Let’s be frank – what’s a conversation without a friendly dose of verbal aggression and bitter undertone? Sarcasm – often defined as a sharp, bitter, or harsh remark. But the way I see it, it’s catharsis with a touch of stomach-ulcer prevention.
The ‘sunny disposition’ people speak of when they refer to the Maltese must be code for ‘a bunch of cranks and frustrated drivers mumbling to themselves’. Darwin may not have agreed entirely, but the Maltese DNA has somehow evolved with a strand of sarcasm in order to help us maintain our sanity. Because let’s be honest, the struggle is real.
Here are a few ways that prove the Maltese are masters of sarcasm. Bet you can’t wait.
Loosely translated to ‘Thank God’ – but most times there is very little gratitude intended.
‘Imnalla għandek iPhone! Irrispondi bhima!’
(Thank God you have an iphone! Answer me you brute!)
2. ‘Tantx [verb] ta!’
You’re walking home after a wisdom tooth extraction, soggy cotton wool in your mouth, and the person you crossed the road to avoid sees you before you have enough time to draw a moustache and fake a limp.
‘Tantx tgħid hello ta!’
(There’s no need to say hello!)
3. [Rhetorical questions]
You’re driving along the once-functional Kappara roundabout and suddenly someone cuts in where they shouldn’t have. Your instinctive reaction is simple, stick your head out and scream:
‘Min għalmek issuq? Ixgħel l-indicator!’
(Who taught you how to drive? Use the indicator!)
Loosely translated to ‘I’m galloping there’ – Arani sejra’s wittier sidekick. This one in particular is uttered in a lower pitch; generally to such an extent that it is reduced to a mere mumble.
Creepy guy: Ġejja Native?
Anyone in that situation: Mela…bil-galopp ġejja.
(Are you coming to Native?
Sure…I’m galloping there)
5. ‘Għandek biex tiftaħar!’
‘You should be really proud of yourself’. More than anything, this one is an expression of disapproval and as in most other sarcastic utterings, the lower the pitch, the thicker the sarcasm.
A: ‘Soqt id-dar. Taf kif kont daħna!’ (I drove home. Do you know how wasted I was!)
B: ‘Għandek biex tiftaħar ukoll’ (That’s really something to be proud of)
6. ‘Mela [verb]?!‘
This is another kind of rhetorical question, with extra emphasis added in by the use of ‘mela’ at the beginning of the sentence. As always in Maltese, it’s gonna be more effective if you add an animal in at the end of the sentence.
‘Mela mgħandekx bieb id-dar (muntun)?!’
(Don’t you have a door at home?)
7. Creative use of word order
When adjectives precede the noun (mixed in with the right amount of ‘raised eyebrow’ and ‘tonal flatness’), know that it’s sarcasm at its sarcasticest. Needless to say, when translated to English, the grammatical incorrectness of it all may make you twitch in discomfort.
‘Tajba ċ-ċajta. Erġa għidieli’
(It’s good the joke, tell it again.)
‘Sabiħa dik il-qmis, sellifieli.’
(It’s nice that shirt, lend it to me.)