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Ah, the irony!
June 11, 2013 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Literally the most abused word in English.
posted by zeikka (154 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
zeikka: "Literally the most abused word in English."


I see what you did there.
posted by chavenet at 5:27 AM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I literally will shoot myself in the face if I hear 'literally' misused one more time.
posted by item at 5:28 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Words and Expressions Commonly Misused by Insipid Brothers-in-Law
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:32 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Literally the first thing I think of (and often reread) when I happen upon misuse of "ironic": Lines from Alanis Morisette's "Ironic", modified to actually make them ironic.
posted by supercres at 5:33 AM on June 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


Though people play fast and loose with the word 'ironic', I do feel that one of their examples qualifies. Irony is working against expectation, usually in a very strong way, so having a wedding planned during the one day it rains in the desert could get an "Oh, the irony!" from me. They admit that situational irony is pretty ambiguous and everywhere, and sometimes something that we say is verbal irony is just verbally identifying situational irony.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:34 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironically, their bad examples only work as bad examples when out of context:

"This is the third time today we’ve run into each other. How ironic." ...because I've been trying to avoid you since the whole restraining order thing.

"Yesterday was a beautiful, warm day in November. It was really ironic." ...because I dressed myself like the Gorton's fisherman expecting the hurricane to hit.

"Ironically, it was the best movie I’ve seen all year!" ...even though you said it was aweful, you asshole.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:40 AM on June 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


In other misuse-of-words-related news, I will literally strangle the next person I see who says "tenant" when they mean "tenet".
posted by Decani at 5:41 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


My favorite article on irony comes from the Guardian.

...

"Literally" is also frequently abused. However, many people misunderstand how it's being used. People often use "literally" to be kiddingly emphatic. They don't really think that "literally" means "figuratively".

Put another way: people will often say things like, "don't worry about Bob - he seems vicious, but actually he's a sheep in wolf's clothing". We know that they don't really mean that Bob is, actually, in actuality, in actual fact, a sheep in wolf's clothing. No one would say that the speaker misunderstands the word "actually". The same goes for the word "really", which is also often used in figurative contexts.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:43 AM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Another misunderstood word is unique. Very unique? No, either something is unique (one of a kind) or it isn't, there are not varying degrees of uniqueness.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:43 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


And then there was also this Ask a while ago...
posted by Namlit at 5:46 AM on June 11, 2013


Soon used to mean now, and a moment used to be an inconceivably tiny amount of time, and probable used to mean provable, and there's no reason to think that "literally" is the single word that will avoid semantic shift.
posted by jeather at 5:47 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


All that said, I hate when people misuse the word.
posted by jeather at 5:48 AM on June 11, 2013


Words and Expressions Commonly Misused by Insipid Brothers-in-Law

Just a nitpick, from Merriam-Webster:

Aggravate - verb 2. Annoy or exasperate (someone), esp. persistently. - Synonym: irritate

To quote Led Zeppelin, "'cause you know sometimes words have two meanings."
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:48 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the same token…

RULE OF THUMB FOR HOW TO PROPERLY USE THE PHRASE "BEG THE QUESTION" IN EVERYDAY CONVERSATION: Don't.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:49 AM on June 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


jeather: there's no reason to think that "literally" is the single word that will avoid semantic shift.

It will literally be the only word that avoids semantic shift.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:49 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many people, including myself, consider "myself" to be the most abused word in the English language.
posted by rocket88 at 5:50 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but M-W is totally descriptivist. Case in point:

— beg the question
2: to elicit a question logically as a reaction or response "the quarterback's injury begs the question of who will start in his place"


Ugh.
posted by supercres at 5:51 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many people, including myself, consider "myself" to be the most abused word in the English language.

