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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Be "Ironic"

People often ask me, "Are you ever going to mow your grass?" and "What's that smell?"  Another thing they ask me is, how to be ironic.  The answer I give them depends on the mood I'm in.  Sometimes I say, "You want to be 'ironic?'"  Other times I say "'You' want to be ironic?"  I might even say, "You
'want' to be ironic?"  Mostly I just say, "What?"

The great thing about being ironic as opposed to being clever, witty, or even just plain funny, is that irony doesn't take any real effort; all you need is a set of quotation marks you can throw in at selected intervals during your conversation.

Consider this handwritten note pinned to a basset hound.

To Whom This May Concern: I am sorry about your dog.  I ran over it with my Prius.

How dull, how lifeless and joyless!  The person who gets this note will barely be able to stifle a yawn at the humdrum tone and lackluster prose.  "Ho-hum," he will mutter to himself, "This boob is as inept at crafting a note as he is at steering a Prius.  I shouldn't be surprised if poor old Sparky died of boredom."

Now take the same note with a pair of strategically-placed quotation marks:

To Whom This May Concern: I am sorry about your "dog."  I ran over it with my Prius.

Now you've given Sparky's owner something worth reading!  "What ho," will think the owner, "this callous rapscallion has the temerity to cast aspersions upon the very beast he has mowed down with his automobile.  Well, come to think of it, perhaps he does have a point.  Sparky wasn't much of a 'dog' at that, heh-heh."

See how it works?  Now instead of being simultaneously piqued and bored by your haphazard driving and dishwater prose, he's at first miffed but then won over by your swaggering charm.  Let's look at the same note one last time in the hands of a real master:

To Whom This May "Concern:" I am "sorry" about your "dog."  I "ran over" it with my Prius.

Now there's a letter worth reading!  The "concern" is calculated to prick the owner's conscience; how "concerned" could he be after all, if he lets his animals roam the streets untended to be picked off by any passing Prius?  And see how nicely "sorry" works with "dog;" can anybody be truly sorry over the demise of such a dubious specimen.  And lastly, "ran over."  Here is the masterstroke because it really causes the reader to ponder.  What is meant to be ironic in "ran over?"  Is it because cars do not "run" but "roll?"  Is it because the driver did not run over Sparky at all but got out and bludgeoned him to death?  Sparky's owner will be so bemused and intrigued grappling with all this, he may scarcely recall to give the dog a decent burial.

And there you have it.  How to be "ironic."  I hope you "learned" something.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you can help. I have never understood irony. Like when I was young I had this friend whose mother called him, on a regular basis an SOB. He would always say, "Oh, mother. Don't be so ironic." Neither she nor I understood what he was talking about. Was he correct? Was this irony?