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English Irony

Leon's main source:  Merriam-Webster's online Dictionary

 

I.  First definition of IRONY
(a.)  Feigned ignorance designed to confound or to provoke an antagonist

This is also called:  "SOCRATIC IRONY"

 

Okay.  In simple terms, that means somebody pretends that he/she doesn't know something and asks questions to make one's interlocutor look foolish, or to educate someone who thinks he/she knows more than he/she really does.

 

Let's look at an example:

There are 2 speakers:  A  and  B

Person A uses Socratic Irony.

A:  What is life all about?

B:  Life all about being happy.

A:  Oh.  Is that so?

B:  Yes.  I would say so.

A:  Are you happy?

B:  Yes.  I'd say that I am, most of the time, that is.

A:  And how do you know you are happy?

B:  Because, I feel joy, gladness, rapture.

A:  Yes, but those are merely other words for happiness.  How do you know that what you are experiencing is indeed joy, gladness, rapture, or whatever you wish to call it?

B:  Well, [thinking]... well, [thinking some more]... well, that's what society has labeled the feeling which one feels, when he/she feels as I feel.

A:  But, where does this feeling come from?

B:  Well, I don't know.  I guess it comes from one's state of mind.

A:  I see.  And this 'state of mind', as you call it, is determined on what basis?  I mean, what frame of reference does one have to determine whether one is in one state of mind versus any other state of mind?

B:  Well, [thinking]... I guess... one must have some frame of reference, and that... well, when one is happy, one generally smiles a lot.

A:  I see.  But you are not smiling now.  Are you happy now?

B:  Well, in a sense, yes I am... one does not have to be smiling to be happy.  One feels... it is a feeling and a smile is merely an outward expression of the inner feeling, but one doesn't have to be smiling to be happy.

A:  I see.  This is all very interesting.  But, you still haven't really answered my question.  What frame of reference do have to know that you happy or not?

B:  Well, I'd say that when my needs and desires are satiated, then I am happy.  When they are not, I am unhappy.

A:  But, we cannot have all our needs and desires satiated all the time, can we?

B:  No, but we can most of them some of the time.

A:  Are you without needs and desires, then?

B:  Well, for the most part, yes.  I admit that there are some things that I long to do, but my basic needs and desires are met.

A:  So, you are happy when your basic needs and desires are met?

B:  Yes.

A:  I see.  But what about the poor wretch, whose needs and desires are not met, and hardly ever at that?  What would you have to say about him?

B:  I'd say he is a truly unhappy soul indeed.

A:  But you started out saying that life is all about happiness.  Is it to be for the few who have all their basic needs and desires met, and not for the rest?

B:  Oh... I don't know.  Why do you pester me with these questions?  Go bother someone else.

 

(b.)  DRAMATIC IRONY:  when the situation in a drama and the words/actions do not match

 

EXAMPLE:  FROM THE ANIMATED FILM:  LILO AND STITCH

[situation:  Lilo's elder sister, Nani, goes to pick up Lilo from dance school, but Lilo is not there, because she has gone home, despite being told to wait.  Nani comes back home to find that she is locked out, because Lilo has locked her out.  Then, the social worker shows up to inspect the situation and notices that Lilo has been home alone and that Nani is trying to get in.]

The social worker asks, "So, do you often leave your sister home alone?" to which Nani replies, "No, never!"

 

II.  The second definition of IRONY
(a.)  sarcasm

....which is... when the words used are the opposite of the meaning intended... used for humor, or to ridicule, or to censure.

 

EXAMPLE:

The boss comes into the office to find everyone playing computer games and says, "Don't work too hard."

ANOTHER EXAMPLE:

A man buys a used car.  It is old, scratched, and dented, and the paint is peeling off.  He takes it to his friend's house to show it to his friend.  His friend takes one look, and says, "Nice car, buddy.  Where'd you get it?  From the junk yard?"

 

(b.) literary form of "a"

 

EXAMPLE:  SATIRE

Satire can be vocal, but is usually literary.

It aims to ridicule and/or rebuke public and personal vice and/or folly by pointing the absurdity by exaggeration or sarcasm.

Here is a political satire about President George W. Bush and his administration:

Evidently, the President of the United States has the right to break his sacred oath, taken on inauguration day, to uphold the sacred ideals place upon the sacred document that our forefathers gave their sweat, their blood, and even their lives to protect.  Evidently, the President of the United States considers himself above the laws and ideals set in ink upon that sacred document.  Evidently, the President has made himself equal with God, omnipotent and omniscient.  He has made himself judge, jury, and prosecutor.  He, evidently, has been granted the right to spit upon and trample the very ideals upon which his country was founded.  And who has granted him this right?  The people of the United States.

President G W Bush took an oath to uphold the US constitution, which specifically explicates that no man shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.  Due process involves getting a writ, getting evidence, and convincing a jury of peers that a person is guilty.  Yet, What did President Bush do?  He had a personal vendetta against somebody.  So, he got a writ, and inspectors go into his home and inspected everything.  No evidence could be found.  Yet, President Bush was SO sure (in his imagination) that there was evidence and demanded that the man to produce evidence against himself.  The fifth amendment of the constitution that President Bush has sworn to uphold states that no man shall be asked to testify or produce evidence against himself.  Yet, President asked a man to testify against himself.  When the man refused to produce any evidence, because there was none, there was a trial held.  The jury decided that there wasn't any hard evidence, only hearsay, and therefore, it was decided that the accused must remain free.  BUT, what did Bush do?  He took the law into his own hands and deprived the man of liberty and property despite what the jury had decided.

The man of whom I speak is Sadaam Hussein.

President Bush really must be God, because most of the American people have sung his praises and gave him leave to make a mockery of our previously so highly-held principles.  Our constitution is obviously nothing now.  We might as well just throw it away and set up churches around the country to worship our new God, President Bush.

  

 

(c.) an ironic utterance

 

EXAMPLE:

Someone says, "What a beautiful day!  The sky is overcast and it looks like it will rain any minute.  How lovely!"

 

III.  The third definition of IRONY
a situation, which is the opposite of what one might expect, or a situation, which turns out the opposite of what was expected.

 

EXAMPLE:

A survey revealed that most people in poverty are happy, and most people with opulence are not.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE:

It seems, the more you want something, and the harder you try to obtain it, the less obtainable it is.  And once you do obtain it (if you ever do), it turns out not to be as desirable as you expected it would be.