This one drives me nuts, but where did it come from? It seems to have cropped up or at least gained steam in the last few years, or is this just confimation bias?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2013


I am literally dying to find out the answer to this question.
posted by alby at 5:56 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another infraction sometimes seen is the use of then in place of than. "I like kittens more then puppies." No, you idiot.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:56 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd have to vote for "virtually" being the most mis-used and slaughtered term in English. You virtually never hear it used correctly anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:57 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find that distinguishing between "regime" and "regimen" is difficult for a lot of medical people.
posted by TedW at 5:57 AM on June 11, 2013


I find that distinguishing between "regime" and "regimen" is difficult for a lot of medical people.

It won't be once the Exercise Regime comes to power.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:59 AM on June 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


Language changes.
posted by mammary16 at 6:01 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


We know that they don't really mean that Bob is, actually, in actuality, in actual fact, a sheep in wolf's clothing. No one would say that the speaker misunderstands the word "actually".

I'm as prescriptivist as they come, and you just blew my fucking mind.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 6:03 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I only use "literally" ironically.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:05 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great post. Very unique.
posted by thelonius at 6:05 AM on June 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Some language changes, some is getting actively mutilated. There's a differance (ok, sorry for that last one)
posted by Namlit at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2013


A sheep dressing in wolf's clothing is a highly successful survival strategy, but it results in a lonely existence.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm always happy when people mix effect and affect. It affects me in a merry way. In effect I might be quite literally ironical when I say this myself.
posted by Namlit at 6:09 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"This sentence is used frequently — and usually incorrectly — in American English."

This makes me want to set something on fire.

"...or do you feel we need to let language evolve no matter how far usage drifts from a precise meaning?"

This also makes me want to set something on fire.

Unless I'm mistaken and the "we" refers to some sort of heavenly council of language deities which has the power to determine usage by fiat.

"Great post. Very unique."

Heh.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:13 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some language changes, some is getting actively mutilated.

And some is being affected, ironically, in order to make the speaker sound more educated.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:13 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate it when the canons, living in the desert, fire their cannons at my dessert.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:14 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


A local radio reporter at the scene of a wildfire once announced that it was "literally hotter than Hell".

That the word irony is even common enough to be have become an issue is just one of the things I blame on Reality Bites.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, back to prescriptivism.

English changes. "Literally" now means "I mean this so seriously that I am pretending to be seriously threatening to shoot myself in the face but not really."

People who get upset over the way vernacular language changes need a better hobby.

Forsooth, methinks thou hast forgotten reality.
posted by spitbull at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


RULE OF THUMB FOR HOW TO PROPERLY USE THE PHRASE "BEG THE QUESTION" IN EVERYDAY CONVERSATION: Don't.

"Beg the question" is kind of a special case, because, while it is a useful concept is a stupid phrase since a) it's impossible to intuit its meaning and b) it strongly suggests a meaning that is also rhetorically useful. So people use it wrong, which is grating but hardly surprising. And I feel bad for being annoyed, because it's a really ham-handed phrase. And then I feel bad for feeling bad, and then I get irked at my self for feeling bad for feeling bad about a phrase.

So, please, don't let friend use "beg the question," I beg of you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sometimes, when I'm talking to my friends online (and because I know they won't be able to strangle me from across the internet), I intentionally misuse the term just to see if I can make somebody explode. Or at least very, very confused.

It's kind of a jerkish thing to do, I'll admit.

I think I might stop now, though. Nothing is ever going to beat the baffled reaction I received when I proclaimed that "He was killed by the very thing that killed him. How ironic!"
posted by KChasm at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Woman: I started riding these trains in the '40s. Those days a man would give up their seat for a woman. Now we're liberated and we have to stand.
Elaine: It's ironic.
Woman: What's ironic?
Elaine: This -- that we've come all this way, we've made all this progress, but, you know, we've lost the little things, the niceties.
Woman: No, I mean what does "ironic" mean?

From Seinfeld, The Subway
posted by bitteroldman at 6:22 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ironic now means "remarkable" or "surprising." So?
posted by spitbull at 6:23 AM on June 11, 2013


The worst thing is when people write "Þe" as "Ye". The same people pronounce it wrong, too. IT'S "THE", NOT "YE"! I can't communicate with you if you don't learn ENGLISH.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:25 AM on June 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


I have said it before and I will likely say it again, but a song called ironic, that contains no actual examples of irony helping to change the definition of the word ironic to match what's in the song, is actually pretty damn ironic.

