Sarcasm/Irony

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Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Gasha » Sun Oct 02, 2011 12:36 pm UTC

Hey everyone!

I was thinking about the concepts of sarcasm and irony. I've always defined irony as "Saying something and very obviously meaning something different", and sarcasm as "Using irony to ridicule or mock someone", but opinions seem to differ. What do you guys think? Searched, and didn't find any topic dedicated to this issue.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Qaanol » Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:12 pm UTC

Oh, yeah, those are great definitions. I bet Webster’s would pay millions for them. They’ll sell so many dictionaries.

Little did Qaanol suspect that Gasha is already a professional lexicographer, and would be the hiring manager to interview Qaanol for a job at Webster’s later that day.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

My experience is that "irony" is somewhat ambiguous between "sarcasm" and what Quaanol's last sentence exemplified. Fate can be ironic, but not sarcastic. An ironic utterance is a sarcastic utterance. (Curiously, the situation is apparently the same in German.)
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby ShootTheChicken » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:02 pm UTC

In my experience it's never a good idea to label something ironic, as someone will inevitably lecture you on your improper use of the word.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Aiwendil » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:21 pm UTC

I've always defined irony as "Saying something and very obviously meaning something different"


Irony is definitely broader than that; it need not involve anything being said at all. As Makri points out, fate can be ironic (a fire station burning down, for example). Then there's dramatic irony, where (in a work of literature, theatre, or cinema) the audience has some information that a character lacks and which puts a different light upon events.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

ShootTheChicken wrote:In my experience it's never a good idea to label something ironic, as someone will inevitably lecture you on your improper use of the word.
Which is usually ironic, because that person is more often than not the one who actually misunderstands irony.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Tomlidich » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:51 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
ShootTheChicken wrote:In my experience it's never a good idea to label something ironic, as someone will inevitably lecture you on your improper use of the word.
Which is usually ironic, because that person is more often than not the one who actually misunderstands irony.


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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Oct 03, 2011 11:59 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Which is usually ironic, because that person is more often than not the one who actually misunderstands irony.

It's like nuptial pluviation.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby AvatarIII » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:44 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
ShootTheChicken wrote:In my experience it's never a good idea to label something ironic, as someone will inevitably lecture you on your improper use of the word.
Which is usually ironic, because that person is more often than not the one who actually misunderstands irony.


Half expected you to post this
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/irony
Pretty sure it was you that posted about The Oatmeal once or twice before.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Sir Novelty Fashion » Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:27 pm UTC

1. Is an American doing it?
2. If 1, then it is not irony.

:P

Dixit Fowler: "any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same."

Sarcasm, to my mind, would therefore be a type or use of irony, but the use of irony in speech would not necessarily be sarcastic, even if derogatory.

It must also be pointed out that irony is not merely the incongruous, despite popular usage.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Anglish » Fri Oct 28, 2011 1:39 am UTC

Irony is when something happens which is the opposite of what is expected. Sarcasm is a form of linguistic, or, verbal irony, often used derogatorily.

See this article on irony by the Encyclopaedia Britannica for more information on irony: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/294609/irony

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Eugo » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:38 pm UTC

"Irony is one of those metally words, like goldy or bronzy".
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Derek » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:21 pm UTC

Eugo wrote:"Irony is one of those metally words, like goldy or bronzy".

Or tinny.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby UniqueScreenname » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:50 am UTC

Sir Novelty Fashion wrote:1. Is an American doing it?
2. If 1, then it is not irony.

:P


I take offense to that, sir. I certainly know the difference. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected or planned for happens. Ex: taking a shortcut to shave 10 minutes off your commute just to get stuck in bad traffic, esp. when it was clear the other way.

Sarcasm is saying the opposite of what you mean, usually to make fun of someone or something. I usually don't consider this irony at all, but The Oatmeal said it was at times, so I will consider it. Ex: "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I only got attacked by a bobcat when I was expecting an office chair. That happens every day. I bet it was an honest mistake. Maybe I'll be getting my office chair in the mail any day now."
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:52 am UTC

UniqueScreenname wrote:
Sir Novelty Fashion wrote:1. Is an American doing it?
2. If 1, then it is not irony.

:P


I take offense to that, sir. I certainly know the difference. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected or planned for happens. Ex: taking a shortcut to shave 10 minutes off your commute just to get stuck in bad traffic, esp. when it was clear the other way.

Sarcasm is saying the opposite of what you mean, usually to make fun of someone or something. I usually don't consider this irony at all, but The Oatmeal said it was at times, so I will consider it. Ex: "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I only got attacked by a bobcat when I was expecting an office chair. That happens every day. I bet it was an honest mistake. Maybe I'll be getting my office chair in the mail any day now."


