all you americans...

…from people i know who’ve been tho the US, i hear two things; firstly, that americans don’t get sarcasm. that i don’t believe, not after reading the SDMBs.

the second thing i hear is that americans don’t know what “wanker” means. so; is this true, do you know what this insult/possible expression of endaerment (in a blokish, joking way.) means?

The Americans I know do get sarcasm, although they don’t tend to use it as much as the damn limeys…like myself. This lack of use, IMO, means that occasionally, people can be a bit slow on the uptake.

Wanker is pretty well known, though not used to my knowledge.
Not everyone I know knew what it meant initially…I cured their ignorance on this one matter.

Speaking as a well-read, sarcastic american, I must say that the only americans that have heard of “Wanker” before are the ones watching british shows on PBS, or reading English girlie mags. It’s just not in our slang lexicon, for the most part. Our corresponding term would be “jerk-off” or “jack-off”. Meanwhile, consternating our friends across the pond, many of us openly wear “fanny packs” around our waists to carry our goods while we are out and about.

I’ve generally found that it’s the Brits that often are slow to pick up our sarcasm; I think this is because we are two peoples divided by a common language.

We Americans use sarcasm all the time. Hang around here for a while, you’ll see.

However, I have noticed that people from different cultures use different nonverbal signs to signal sarcasm. Americans, for instance, nearly always raise their eyebrows a bit and vary the pitch of their voice. British people don’t. (They may do something else, but I haven’t picked up on what it is.) It’s somewhat confusing to encounter a person whose words seem like they’re meant to be sarcastic, but who isn’t using the facial and vocal signs you’re conditioned to expect. You aren’t sure whether to take them seriously or not. I think this is why many people from the UK believe Americans don’t “get” sarcasm, and also why Americans who have lived in Spain believe Spaniards don’t get sarcasm.

I learned the word “wanker” when I started reading Tom Tomorrow’s cartoon “This Modern World.” He’s an American from San Francisco. Sometimes he slips into French and uses the term wanquer, which, as far as I’m concerned, should be the official pronunciation/usage at all times. What a wonderful word.

I suspect a number of people’s first exposure to “wanker” was in This Is Spinal Tap. Strangely, this American lived in the UK for a year and very rarely heard the term (certainly “sod” was much more common).

Oh, another thing. When I was living in England, when the locals would be sarcastic with me, I’d provide a “straight”, disingenuous response in kind. How did they respond? With the assumption that I didn’t get it, and they’d explain they were being sarcastic, so then I’d have to explain–duh!–I had been playing along. After a while, it was kind of fun to see who among them would have this latent prejudice that assumed the American wouldn’t see the sarcasm (of course, I also was often asked if I owned a gun–damn our pop culture exports!)

Of course Americans know the word “wanker.” After all, Al Bundy is an exact model of the average American, and his mother-in-law lives in Wanker County.

So, is this “wanker” anything like a Wankle rotary engine? :smiley:
As for getting sarcasm, it may be worth noting that some Americans may not have much experience with foreign ways, so that when encountering something unfamiliar, may prefer to keep a straight face or ask what you’re talking about.

What foreigners may not be able to understand is that Americans can be intensely regional as a group and intensely universal as individuals. For example, when I was living in a small town in South Carolina, living across the street were a retired couple. They grew up a block away, got married, worked, and retired just a block away. Typical Southern couple.

Until you got to talking to them. While still retaining these regional and class mores, they also traveled the world courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. I wish I had more time to talk to them about the places they’ve seen, and I think the results of their travels made them less insular and more appreciative of their hometown and their way of life, than someone who grew up and never moved at all.

We got a lot of both in this country. About the only thing we have in common is that we all gotta big mouths.

No, it’s exactly like skaffen_amiskaw.

I do understand, appreciate and certainly use sarcasm, but sometimes my pen-pal in England sends me an artilce or some such thing, and if there is sarcasm in writing about a subject I’m unfamiliar with, it can and has gone over my head.

