm really perplexed by this. Any opinions?
    In case you have not already sussed it out, humour varies between cultures.

    People who have not been exposed to a particular form of humour will frequently misunderstand it and/or not find it funny, which obviously does not necessarily mean they are stupid, they are just not used to it.

    We all learn what we are supposed to laugh at when we grow up. We also learn to detect the look, if any, a person will have when in 'joke mode'. Deadpan humour is not very common in Thailand, and biting sarcasm is typically seen as bad manners. Use at your own risk.

    Some Thais use and understand sarcasm too. Depends on the person.

  4. #4
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    anyway sarcasm is the lowest form of wit so stop using it

  5. #5
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    I thought it was Americans that didn't get sarcasm.

  6. #6
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    Most of it is probably down to the Thais thinking that we don't understand sarcasm, so presume we're speaking straight.

    Thais use sarcasm as much as any other group of people, just they do it their way and we do it our way. For example, GoW often says 'baak dee' to me when I'm being less than pleasant.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickA
    I thought it was Americans that didn't get sarcasm.
    So did I!

    But that is a good point. I can't see anything funny about in your face American humour with canned laughter. It seems very corny and juvenile to me, but for an American it is hilarious.

    In the same vein, Americans often just dont get, British humour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrB0b View Post
    Because sarcasm and irony require an in-depth knowledge of the English language that most foreigners don't have IMO. Most sarcasm is pretty subtle and even good but non-native English speakers have trouble noticing it. The cruder forms of sarcasm are often perceived as bad-manners and insults here according to my Thai friends (who were asking me why farangs often call their friends ugly, fat, or gay and still manage to keep those friends) and accordingly ignored. How good are you at recognising Thai humour which is mostly based on the differences between similar sounding words with slightly different tones? Also ignoring verbal violence is nothing to do with stupidity or ignorance but a deep and integral part of Thai culture. Have you any idea how insulting it is to say that abstract thought is beyond any group of people, you do know that Thais have turned out some of the deepest and most abstract commentaries on the Buddhist scriptures? Where are you from - do you have enough insight and knowledge of Thai culture, languages, and history to legitimately make such sweeping statements.
    I have limited insight into Thai culture, which is why I brought up this topic in the form of rhetorical questions to promote discussion. When I stated that Thais were in the 'here-and-now' and adverse to abstract thought, it was actually a backhanded compliment to their culture. If you didn't notice, I actually preferred my final explanation, which suggested that Thais simply don't enjoy verbal violence. 'Sweeping statements' in the form of questions aren't really so sweeping. You have very good insights but you sound a bit angry and judgmental at times.

  9. #9
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    Charitable is not the same as preferable, it sounded like you were giving them the benefit of the doubt as an act of benevolence. A question like "are they dim" presupposes that the questioner believes this may be a valid question and gives some insight into the questioners thoughts. Perhaps you are not aware that "are they dim" and "are they incapable of abstract thought" are insulting questions and not a particularly sound basis for a reasonable discussion - maybe you were being sarcastic? A little more subtlety and a little less (unintentional) bigotry in the post and I wouldn't have reacted so vehemently to what was an otherwise interesting question.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog
    Thais use sarcasm as much as any other group of people, just they do it their way and we do it our way. For example, GoW often says 'baak dee' to me when I'm being less than pleasant.
    Agree with Marmers. Mrs Benbaaa will often comment 'Borigan dee maak!' on the rare occasion when we're faced with terrible service in a restaurant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog
    For example, GoW often says 'baak dee' to me when I'm being less than pleasant.
    I bet you hear that one quite often!

    And yes, Thais frequently use irony and sarcasm themselves, they just seem to have difficulties spotting it when it's in English.

  12. #12
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    The fact that Thais are given deliberately self-deprecating nicknames like Oot or Moo, is a sort of superstitious sarcasm.

  13. #13
    Thailand Expat Boon Mee's Avatar
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    [quote=Lily;319165]
    Quote Originally Posted by NickA
    I thought it was Americans that didn't get sarcasm.
    So did I!