Irony is never verbal to you? 0.o

Sarcasm, is verbal in every case I can think of certainly, but that doesn't mean that all verbal cases must be sarcasm rather than irony. Excessive hyperbole or understatement is often ironic (or so it seems to me) and are often employed in self-deprecation whereas sarcasm is (in my eyes, and it seems, those of the good folk at wiktionary) always deprecating of someone else.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby UniqueScreenname » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:07 am UTC

eSOANEM wrote:
UniqueScreenname wrote:
Sir Novelty Fashion wrote:1. Is an American doing it?
2. If 1, then it is not irony.

:P


I take offense to that, sir. I certainly know the difference. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected or planned for happens. Ex: taking a shortcut to shave 10 minutes off your commute just to get stuck in bad traffic, esp. when it was clear the other way.

Sarcasm is saying the opposite of what you mean, usually to make fun of someone or something. I usually don't consider this irony at all, but The Oatmeal said it was at times, so I will consider it. Ex: "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I only got attacked by a bobcat when I was expecting an office chair. That happens every day. I bet it was an honest mistake. Maybe I'll be getting my office chair in the mail any day now."


Irony is never verbal to you? 0.o

Sarcasm, is verbal in every case I can think of certainly, but that doesn't mean that all verbal cases must be sarcasm rather than irony. Excessive hyperbole or understatement is often ironic (or so it seems to me) and are often employed in self-deprecation whereas sarcasm is (in my eyes, and it seems, those of the good folk at wiktionary) always deprecating of someone else.


I suppose if I were to make a flow chart of it, irony would be the main subject and I would have smaller parts that would encompass the verbal irony. For instance, if someone says something and they do the opposite, I call that hypocrisy, not irony usually. I suppose that infers intent though. Sarcasm would be another subtopic. I didn't mean irony can't be verbal. I just don't think of it that way because we have so many other specific terms for what could be considered verbal irony, and situational irony is best described that way.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Kick » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:23 am UTC

What I was going to add to the discussion has already been said, but I felt like musing on how irony was taught to me in High School.

One day my English teacher decided to show us an example of verbal irony by playing us a song (Alanis Morissette - Ironic) only to then tell us that it was not ironic at all, and that some other English teacher had decided to set the record strait. He then played the other song (Isn't It Ironic...NOW IT IS!). Anyway, this seemed to go along a little with what another poster here said about how those correcting someone on irony sometimes don't recognize it themselves. It's ironic that a song about irony uses examples where none are actually ironic, also the second song (which was supposed to be all about using irony correctly) doesn't get it either. Now I'm not sure if that was the artists' intention (it seems not, but then again, who am I to know?).

I have to say, though, that it really irritates me when I hear people use irony incorrectly, as if irony simply means "something that's kind of odd or different." Generally, I try to ignore it and move on.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Oflick » Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:30 am UTC

I did a stupid thing a while ago and got into an argument about whether something was ironic. Some guy was arguing that "going for a walk and breaking your leg" is ironic, I didn't think it was. I say going for a walk and breaking your leg is the same as going for a drive and getting a flat tyre; not ironic. You've merely lost the means to do what you were trying to do. He says it is ironic because you go for a walk for exercise (and hence your health) and do damage to your body. Anyone want to tell me who was right?

We were both looking at the situation slightly differently, he was viewing walking as a form of exercise, I was viewing it as a means of getting somewhere. Maybe it is ironic when looked at the way he was and not when looked at the way I was.

Kick wrote:(Isn't It Ironic...NOW IT IS!). ....... the second song (which was supposed to be all about using irony correctly) doesn't get it either. Now I'm not sure if that was the artists' intention (it seems not, but then again, who am I to know?).


Some of them I wouldn't think are ironic (like Colonel Sanders choking on KFC). The first verse and the verse about selling the watch strike me as ironic, but nothing else.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Derek » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:42 pm UTC

Oflick wrote:We were both looking at the situation slightly differently, he was viewing walking as a form of exercise, I was viewing it as a means of getting somewhere. Maybe it is ironic when looked at the way he was and not when looked at the way I was.

I think this is the key difference. Getting hurt while exercising to stay healthy could be viewed as ironic (though not especially), but getting hurt because you were going somewhere is not. To use your car analogy, it would be like going to get your car inspected and getting in a wreck.

Some of them I wouldn't think are ironic (like Colonel Sanders choking on KFC). The first verse and the verse about selling the watch strike me as ironic, but nothing else.

Yeah, that was remarkably even less ironic than the original song. Perhaps that too is ironic?