As for “wanker,” I do know the word (then again, I’ve been corresponding with an Englishman since 1989) and I have seen it used in writing here, but I get the impression its sort of an in joke. Like when I was watching a rerun of ER one day and the British doctor was lossing a game of racket ball and at the end of the scene she shouted “Bullocks!” (sp?) I wrote Martin, my pen-pal about this and he couldn’t understand why it made it on TV. I pointed out that most Americans don’t know what it means - just like most Yanks aren’t familiar with “wanker” - or how servere it is, so it wasn’t cut from the show. Again, another reference that only a Yankee who is a bit familiar with British pop culture would pick up on.

Was the word used in either of the “Austin Powers” movies? If so, did anyone get the impression it meant “masterbater?”


Aussie checking in here…

Erm… this is a biggie, not sure where to start.

I’ve probably got to begin my explaining the Australian attitude toward the US. This is not easy as it involves equal parts snobbery and admiration. We like, on the one hand, to believe we are a part of the “British Humour” thing. In a way, this is true; British humour is of a special breed, and yes, we Aussies and New Zealanders do indeed probably “get it” more than Americans do. However, my personal opinion is that, ten or twenty years ago, the British/Aussie humour was indeed superior to the US version. Now, on the other hand, I cannot continue to uphold that particular prejudice. US humour, in the form of things like The Simpsons and Seinfeld has come of age. It may yet even prove its superiority.

It’s bloody good.

I see we have an ozzie with a keen sense of sarcasm, spoofing us Americans by praising the likes of Seinfeld.

The foundations of American Literature are based on satire and bitter sarcasm. Go read “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg” by Mark Twain. Go read Ambrose Bierce or H.L. Mencken. There is a uniquely American sense of sarcasm and satire, and nothing anywhere else on earth can come close.

On the other hand, I can tell you of one culture I know of where sarcasm is completely unknown: Japan. I work with Japanese exchange students (many of whom are English Lit majors), and I’ve lived in Japan, and I’ve tried in vain to explain satire and sarcasm to hundreds of them, and not one single Japanese person has ever had the vaguest understanding of what I’m talking about. It is completely impossible to even express sarcasm in Japanese. If you try, the Japanese people around you will recoil in horror, thinking you are serious.

I get sarcastic when irritated and I know what ‘wanker’ means.

Now, explain to us why so many English youth have to end almost every statement with ‘didn’t I now?’ That gets annoying because I have to stop myself from saying ‘yeah’ or otherwise responding to the implied question. To me, anyhow, it seems like they’re trying to be a smart ass when they’re really not.

We elected George W., didn’t we now? :wink:

Maybe. As an “Ozzie with a keen sense of sarcasm”, I’ve long loved Mark Twain. However, although he had a distinct style, there is a dryness to his humour and sarcasm which has more than a touch of the Charles Dickens about it.

I’ve never met an American who didn’t know what sarcasm was. Or irony.

And there may be some people who don’t know what “wanker” or “wanking off” mean…but I certainly do. :wink:

And let’s not forget “pudknocker”. In The Right Stuff the Pancho Barnes character calls the Gordo Cooper character a pudknocker. He replies that he’s not a pudknocker. A few scenes later, and he’s in a hospital being asked for a sperm sample. “How do I do that?” “The usual method is fantisization, followed by manipulation and ejaculation.” I"ve often wondered how many people picked up on that.

I learned about sarcasm as a wee lad. I was watching a Charlie Brown cartoon: “Thanks for the Valentine’s Day card! [scowl]” “I didn’t send you a Valentine’s card, Charlie Brown!” “Sarcasm! Don’t you understand sarcasm?”

As for “wanker”, I probably heard the word back in the 70s.

I was crossing the border into British Columbia. The guard asked where I line and I told him L.A. “Do you have any firearms in the vehicle?” “No.” “No guns in the vehicle?” “No.” “I thought all people from L.A. had guns?” “I left them at home.”

Well, they’re not trying to be a smart-ass. It’s just an expression - and not all that widespread among the English, at least not as far as I know.
When the average American asks me “How are you?” or “How’s it going?”, they’re not always expecting a detailed response. In fact, I’ve noticed that many appear rather confused when I actually do answer that question, rather than just starting conversation. So, I suppose there’s implied questions that are not to be answered in American English (there’s some sarcasm for ya ;)) as well.

This annoys me, and I’m American. People ask this as they’re walking by you, so any response longer than “fine” or “OK” is going to be missed.

When I ask this question, I actually mean to listen to any response. But most Americans don’t.