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This is from an interview with a celebrity at her home when she is actually spending time with family. 73 questions with Kim (see:1:46-1:55)

At one point, where she is with her children and talking to the reporter simultaneously, one of her children coughs on her while she is trying to answer the questions of the reporter. So, when he coughs unexpectedly, she says:

Oh, cough on me, why don't you?

I did not quite understand what she meant by "....why don't you?", because this is used when you are making suggestions. However, it does not seem to sit well in here. Obviously, she wouldn't want him to cough on her more and more while she is trying to talk to the reporter.

Or is she saying so, because she is not happy with this coughing and is being sarcastic". But then it still would not sit well either, because when she said "why don't you?", the reporter is not laughing, on the contrary, he says "Aaaww" which shows he is feeling sorry for him being ill.

I could not be sure about the meaning of "....why don't you?" in this context. So I want to ask: why might she have said: "....why don't you?"

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    I'll just go fetch my sarcasm detector, wait here
    – JollyJoker
    Jul 6, 2023 at 12:37
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    Next thing we know, someone will be asking what take a long walk off a short pier means. Surely all speakers of all languages must encounter sarcasm. Jul 6, 2023 at 12:50
  • I could see a situation where it wouldn't be sarcasm: if the child is so miserably sick that they can't bother to cover their cough, and the parent doesn't want the child to cough at the interviewer. But that isn't the case here.
    – Teepeemm
    Jul 6, 2023 at 15:07
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    It confuses me how many questions on ELL are about constructs that typically denote sarcasm. Is this less common in other languages? Or is it marked in fundamentally different ways? Jul 7, 2023 at 2:04
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    This probably doesn't merit an answer, but you mention "the reporter is not laughing". Sarcasm isn't always (maybe rarely?) designed to cause someone to laugh. A stupid example might be Person A effectively saying, in a roundabout way, "the sky is blue" and Person B saying "Nooooo" in an over-exaggerated voice. That's not funny; that's just pointing out that someone said something obvious. It might make people laugh in a group if the put-down had other context i.e. a quick observation that was witty but in, and of itself, the sarcastic comment is not funny here
    – roganjosh
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:36

1 Answer 1

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This is sarcasm.

A common way to draw attention to someone doing something that you don’t like is to invite them to do it.

For an example, if someone comes into your living room and sits on the couch without greeting you, you might say “Please, make yourself at home”, and the polite thing for them to do would be to apologise for their rudeness.

This could be gentle, as in Kim K’s example, or sterner, as in my example. Context and tone of voice will be key.

To analyse a bit further, as well as drawing attention to the bad behaviour, it’s also a way of reasserting a measure of control. “You coughed in my face, which I didn’t like, but I invited you to do it, so I am in control of the situation”.

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  • Thanks for the comment. I understand this is sarcasm, but I still wonder about why the interviewer is not laughing or enjoying if there is sarcasm? On the contrary, he sounds sad while she is being sarcastic. Secondly, why is she being sarcastic about her child who is ill. Apparently he is just ill, he did not cough on her deliberately?
    – Yunus
    Jul 6, 2023 at 13:13
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    @yunus, the comment is definitely sarcastic. That does not mean the interviewer must find it funny. Sarcasm often isn't, and here it was a means to convey a (mild) rebuke. Even if they do find it funny, they might suppress their reaction out of courtesy to Kim or to the coughing child. Jul 6, 2023 at 13:33
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    Apparently he is just ill, he did not cough on her deliberately? There's a lot of missing context to infer, but there are several possibilities to consider. For instance, it could easily have been the case that the parent trained their child how to suppress coughs (for example "cough into your arm"), and their sarcasm is a rebuke to the child for not suppressing it in the proper manner.
    – Lee Mosher
    Jul 6, 2023 at 13:57
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    @yunus based on their tone of voice, the interviewer is not sad, but finds this cute or adorable. And I don’t think the child is sick, notice that he was eating some kind of dry snack just before. So it’s just a normal cough, but it would have been weird to ignore it completely, but also hard to stop the interview for a full parental lesson.
    – Ben Murphy
    Jul 6, 2023 at 14:18
  • I think "... why don't you?" always carries an implication of outrage, be it sincerely felt or playful. So you could say to the person on the subway, "cough on me, why don't you??" in a genuine moment of outrage, or you could say playfully to a child, "cough on me, why don't you??". This always carries an implication that there is potentially undesirable behavior, but tone indicates whether it is tolerated or not. Jul 7, 2023 at 14:50

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