Philosopher Dirtbike : With the "Ye" thing, aren't you technically asking them to learn Saxon?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:30 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I effect affects to make people nonplussed.
posted by kmz at 6:30 AM on June 11, 2013


"Literally" is also frequently abused. However, many people misunderstand how it's being used.

Exactly! Sometimes when we judge "incorrect usage", it is actually our fault for not understanding the meaning of the word as it appears in context.

The meaning of the word irony is not limited to its original, literary context. People are using it, effectively, in day-to-day communication. If conflicting usages were leading to large-scale misunderstanding, then we would have an issue. As far as I can tell, that's not happening here.

Why don't we just celebrate the polysemous quality of language?

(That said, I work as an editor, and would definitely trim these other meanings of ironic from, say, an academic paper. That, however, is an issue of word-in-context, not the word itself.)
posted by mammary16 at 6:30 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


spitbull, agreed-upon definitions of words help in any situation where clear and accurate communication of ideas is important. Science, law, business, literature; anything really. Some people may use "ironic" to mean "remarkable", sure, but in my line of work, translation, if I translated the word that way, the client may be upset that I didn't catch the full depth and complexity of the word's meaning in the way that they intended.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2013


The worst thing is when people write "Þe" as "Ye". The same people pronounce it wrong, too. IT'S "THE", NOT "YE"! I can't communicate with you if you don't learn ENGLISH.

Every prose has its thorn.
posted by dubold at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2013 [41 favorites]


The worst thing is when people write "Þe" as "Ye". The same people pronounce it wrong, too. IT'S "THE", NOT "YE"! I can't communicate with you if you don't learn ENGLISH.

Okay, I'm convinced. I'm giving up on "hopefully."
posted by The Bellman at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2013


It's like when Jimmy Moriati punches you in the face, but, you know, although it breaks your nose, it really hurts his right hand.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:34 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having recently sat through a couple of High School grad ceremonies, I'm going to throw 'amazing' in for consideration.
posted by mazola at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2013


I steeled myself for more irony but the examples felt a little rusty.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


spitbull: Ironic now means "remarkable" or "surprising." So?

Being an extreme descriptivist isn't any better than being an extreme prescriptivist.
posted by spaltavian at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have said it before and I will likely say it again, but a song called ironic, that contains no actual examples of irony helping to change the definition of the word ironic to match what's in the song, is actually pretty damn ironic.

Well, it is now.
posted by Jpfed at 6:39 AM on June 11, 2013


I'm giving up on "hopefully."

Abandon "hopefully", all ye who enter here.
posted by thelonius at 6:42 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't communicate with you if you don't learn ENGLISH.

With the "Ye" thing, aren't you technically asking them to learn Saxon?


Spric Anglisc þú bastard!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:43 AM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Every prose has its thorn.

Surely, the problem is that modern English writing does not have a thorn? (See ÆØÅ for more (or less) outrage).
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spric Anglisc þú bastard!

Begs the question: is it literally ironic that the only word in that sentence still spelled that way is "bastard"?
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:50 AM on June 11, 2013


There was this youtube link once here with Spock saying "fascinating" a hundred times over. I always want to add "it doesn't mean what you think it means" but that's from another show.
posted by Namlit at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2013


Begs the question: is it literally ironic that the only word in that sentence still spelled that way is "bastard"?

I was so tickled when I double checked that I almost commented on it! Spelling of course prior to the modern invention of English language pedantism (aka "standardization") by assholes like Noah Webster and his ilk was far more "flexible" so who's to say that it was "correct" back in the days when English wasn't even really much of a written language.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:55 AM on June 11, 2013


If you climb to the top of Mount Literally you will literally find that Mantzoukas is your king. Literally.

