>Well, in a word, yes, but a book that (misguidedly) showed up for review this week is showing me that it’s a more complicated question for some. Ian Stuart-Hamilton’s An Asperger Dictionary of Everyday Expressions (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) explains that the question is “a sarcastic reply to a question to which the answer is obvious; for example, it might be the appropriate reply to the question ‘would you like to be incredibly wealthy?'” The book similarly defines thousands of “everyday phrases that must be interpreted symbolically rather than literally”–a difficult process for people with autism spectrum disorders.
Not to mention the rest of us. I especially admire the way the author manages to define these allusive phrases with absolutely no employment of figurative terms himself and with appealing directness: “Go suck an egg: A forceful request to stop interfering and/or to leave.” Each entry is marked with one, two or three asterisks to indicate the degree to which the idiom may offend. Because the book has a British slant, I’ve finally learned what it is to “go tits up” but I’m afraid I still need to see “taking the piss” used in a sentence.