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Isn't It Ironic?
blaisepascal
The Language Log blog recently had a discussion on the question Is Irony Universal?. To set up the discussion, he clarified exactly what he was talking about:

First, let's clarify the terminology. For the purposes of this discussion, irony means "A figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used", and not "dissimulation of ignorance as practiced by Socrates in order to confute an adversary". My guess is that Socratic irony is less likely to be a cultural universal — it seems to have caught the attention of Socrates' contemporaries as something new and unexpected — but in any case, this is a different question.

And I want to focus specifically on cases like "Wonderful!" as a response to something unwanted, or "Good job!" as a comment on culpable failure, leaving open the question of whether things in the ironic penumbra — e.g. dramatic irony, "incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs" — are the same thing as irony in the more narrow sense.


I hadn't necessarily seen all those definitions of irony before, and if "Wonderful!" and "Good job!" are examples of irony and not sarcasm (which he defines as "A sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt"), I've probably called way too many things sarcasm and not irony.

Still, it remains an amazing bit of (dramatic) irony that the song "Isn't It Ironic" has so little examples of irony (although I suspect the line "yes I really do think" would qualify as sarcasm).

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