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:52 pm UTC

Kick wrote:(Alanis Morissette - Ironic) only to then tell us that it was not ironic at all,


A couple of the things there are situationally ironic (getting a free ride when you've already paid comes to mind) but many of them aren't even coincidences.

Also, that "now it is" version is about as ironic as the original (apart from the one about the watch which is pretty ironic).

Oflick wrote:I did a stupid thing a while ago and got into an argument about whether something was ironic. Some guy was telling arguing that "going for a walk and breaking your leg" is ironic, I didn't think it was. I say going for a walk and breaking your leg is the same as going for a drive and getting a flat tyre; not ironic. You've merely lost the means to do what you were trying to do. He says it is ironic because you go for a walk for exercise (and hence your health) and do damage to your body. Anyone want to tell me who was right?

We were both looking at the situation slightly differently, he was viewing walking as a form of exercise, I was viewing it as a means of getting somewhere. Maybe it is ironic when looked at the way he was and not when looked at the way I was.


I still wouldn't think it was ironic even when looked at from his POV. A friend of mine from school did trip over after loudly commenting about his superior walking ability (don't ask), which I think is ironic. Likewise, someone breaking their ankle after giving a safety talk about trip hazards is also ironic.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Oflick » Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:05 am UTC

eSOANEM wrote:I still wouldn't think it was ironic even when looked at from his POV. A friend of mine from school did trip over after loudly commenting about his superior walking ability (don't ask), which I think is ironic. Likewise, someone breaking their ankle after giving a safety talk about trip hazards is also ironic.


Oh, but I must ask. Did he really think he was better at putting one foot in front of the other?

To throw another question out there, I was reading an editorial and found something I thought was a misuse of the word irony: In an age where defactos, affairs and divorces are on the rise, it is ironic that marriage is sought by those who ''bat for the other team''. Is it ironic? I don't see how it is.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:38 pm UTC

Oflick wrote:
eSOANEM wrote:I still wouldn't think it was ironic even when looked at from his POV. A friend of mine from school did trip over after loudly commenting about his superior walking ability (don't ask), which I think is ironic. Likewise, someone breaking their ankle after giving a safety talk about trip hazards is also ironic.


Oh, but I must ask. Did he really think he was better at putting one foot in front of the other?

To throw another question out there, I was reading an editorial and found something I thought was a misuse of the word irony: In an age where defactos, affairs and divorces are on the rise, it is ironic that marriage is sought by those who ''bat for the other team''. Is it ironic? I don't see how it is.


I believe that was what he meant. I wasn't actually there, but that is the sort of thing he'd say (and people who there reckon that was what he actually meant too).

I agree that that is a bit of a misuse. The way they specify who marriage is sought by seems to imply that that is meant to be the subject of the irony, but that itself is nothing to do with the main statement at all let alone being contrary to it.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby SammyIAm » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:27 pm UTC

Oflick wrote:I did a stupid thing a while ago and got into an argument about whether something was ironic. Some guy was arguing that "going for a walk and breaking your leg" is ironic, I didn't think it was. I say going for a walk and breaking your leg is the same as going for a drive and getting a flat tyre; not ironic. You've merely lost the means to do what you were trying to do. He says it is ironic because you go for a walk for exercise (and hence your health) and do damage to your body. Anyone want to tell me who was right?


I'm afraid I will also have to side with your friend for much the same reasons Derek mentioned. If you're "going for a walk" expecting to improve your physical condition, and instead severely worsen it, that's ironic. If you're "walking somewhere" expecting to arrive at your destination, but break your leg, that's just very unfortunate.

On a house-building trip in Mexico one year, one of the chaperons was demonstrating how to safely use a nail-gun, and shot a nail through his hand. That, too, I think was ironic.

As for sarcasm, I think it's more or less the same as verbal irony. The only nuances possibly being the intent of the statement. Sarcasm seems to be more associated with biting, ridicule rather than just a difference in literal and intended meaning.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Joeldi » Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:43 am UTC

I think the tvtropes article has it covered pretty well. 'Irony' is one word that has at least two distinct meanings, like duck, and even within those two broad meanings there's a bunch of lesser different aspects. That's why everyone's always arguing over the word. It'd be really nice if we come up with a new word for either the rhetorical use or for the fire-station burning down use. Maybe "pretentious sarcasm", or "British wit"
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby UniqueScreenname » Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:57 pm UTC

SammyIAm wrote:Sarcasm seems to be more associated with biting, ridicule rather than just a difference in literal and intended meaning.

