A (not very) sarcastic conversation in Japanese

A: Yeah right, like there’s NO sarcasm in Japanese.
B: Yes, that’s right. There’s no such thing as sarcasm in Japanese.
A: Yeah, like NOBODY is sarcastic in ALL of Japan.
B: You can say that.
A: And that’s because you know EVERYBODY in Japan, right?
B: Well no, but Japanese doesn’t really have the capability for sarcasm. There isn’t even really a word for it in Japanese.”
A: Yeah, Japanese like totally can’t express even the CONCEPT of sarcasm.
B: Well, the closest thing I can think of is saying 「はい、はい」 to be dismissive instead of being agreeable.
A: And you know EVERYTHING about Japanese.
B: Are you trying to be sarcastic?
A: I dunno. I thought I was just speaking randomly in all caps for no reason.

You can translate this back into Japanese for fun times!

19 thoughts on “A (not very) sarcastic conversation in Japanese

  1. A: そうだよね、サーカズムって日本語にはない。
    B: そうだよ。サーカズムってことは日本語にはない。
    A: うん、なんか、日本中サーカズム的な人は一人でもないんだよねぇ~。
    B: っていう人もいる。
    A: 日本中知らない人は一人もないないから言えるよねぇ~?
    B: まあ、ねえ。でも日本語はサーカズムって可能はないんじゃない?日本語での言葉でもないだろう。
    A: うん、サーカズムの意味でも全然表せないよねぇ~。(ー_-)
    B: そう思えば1番近いのは「はい、はい」と言って賛成のふりをすること。
    A: 日本語のことは何でもわかるからよねぇ~。
    B: 今のはサーカズムなのか?
    A: わからん。別に意味無しで大字で打とうと思ってた。

  2. Ha ha, it sounds like two people just agreeing with each other. See, you just can’t be sarcastic in Japanese. Isn’t it great? I hate sarcasm, anyway.

    A: 全国にsarcasticな人は一人もいないということね。
    B: そう言えるね。
    A: 日本人を全員知っているからそういえるんだ。
    B: そうでもないよ。ただ、日本語ではsarcasmという概念がないから、sarcasmという言葉もないし、表現すらできない。

  3. I tried with what skills I have. It really come through well.


    You may hate sarcasm, but it’s a sad loss for me. I thrive in it. I don’t know how I would live without cynical people treating me like an idiot every day.

    Am I being sarcastic, I wonder…?

  4. Hi, my first post!

    My try:


  5. This is just an unconfirmed hypothesis, but maybe sarcasm does exist in Japanese. Only, it’s entirely expressed through the tone of your voice and the expression of the face.
    In written form it does vanish, but it’s easier to imagine it could work with real people talking. I dunno.

  6. 皮肉って、日本語にはないってほんまに信じてるのか? くだらねぇ

  7. @boon-nas

    Great first post! 大体そんなもんじゃない?でも、実際二重山括弧で話すとどんな話し方になるんだろう?


    I can’t imagine what kind of tone or expression that could be.



  8. I think this type of sarcasm does exist in Japanese, expressed by saying the capitalized parts (parts with 《》 in my post) a bit slower and with higher tone.

    sarcasm に対応する語……「嫌み/嫌味」が近い意味かも。

  9. @taekk


    I slapped my previous post together just to bring up that I think attaching のか or just か to normal statements is used to express sarcasm. I mean, do you not see/hear this all the time? Maybe it’s not the exact way you express sarcasm in English (although oftentimes I think it is basically the same), but I can’t see how the basic idea of sarcasm can be absent in any given language.

    Not to mention I’ve heard sarcasm used on multiple occasions in the exact same way its used in English. Quick example being when I was eating お好み焼き with a friend, and I was eating rather messily (is ‘messily’ a real adverb?) and she made fun of me saying “きれいだよね”. Is that not sarcasm, and is that not exactly how its used in English?