Now it's time for 'How Did This Get Made?'
posted by mintcake! at 7:06 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am just about ready to give up on ever seeing jibe again -- I think the jive turkeys have conquered that. And I remarked once before on the blow that one of the enduring mysteries of English is how when a writer reaches for either the word defuse or diffuse, eight times out of ten it will be the wrong one. At least jibe is relatively uncommon.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:15 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was this youtube link once here with Spock saying "fascinating" a hundred times over.

Remember that Spock was fucking with everybody all the time. Especially Bones.
posted by device55 at 7:19 AM on June 11, 2013


Irony has become one of those bugbear words that people insist is being misused almost regardless of context. But irony is actually a pretty capacious concept and it is hard to imagine a statement or an event that can't have an ironic charge in the right circumstances. Everything in Alanis Morissette's famously abused song could be a perfectly apt example of irony with only minor unspoken assumptions about the context in which they occur.
posted by yoink at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having grown up squarely in the Alanis Morissette demographic and spent far too much of my life mocking Ironic, I have come to the conclusion that she is instead the all-time irony judo master, for having constructed the following:

"Isn't it ironic, that this song which I have written to celebrate irony contains within itself zero examples of actual irony?"

That's crazy fractal Escher-level irony right there.
posted by range at 7:23 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Ugh."

Ironically, given the prescriptivist insistence on the petitio principii usage of "beg the question", beg is a poor translation or even a mistranslation from the original terms of art in Aristotle's Greek (he used two phrases to mean this).

The historical sequence was:

τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ αἰτεῖσθαι ("asking the original point") and τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ λαμβάνειν ("assuming the original point") --> petitio principii ("postulating the original point") --> "beg the question"

The error of translating petitio as beg in this context happened sometime in the 16th century.

Petitio was chosen by medieval translators for αἰτεῖσθαι because in post-classical Latin it meant "a postulate", which works well with Aristotle's usage. However, in classical Latin petitio had a "beseeching" sense. So sometimes in the 16th century, some writers decided to forego the latin petitio principii as the term of art and translated it into English as "begs the question", wrongly from the classical meaning of petitio rather than the more appropriate post-classical meaning petitio. Mark Liberman hypothesizes that this might have been motivated by a preference for very plain English, preferring beg over postulate or assume. Also, Aristotle's use of αἰτεῖσθαι possibly played a role.

Question for "the original point" comes from the "the question" sense, the matter being argued. That's reasonable but, these days, it ends up doing half the work in causing the confusion about what the term of art "beg the question" means.

In sum, "beg the question" is either a poor translation or an outright mistranslation into English of the term of art petitio principii. Petitio principii was used and is still used for this purpose; if you want to use the actual term of art for these purposes, it's a much better choice. From a prescriptivist standpoint, "beg the question" is broken and wrong; from a descriptivist standpoint, it's fine when used with appropriate audiences but in common usage it will be misunderstood. Criticizing the common usage of it to mean "raises the question" is foolishly inconsistent with the implicit prescriptivism of such criticism. This sort of inconsistency is extremely common with presciptivism.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:25 AM on June 11, 2013 [30 favorites]


"Beg the question" is kind of a special case, because, while it is a useful concept is a stupid phrase since a) it's impossible to intuit its meaning and b) it strongly suggests a meaning that is also rhetorically useful.

If only there were a really good substitute for the phrase, though. One can say "that's circular reasoning," of course, but the beautiful thing about "begging the question" is that it captures the way in which the circularity of the argument is concealed by the assumption of the premise. "Circular reasoning" seems better used to describe cases where the circularity is explicit. "You are assuming your conclusion in your premise" is unwieldy. Having grown up having "begging the question" as an everyday idiom I do often find myself struggling to find some effective alternative; on the other hand I do try because I know that most people have no idea that it ever meant anything other than "raises the question."
posted by yoink at 7:27 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back to irony: the original FPP article blows it when it calls verbal irony using a word/phrase to indicate its opposite. The Guardian article cited upthread calls it any "disjunction between a word and its intended meaning." This is a more subtle and accurate definition of literary verbal irony. Reading poetry, especially, a word used ironically might indicate the meaning of a word to be anywhere along the spectrum between its literal meaning and its opposite, in fact, it can have more than one simultaneous meaning. That's part of the beauty of the artistic use of language.