    But that is a good point. I can't see anything funny about in your face American humour with canned laughter. It seems very corny and juvenile to me, but for an American it is hilarious.

    In the same vein, Americans often just dont get, British humour.[/quote]
    B.S.
    Benny Hill and John Clese(sp) - Fawlety Towers are some of the best humor around and very popular in the states...
    A Deplorable Bitter Clinger

  14. #14
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    I think most people 'get' mild sarcasm.
    Brits and Aussies often use more biting sarcasm, and can be quite ironic in their humour. This does not always translate so well, and I must admit to offending both my Chinese and current Thai wife on several occasions with this sort of humour.
    probes Aliens

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by floorpotato
    "your friend Noi is quite the housekeeper"
    This would confuse any Thai as the requirement in this sentence is to realise that the words "quite the" is placing some signifigance onto Noi's abilities as a housekeeper. I honestly believe that nuances like this are not considered basic English and would confuse the majority of Thai.

    Put yourself in thier shoes, when you say that to them they are probably thinking you are saying " Noi is the housekeeper" to which their confused expression could be translated into "I know she is you dickhead"

  16. #16
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    Flippos understand sarcasm, about a month ago my fiancee Sandra said to me, "Don't mind me, you talk to your friends on that intelligent internet forum, I didn't want to see Hannibal Rising anyway."

  17. #17
    Thailand Expat Boon Mee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gentleman Scamp View Post
    Flippos understand sarcasm, about a month ago my fiancee Sandra said to me, "Don't mind me, you talk to your friends on that intelligent internet forum, I didn't want to see Hannibal Rising anyway."
    She talking about Jarvis's 'johnson'?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boon Mee
    Benny Hill and John Clese(sp) - Fawlety Towers are some of the best humor around and very popular in the states...
    Now I'm confused, are you being sarcastic or not?????

    If you are, well done, you've proved me wrong.

    If you are not, Benny Hill and Fawlty Towers are a certain type of old British humour called farce, it is continued today by Mr Bean. I think kids and foreigners like it, but it is looked down upon in British comedic circles.

    For a complete course on British sarcasm see Blackadder Series 2-4. (starring Mr Bean)

  19. #19
    たのむよ。
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    kids and foreigners like it

  20. #20
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    In terms of humour, I gotta say Fawlty Towers craps on Mr. Bean.

  21. #21
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    In terms of humour, having haemorrhoids craps on Mr. Bean.

  22. #22
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    Whenever I watched Fawlty Towers, the overiding feeling I had, was anxiety, not humour.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickA View Post
    In terms of humour, having haemorrhoids craps on Mr. Bean.
    not from where i am sitting

  24. #24
    Thailand Expat Boon Mee's Avatar
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    [quote=sabang;319407]In terms of humour, I gotta say Fawlty Towers craps on Mr. Bean.

    For sure.
    Was subjected to some of mr. bean recently on a drive down to HH where my wife's friends had a van we all traveled in...together. My G_D!
    What is it some Thais love that idiot...
    Last edited by Boon Mee; 06-06-2007 at 02:49 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrB0b View Post
    Because sarcasm and irony require an in-depth knowledge of the English language that most foreigners don't have IMO. Most sarcasm is pretty subtle and even good but non-native English speakers have trouble noticing it. The cruder forms of sarcasm are often perceived as bad-manners and insults here according to my Thai friends (who were asking me why farangs often call their friends ugly, fat, or gay and still manage to keep those friends) and accordingly ignored. How good are you at recognising Thai humour which is mostly based on the differences between similar sounding words with slightly different tones? Also ignoring verbal violence is nothing to do with stupidity or ignorance but a deep and integral part of Thai culture. Have you any idea how insulting it is to say that abstract thought is beyond any group of people, you do know that Thais have turned out some of the deepest and most abstract commentaries on the Buddhist scriptures? Where are you from - do you have enough insight and knowledge of Thai culture, languages, and history to legitimately make such sweeping statements.
    I guess floorpotato's sarcasm was lost on Dr.Bob. Or perhaps Dr.Bobs on me. Or something. Then again, English is not my native language, so I guess I shouldn't even post in this thread.....

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