    I feel strange questioning the knowledge of someone with far superior skill than me, but I really do think its bizarre to think such a basic human sentiment can’t be expressed within the context of a certain language.

    And if you directly translate your original post and add some “かよ” or “のか” here and there does it not make those statements sarcastic?

  10. Sorry I’ve only done a little study of Japanese so not sure of the correct usage of most words, but I heard this word used in 電車男ドラマ
    – 嫌味


    So would you guess the translation is

    Is that said to upset me?
    instead of –
    Are you being sarcastic?

    Sorry I can’t remember what 電車男 wrote on the forum to prompt this response in the drama. Something like ‘I’m not sure if I’m going to see her again’ this is after all the help they gave him.

  11. @Daniel

    The のか doesn’t really convey sarcasm evidenced by the fact that I completely missed that intent in your comment. I guess my point is that there is no sarcastic tone like the one in English that I hate so much. People will always take what you say at face value unless the context obviously indicates the opposite like your example.

    By the way, in case you didn’t know saying someone or something is くだらない is very insulting.

    @boon-nas & Elliott

    嫌味 is perhaps the closest thing Japanese has to sarcasm but I think it comes from malice not like the annoying rolling-eyes sarcasm we have in English. So Elliott, I think your first translation is correct.

  12. It’s been a while, but I remember Kyon being quite a sarcastic cynic. I don’t know enough Japanese to comment on what he actually says though.

  13. @taekk

    Ok, fair enough. An honest question though, what exactly does のか or か or かよ convey if not sarcasm? I don’t really care what we choose to call it, if you don’t want to link it directly to english sarcasm thats cool, but I always get a sarcastic-y vibe from it. Maybe I’m just trying to lump sarcasm and cynicism and all the negative -isms into one ball or something…

    And I apologize, I thought くだらない was more along the lines of “silly”, I meant no disrespect or insult. You know you’re my hero :p

  14. Attempted my own translation with my super-duper non-native Japanese skills… Try to imagine that I’m actually using real 傍点s.


    You should witness an argument between me and my wife. You’ll find quite quickly that sarcasm is producible and does indeed exist in Japanese… Not exactly something I’m proud of, though. Most common in our arguments is probably “あっそー、ふ~ん”.

    Outside of arguments I think the one I get the most might be “すばらしいな、きみ”… No, sorry my wife, I’m simply not ever going to be able to perfectly fold the clothes just as you desire.

    As for how sarcasm is referred to in Japanese, it is typically 皮肉. It may also be referred to as 嫌味, and the very definition of your most typical sarcasm could probably be said to be 遠まわしの嫌味. Other words and phrases that may be relevant that I can think of off the top of my head would be 皮肉な調子(口調), 皮肉を効かした, 皮肉屋, and, my favorite, 皮肉る.

    Oh, and in terms of something that’s more so uniquely Japanese, I take it you’ve heard of a ノリツッコミ before, right? Taken as a whole, it can perhaps be taken as sarcasm of a sort.

    Also, English-wise, I would note that also long as you’re talking about irony in a general sense, sarcasm can be said to be a subset of irony.

    I will, however, note that on a whole, sarcasm seems to be used considerably less in Japanese than in English, at least in my experience. That, I feel, is particularly the case when you get into humor.

    Just so you know, くだらない used like you did would be more akin to saying “pathetic” in English.

  15. Here’s a simple example of something that works in English as simple sarcasm, but for Japanese isn’t funny at all:

    A-さん: ああ、いい天気だね

  16. @Daniel

    のか or か or かよ all indicate a degree of questioning and surprise, I think. No worries since it wasn’t intentional. Here’s the WWWJDIC definition so be careful about how you use it.

    下らない 【くだらない】(adj-i) (uk) good-for-nothing; stupid; trivial; worthless;

    Nice translation!
    Ha, you make some very good points. Sounds like you have a very sarcastic wife! I guess I should say there is no sarcastic tone and you really need context to pull it off.

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