This is what I think the point is too. I was listening to a talk that said the root words for sarcasm literally meant, "a tearing away at the flesh." Ironic, since that talk was supposed to say how sarcasm can be hurtful, and that definition just made my friend and me love it even more, being the dark, soulless people that we are. Oh, well.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby tkxxx7 » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:07 am UTC

Another use of sarcasm would be not to degrade a person, but rather an idea in order to persuade someone of the opposite ("Oh, yes, let's worship a creepy Jewish zombie," for instance).

Which is kind of obvious and unnecessary of me to say, but, well.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Lenoxus » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:02 pm UTC

Heres what I've always wondered: are simple falsehoods, or false predictions, ironic? After all, they involve a contrast between words and reality, and/or a reversal of expectations.

For example, John says it's not going to rain. Later, it rains. Ironic? My gut says "no," but I can't really explain it except for a vague sense that irony has to be interesting or amusing in some way.

I think this underlying unspoken connotation of the word is why I laughed at Sir Novelty Fashion's joke. I'm an American and I don't think Americans are actually unsophisticated, but the stereotype that we are is prevalent enough that I sort of "meta-laughed" at the idea that someone's criterion for irony would be "Is the person American?" It's also funny because the one person who is most criticized with "That's not ironic!" is a Canadian.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Eugo » Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:53 pm UTC

Lenoxus wrote:Heres what I've always wondered: are simple falsehoods, or false predictions, ironic? After all, they involve a contrast between words and reality, and/or a reversal of expectations.

For example, John says it's not going to rain. Later, it rains. Ironic? My gut says "no," but I can't really explain it except for a vague sense that irony has to be interesting or amusing in some way.

It might be ironic, if John acted on his forecast and washed his car or left for a walk without proper items of clothing. Like just happened to me... because I firmly believed that the rain is due on friday, not tonight.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Lenoxus » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:06 pm UTC

Eugo wrote:
Lenoxus wrote:Heres what I've always wondered: are simple falsehoods, or false predictions, ironic? After all, they involve a contrast between words and reality, and/or a reversal of expectations.

For example, John says it's not going to rain. Later, it rains. Ironic? My gut says "no," but I can't really explain it except for a vague sense that irony has to be interesting or amusing in some way.

It might be ironic, if John acted on his forecast and washed his car or left for a walk without proper items of clothing. Like just happened to me... because I firmly believed that the rain is due on friday, not tonight.


But why is John's acting necessary? I've never seen any precise definition of irony which rules out simply being incorrect/dishonest about something. Certainly, it feels more ironic with the action, or if, say, it started raining right when John said "Gonna be sunny today!" But I haven't seen a definition whereby something like that is needed.

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Makri » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:43 pm UTC

What the hell is it that people find so great about definitions? Your brain can recognize patterns; it faces some borderline cases, too, in which it can't decide. That's all there is to be said about the vast majority of concepts.

The idea of there being some flavor of "interesting" or "amusing" about irony sounds like a good one. But of course, these terms are so vague that no-one looking for such a thing as a definition will be satisfied by them. But why would anyone even expect there to be such a thing as a definition?
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Lenoxus » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:50 pm UTC

Makri wrote:What the hell is it that people find so great about definitions? Your brain can recognize patterns; it faces some borderline cases, too, in which it can't decide. That's all there is to be said about the vast majority of concepts.

The idea of there being some flavor of "interesting" or "amusing" about irony sounds like a good one. But of course, these terms are so vague that no-one looking for such a thing as a definition will be satisfied by them. But why would anyone even expect there to be such a thing as a definition?


You know, I think you are almost completely correct there. (I'm not being ironic or anything, I swear!) I'm using Safari on my iPad, and I selected the word "irony" and hit "Define". What came up included something like "… especially if it is amusing". For a definition to have an "especially" clause makes complete sense; we often think of "ideal types" with words (for example, a "basic" bird is a passarene and not, say, an ostrich), so "irony" can fit that as well. Just plain lying might involve irony in some technical sense, but you shouldn't call it ironic because it isn't ironic "enough" to be worthy of such labeling.

Problem solved, I suppose. :)

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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Makri » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

Sure, if what you're looking for is not actually an exhaustive definition, but a description of the prototype, then it makes sense.
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Re: Sarcasm/Irony

Postby Kick » Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:45 pm UTC

A colleague recently told Roger Gould, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, about a lecture, place uncertain, referring to double negatives. Every language, the lecturer observed, has a construction in which two negatives make a positive. But in English, he said, there's no construction in which two positives make a negative.

From the hall came the perfect, anonymous response: "Yeah, right."

--Jack Rosenthal, "On Language," The New York Times, September 10, 1995

I felt like throwing that in this thread for no particular reason.
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