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Why Sarcasm Is A Sri Lankan’s Worst Defence

2017 Mar 23


Amma, where are you going?”

“To the mas kade.”


“……….konde kapanna.

Ah, the joys of growing up in a household where curiosity is more often than not met with a cutting remark, accompanied by a heavy dose of irony. (Note the sarcasm?) When stuck for a good comeback, most of us turn to a good ol’ sarcastic comment, because how else would you make yourself feel better about not having something remotely intelligent to say to that nosey aunty who’s been on your case for having that second serving of wattalapan?

Though often derided as the lowest form of wit, sarcasm has definitely stood the test of time, leaving its mark in many a form, from English Literature (Shakespeare, anyone?) to the likes of House MD and Chandler Bing.

Unfortunately, though an effective means to convey derision in most countries, sarcasm may just not cut it as a Sri Lankan’s first (or even last) line of defence. I’m pretty sure that Sri Lankans have got nothing on Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory when it comes to detecting sarcasm.

  • The aunties and uncles may not handle it all too well

It’s not going to work against the poisonous looks or scathing comments you get from your aunty-next-door for gazing a little too long at that cute boy who lives two houses down the road, or that annoying uncle who’s had one too many at your cousin’s wedding who insists that the only way you can bring honour to the family is by becoming a doctor or a lawyer.

It may work if being tactful is less of the exception, and if being blunt isn’t as frowned on as it should be (in fact, it’s almost encouraged). If your uncle can get away with poking fun at your extra layer of padding that accompanied the stress eating for that final exam, or if your aunty sees it as her duty to tell you that finding a good husband will be impossible if you didn’t stop wearing those tiny skirts that almost disappear when you sneeze (it’s two inches above my knee), why consider sarcasm? Just run for the hills, people! 

  • The creeps may probably get a whole lot creepier

A frown or a threatening wave of your umbrella may be the more effective means of letting that creepy, pot-bellied uncle on the road know that his winks and whistles are not going to get him anywhere. I mean, come on; imagine you decided to go with a sarcastic comment and told him how you live to be his “sesky girl” (how is this flattering?!). We all know how that fateful story is going to end……

  • Aney meh. You really think Amma and Thaththa are going to let you get away with that snark?

This just may slip by most Western parents, but Sri Lankan parents do not have enough chill to handle getting caught into such light, albeit sarcastic, banter with their kids. Talking back to your mother? Shame on you, shame on your family, shame on your cow.

  • Sri Lankans are just too literal.

Our ancestors awoke at the crack of dawn to tend to their fields and lands, and this has carried on down the generations, though we now hustle off to meetings at our corporate offices. We are a type of people who really milk the 24 hours given to us a day, and thus, have no time to be anything but direct to the point of being crude, or blunt. So if you’ve ever sarcastically remarked that your sister’s not-so-pretty but favourite top looks absolutely fabulous, only to be graced with a “Really? Thank you aney!”, just remember – subtlety is not our strong suit.

  • Not many Lankans have actually perfected the delivery of a sarcastic comment

Sarcasm is an art form that needs perfect execution, or else would unravel at before you, leaving you with barely more than a grunt as your go-to response. Unfortunately, most Sri Lankans are yet to master this form of wit, as anything but a direct approach is usually a concept a little beyond reach.

  • Sri Lankans are supposedly really friendly; probably because others don’t actually know we’re being sarcastic 😛

Amongst some of the many things the world as a whole has to say about our tiny island nation, one that stands out is that Sri Lankans are some of the nicest and most friendly people around. Which probably has a lot to do with the fact that sarcasm isn’t a top line of defence for us, as it usually involves mild hostility, in a sense, disguised as humour. So the next time your annoying brother fails at trying to throw a jibe at your new haircut, just remember that it’s probably because he comes from a long line of pleasant and amicable folk. (Yeah, that doesn’t sound right, but who knows. Let’s blame it on someone else…this time.)