On a tangential note, one of the 1076 comments below the original article claims the most misused word in the English language is "surreal." This is obviously not the case, but, as a quasi-Surrealist myself, I find the use of the word to mean just plain old strange very annoying. But, as most of us do, I keep my moth shut (I'll leave that typo in.). Unless somebody posts odd art on Metafilter and calls it surreal. Then, behind the cover of my nom de plume, I just gotta say something.
posted by kozad at 7:28 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Petitio principii was used and is still used for this purpose; if you want to use the actual term of art for these purposes, it's a much better choice.

Anyone who understands the term petitio principii will also understand what you mean by "beg the question" so it's really no help.
posted by yoink at 7:30 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's the slipperiness of language that makes it useful. If words had exactly one meaning we wouldn't have a language, we'd have a label-maker. That someone would probably then label "label maker", thinking they were being ironic.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:35 AM on June 11, 2013


"Anyone who understands the term petitio principii will also understand what you mean by 'beg the question' so it's really no help."

Well, if your audience includes some folk who won't understand petitio principi, they will have a shot of figuring it out from context while, in contrast, using "begs the question" will cause those people to be confused, thinking that you mean "raises the question".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ann Perkins!
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I like kittens more then puppies." No, you idiot.

Hey. Calling someone an idiot just because they prefer to eat juvenile felines before juvenile canines is totally uncalled for.
posted by erniepan at 7:42 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the slipperiness of language that makes it useful.

Yes, especially when used for artistic expression, but in everyday speech (and to a lesser degree in written non-poetic language) as well. Language's ubiquitous ambiguity is one reason all invented languages - which are generally very logical, economical, and unambiguous - are bound to fail. We thrive on 50 Shades of Meaning. It makes life more interesting.
posted by kozad at 7:44 AM on June 11, 2013


This is a real quality post.

It has characteristic or attribute.
posted by entropone at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2013


I effect affects to make people nonplussed.

Well, I effectively effect affects with my effects. The effects, they are literally special.
posted by mrgoat at 8:03 AM on June 11, 2013


It's interesting to me how the changes in how certain words are used gets under some people's skin, while other words don't. While I'm certainly not thrilled about how "literally" is being used these days, and I'm pretty meh on ironic's slippery definition, it's the use of "decimate" right now that drives me crazy.

The term originally means to kill every 10th man (i.e., to go through a mutinous Roman legion and kill 10% of it's members). It literally means to remove one-tenth. Today, however, we use to word to mean an extreme level of reduction - more akin to annihilate.

Part of me gets that the language has evolved, and this is the the way it goes. But for some reason it really, really bugs me.

I'm also learning that if you care about our language in a prescriptivist way, you should never listen to or read anything to do with sports journalism.
posted by nubs at 8:03 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The article links to a definition of "ironic" in its first sentence - good form, for an article that purports to be criticizing misuse of an English word.

Let's look at one part of that definition:
3. coincidental; unexpected: It was ironic that I was seated next to my ex-husband at the dinner.
Now let's look at the articles first two "mistaken use" examples:
Often the word “ironic” is misused to remark on a coincidence, such as “This is the third time today we’ve run into each other. How ironic.”

It is also mistakenly used to describe something out of the ordinary or unusual: “Yesterday was a beautiful, warm day in November. It was really ironic.”
Both are clearly coincidental and unexpected.

The article proves itself incorrect in just two sentences, but goes on to screw that point to the sticking point with the third.

And the author is not alone. Most internet wags looooooove pointing out how X is not ironic - most especially Alanis Morissette's famous lyrics. Yet: each and every one of those lyric lines describes something coincidental and unexpected.

Listen up, pedants: The lyrics were great, even textbook-worthy, examples of actual irony.

