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#1 | Back to Top03-25-2015 08:58:13 PM

Internal Clock
Wakaba Wrangler
From: Canberra, Australia
Registered: 06-30-2012
Posts: 14

On 'Irony'

Hello IRGers. emot-smile

As the topic title indicates, this is a thread that is intended to be about the usage of the 'irony' - 'irony' in its correct usage or otherwise, or at least in its more broadly accepted understanding. I would hope that this thread can be about that, for as I understand, if it wasn't, then it would be ironic. I am worried, though, because I am not sure if I employed the word ironic correctly in that sentence, or if there is in fact nothing at all ironic about a thread about the term 'irony' turning into a thread that is not about the usage of the word 'irony' and that therefore have not actually interpreted 'irony' correctly.

It's important to me that this can be talked about as sensibly as we can, for my OCD is going into overdrive on this concern and I anticipate that if any one came into this thread and started screwing around with it, I would start to feel much more helpless than I already do.

This is important for me to get right, for about a week from now I am going to graduate as a writing student, and being able to not mess up the accepted understandings of words and to actually employ those understandings correctly in conversation is a very important skill that I have to develop and continually check myself on if I am going to be a writer by profession.


Now, I am going to offer a specific example of the usage of 'irony', in fact it is the one that irked me enough to start this topic:

Another practical skill for creative research would be, ironically enough, research.

I am not sure if that is "ironic". In context, I don't feel that it follows for 'research' is ironic as a skill for 'creative skill', for as ought to be obvious by the term, 'creative research' is a form of 'research', and therefore involves 'research'. Of course, I am over-thinking this in some capacity, but I feel I have to unpack the statement by this student for I feel that there is an irony in the idea (and in the context of that discussion) that it is not as obvious for us students that the ability to do flat, normal 'research' could also be considered a practical skill for 'creative research ' ... only that doesn't feel right as 'research' is included in 'creative research', so shouldn't that usage 'ironically' be incorrect? And what would be a adequate adjective to serve what this student seems to intend to say?

If any of you are able to lend you thought to this, I would greatly appreciate it.

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#2 | Back to Top03-26-2015 12:16:19 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: On 'Irony'

Boy, what a can of worms that word is.  emot-frown  It's like "literally," only worse.

I'm a linguistics major, and one of the things they drill into linguistics majors is that language is not what's in the dictionary, it's what people who speak that language actually say.  By that way of thinking, here are some meanings of the word ironic.

1) Appropriate; unsurprising.  "Another practical skill for creative research would be, ironically enough, research."

2) Coincidental; weird.  "The phone rang and somehow I knew it would be you, and then it was!  Is that ironic or what?"

3) Inappropriate; surprising.  "Ironically, it turned out that the perpetrator of the arson was a retired firefighter."

4) Sarcastic; intended to mean the opposite of what is said.  "What bothers me about Tumblr is the ironic tone of half of what people post.  Isn't anyone sincere anymore?"

5) In literature, behaving in a way that makes sense to the character but not to the audience, because the audience knows something the character doesn't.  "I am King Oedipus!  My people are suffering and I'm not really sure why, so I'm going to investigate!  I'm sure that my investigation will not expose how I killed my father and married my mother, since I definitely did not do either of those things, and therefore this investigation would not seem ironic at all to an audience familiar with Greek mythology."

There might be others.  In my mind, 3 through 5 are all fine uses of the word "ironic."  They hang together because they have the common element that something is incongruous with something else.  I abhor 1 and 2 -- 1 because it's the opposite of 3, and 2 because I feel like it waters down the word so much as to make it meaningless.  Some people insist that 3 is not a legitimate definition either.  There's an episode of Futurama where it's a running joke.

[Protagonist Philip Fry makes a deal with the Robot Devil to trade his hands for the hands of a randomly selected robot.  The randomly selected robot is the Robot Devil.]

FRY: Robot Devil? I get your hands? Zam!
ROBOT DEVIL: Oh, what an appallingly ironic outcome.
BENDER: It's not ironic, it's just coincidental. Now fork over those lady-fingers, Cookie!

[Later, Bender blows his airhorn at co-protagonist Leela, accidentally deafening her, on the night that Fry will perform his opera.]

