IRONY.

26 February 2012

Max Clarke sent me this one:

This word in Greek meant “dissimulation.” It became ironía, die Ironie, irony.

Oh, the irony of it all.

“Irony” supposedly began with Eiron who was the clever comic charater in Greek drama who tricked his “better,” the braggart Alazon.

In irony the surface meaning and the underlying meaning are not the same.

Lelaina:  Can you define “irony?”

Troy Dyer:  It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.

Reality Bites.

“It is a fitting irony that under Richard Nixon, launder became a dirty word.”          William Zinsser.

Situational irony is a condition of affairs or events opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected, a contradictory outcome to events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness things. For example, Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize while he was bombing Cambodia.  This man was nominated for the Peace Prize in 1939.

Dramatic irony can occur in a play where we are watching a character and we know something s/he does not.

“Simply put, dramatic irony is when a person makes a harmless remark, and someone else who hears it knows something that makes the remark have a different, and usually unpleasant, meaning. For instance, if you were in a restaurant and said out loud, “I can’t wait to eat the veal marsala I ordered,” and there were people around who knew that the veal marsala was poisoned and that you would die as soon as you took a bite, your situation would be one of dramatic irony.”                     Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room

Oedipus Rex is an example of dramatic irony. We know that Oedipus is having a love affair with his mother, but he doesn’t know that.

Look at the Socratic method. Socrates pretends he does not know the answer to a question he is asking. He feigns ignorance in order to lead his student to a better understanding  of the topic. This is ignorance purposely affected.

• Kampenfeldt: This is a grave matter, a very grave matter. It has just been reported to me that you’ve been expressing sentiments hostile to the Fatherland.

Schwab: What, me sir?

Kampenfeldt: I warn you, Schwab, such treasonable conduct will lead you to a concentration camp.

Schwab: But sir, what did I say?

Kampenfeldt: You were distinctly heard to remark, “This is a fine country to live in.”

Schwab: Oh, no, sir. There’s some mistake. No, what I said was, “This is a fine country to live in.”

Kampenfeldt: Huh? You sure?

Schwab: Yes sir.

Kampenfeldt: I see. Well, in future don’t make remarks that can be taken two ways.             (Raymond Huntley and Eliot Makeham in Night Train to Munich, 1940)

• “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”                             (Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove, 1964)

• “I’m aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it.”                            (Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons)

• “Math was my worst subject because I could never persuade the teacher that my answers were meant ironically.”       (Calvin Trillin)

• “We’re conceived in irony. We float in it from the womb. It’s the amniotic fluid. It’s the silver sea. It’s the waters at their priest-like task, washing away guilt and purpose and responsibility. Joking but not joking. Caring but not caring. Serious but not serious.”                                       (Hilary in The Old Country by Alan Bennett, 1977)

• Lyn Cassady: It’s okay, you can “attack” me.

Bob Wilton: What’s with the quotation fingers? It’s like saying I’m only capable of ironic attacking or something.              (The Men Who Stare at Goats, 2009)

Suppose you hear a political candidate give a terribly long speech, one that rambles on and on without end. Afterward you might turn to a friend sitting next to you  and say, ‘Well, that was short and to the point, wasn’t it?’ You are being ironic. You are counting on your friend to turn the literal meaning, to read it as exactly the opposite of what your words actually mean.

The word “irony” might be one of the most misused words in English.

Irony is sometimes used as a synonym for incongruous and applied to “every trivial oddity.” This happens so often that one day “irony” will come to mean this because so many people misuse the word, which is distressing to contemplate. The notion of irony will have been cheapened and counterfeited.

Many people say “ironic” when they really mean curious, odd, unusual, interesting or funny.   Take these examples, interesting but not ironic:

It seemed ironic that Lowell Levine and I, who were both Jewish, were going over to identify the remains of a man who was so anti-Semitic.          Michael Baden

It’s also ironic that in the old days of tape and tape hiss and vinyl records and surface noise, we were always trying to get records louder and louder to overcome that.       T-Bone Burnett

It’s ironic that in our culture everyone’s biggest complaint is about not having enough time; yet nothing terrifies us more than the thought of eternity.        Dennis Miller

Here is another example of the misuse of the word “irony.”   “Sullivan, whose real interest was, ironically, serious music, which he composed with varying degrees of success, achieved fame for his comic opera scores rather than for his more earnest efforts.”

The following is true, but not ironic:     For a Latino to vote for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

This is a pun and maybe even a visual pun on the two meanings of “bebe” (“baby” and the imperative of “drink”). Drink on board !  If you’re in the car, you shouldn’t drink.

I have read James Boswell since I was in the 8th grade. I have read every word he has written, although people keep finding new Boswell journals in castles and haylofts. All my life, Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson has been my Bible. This is Samuel Johnson telling the young Boswell how to live eithically and intelligently. The book is full of good sense expressed in a precise and beautiful language. I have also revered Robert Crumb to an inordinate degree. Imagine my surprise and gratification, then, when Mr. Crumb released this set of drawings:

More non irony:

“Corporations are people, my friend… of coure they are.” Mitt Romney.

Mitt would have sounded much more intelligent if he had meant this ironically.

“The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them.”        Rush Limbaugh.

“I’m a Christian first, and a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative second, and don’t you ever forget it.”                      Ann Coulter.

“I’m more of a man than any liberal.”       Ann Coulter.

Stop me when you’ve heard something you like.

The Irony of Incomprehension.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Shawn said.

“It’s not ironic at all,” Gus said.

“Dude, it’s so like a black fly in your chardonnay.”

“How many times do I have to tell you that’s not ironic, either?”

“Rain on your wedding day?”

“‘Irony’ is the use of words to convey a meaning that’s opposite to their literal meaning,” Gus said. “That stupid song came out fourteen years ago, and we still have this exact conversation at least once a week.”

“Yeah,” Shawn said. “Ironic, isn’t it?                                                                                       William Rabkin, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read

That face, that grace, that beauty !

Now, THAT is irony.

With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon.          Albert Einstein.

100,000 sperm and you were the fastest?

For your information I would like to ask a question.          Samuel Goldwyn.

A play is made by sensing how the forces in life simulate ignorance – you set free the concealed irony, the deadly joke.          Arthur Miller.

“Although you know how to swim, always wear your floaters. What irony.”       No. Not irony. A silly pun on floaters and breasts, but not ironic in any way.

You have delighted us long enough.                              Jane Austen.

Now away with you.

With Anthea Sidiropoulos.

Thank you, and I will see you in a week.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company

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