LEELA: What? Oh, this is horrible! I won't be able to hear Fry's opera.
ROBOT DEVIL: Ah, how delightfully ironic!
BENDER: It's not ironic, it's just mean. Take this!
[He blows the airhorn weakly.]
ROBOT DEVIL: Ooh! Out of aerosol? Also ironic!

[Leela signs a contract with the Robot Devil: she will exchange a hand for her hearing back.  Later, during the opera, the Robot Devil announces that Leela has agreed to marry him.]

LEELA: [singing] That isn't what I meant, that isn't what I signed!
[The Robot Devil takes the contract out of his chest cabinet.]
ROBOT DEVIL: [singing] You should have checked the wording in the fine... [He makes the contract larger.] Print.
LEELA: [reading] I'll give you my hand...
LEELA AND ROBOT DEVIL: [singing] In marriage.
[In the audience, Bender reads from a dictionary.]
BENDER: [singing] The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention: now that, is, irony.

I disagree with Bender in every one of those cases except the second, but it's funny.  emot-biggrin

So... I dunno!  I think 3 through 5 are safe, while 1 and 2 will mark you to some pedants (like me) as someone who doesn't share our deeply held convictions about the appropriate use of language.  But God knows you'd be in good company!

Last edited by satyreyes (03-26-2015 12:23:33 PM)

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#3 | Back to Top03-26-2015 03:00:45 PM

Kita-Ysabell
Covert Diarist
Registered: 11-18-2012
Posts: 818
Website

Re: On 'Irony'

Sat, that's a pretty nice rundown, but I would say your example in #1 falls under #4, as does maybe most uses of #1?  Except then some people didn't pick up on the sarcasm and started using #1 sincerely, maybe.


"Et in Arcadio ego..."

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#4 | Back to Top03-26-2015 03:25:36 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: On 'Irony'

Mmm hmm, the example in #1 is ambiguous, as Internal Clock pointed out in the OP.  The author of the quote in the OP may have intended to say that it's genuinely unexpected that actual research would turn out to be a skill that's useful in creative research, in which case it might be a case of #3.  Or the author might indeed be using sarcasm, in which case the quote itself may illustrate #4 -- but the word "ironically" in it definitely does not refer to #4, since what is sarcastic is not the fact but the way the author presents the fact.  (You couldn't replace "ironically enough" with "sarcastically enough.")  We can get rid of the possibility of #3 by changing the example to "So I was in the donut shop, eating, ironically enough, a donut."  It's less obvious how to make the mixture of #1 and #4 less confusing.

(Sorry about the repeated edits, I kept thinking of other things to say and better ways to say them.)

Last edited by satyreyes (03-26-2015 03:33:59 PM)

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#5 | Back to Top03-28-2015 03:55:04 AM

Internal Clock
Wakaba Wrangler
From: Canberra, Australia
Registered: 06-30-2012
Posts: 14

Re: On 'Irony'

In regards to #1 I indeed feel that it is ambiguous as to its intended meaning. I would offer that it only appears similar to #3 if it is, in the context, not what would be expected to be brought up as an example - in that it sounds as if "how about research itself, isn't that a practical skill?" if one goes for the sarcastic side (which I don't feel is there), or "Surprise - x is also a skill involved in x.y, haven't you all thought?" would be the stronger one but even that isn't 'irony' for me.

In regards to #2, I would want the sentence to go 'Is that weird or what?' rather than 'Is that ironic or what?' as I feel that the word 'weird' is closer to the feeling that the sentence is aiming at. That is, unless it's more meant to be #3, to which I would ask 'is it inappropriate that you would knew I was the one calling and I was in fact the one who called?' ... and, I'd suggest the use of something along the lines of 'intuitive' or in 'intuition' to communication that coincidence and/or surprise instead of 'ironic'.

In regards to #3 on its own, I do agree that this feels the closest to the usage of the word that I have... on that note, would it be accurate to indicate that there is irony in the fact that I, for years, acted as if I understood the usage of it when in fact I may not have? Am I closer to it now? school-eng101

I really appreciate your replies. I do have more to think about, but my internet is about to be switched off for the night so I'll be back another time to reply to the other parts.

Last edited by Internal Clock (03-28-2015 03:56:10 AM)

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