They were not examples of "literary irony". But then again, Alanis didn't name the song "Literarily Ironic".

--

I suggest that "irony" is the most miscorrected word in the English language.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
posted by koolkat at 8:08 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What often amazes me about these discussions is that a lot of people (like my dad) who are generally progressive, change-loving folks still hold fast to this idea that people "misuse" language and that such misuse is ugly and bad. I'll never understand that. "Literally" and "ironic" are indeed in the midst of a change, and that's just how it goes. Think of the hundreds and thousands of words and grammatical rules that we have now in English that would have once struck you as "wrong," and ask yourself why "ironic" is so damn important to keep as is.
posted by ORthey at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today, however, we use to word to mean an extreme level of reduction - more akin to annihilate.

Today, and since the 1663. (Another, more in-depth cite).

I have no problem with prescriptivism, as long as we know what we're being pedantic about.
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most grotesque of all is when the misused verb 'decimate' enters into partnership with the no less misused adverb 'literally.' Somehow or other this last word seems to have lost all trace of its natural meaning, and to be used pretty much as one might in different contexts use 'very' or 'greatly.' The queerest case of this last fashion was when a penny-a-liner said that something or other, most likely the acting of some player, 'literally brought down the house,' a feat which one has commonly thought to be peculiar to Samson. -- Edward A. Freeman. Longman's Magazine, 1885

so this isn't the latest fad
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:16 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having grown up squarely in the Alanis Morissette demographic and spent far too much of my life mocking Ironic, I have come to the conclusion that she is instead the all-time irony judo master, for having constructed the following:

"Isn't it ironic, that this song which I have written to celebrate irony contains within itself zero examples of actual irony?"

That's crazy fractal Escher-level irony right there.


I am also in that demographic. Jagged Little Pill was released 18 years ago this week and I have heard this keen insight roughly every three months since then. I expect people will keep trotting out this bon mot until they shovel the dirt on me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:18 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's the use of "decimate" right now that drives me crazy

I think that confuses the foreign root of a word with the English meaning. If the usage meaning "destroy a large portion of" has been more common for centuries now, then that is what the word means in English. Foreign roots are a poor guide for English meaning.
posted by stopgap at 8:23 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's like, you know, whatever!
Totally.
Dude.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:25 AM on June 11, 2013


We need you to literally give up the funk. No, wait.
posted by thelonius at 8:32 AM on June 11, 2013


ironic" are indeed in the midst of a change, and that's just how it goes

I think people are overstating the permanence of Alanis' effect on liguistic history. We don't really know if "ironic" is actually changing. It's also quite possible that more educated will use it properly, while the word will slowly fall out of use with less educated people.
posted by spaltavian at 8:34 AM on June 11, 2013


ORthey: "Literally" and "ironic" are indeed in the midst of a change, and that's just how it goes.
ORthey, while I agree with the rest of your points, "literally" has meant "emphatically, but figuratively" for centuries. Prescriptivists have been railing against this usage for about 100 years, AFAICT, which makes the "literally only means 'word-for-word precisely accurate'" idea the new one... that's never been accepted beyond the confines of schoolteachers, formal writing, and prescriptivists.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 AM on June 11, 2013


Question for "the original point" comes from the "the question" sense, the matter being argued. That's reasonable but, these days, it ends up doing half the work in causing the confusion about what the term of art "beg the question" means.

Yeah, this seems to really be the problem - "begs" is fine, but "the question" is ambiguous. Without clarification or familiarity with the phrase, the listener will wonder "what question?" It seems it should have been translated as "begs the principle" or "begs the premise"...

I think perhaps irony is a fuzzy definition, like "funny" - it's the dual consciousness of what is expected (or meant) and what is happening (or stated), and their being surprisingly opposed, but it's partially dependent on the subjective. One person may find a situation ironic that another person doesn't, based on whether they experience that unexpected contraposition...
posted by mdn at 8:35 AM on June 11, 2013


Mark Liberman hypothesizes that this might have been motivated by a preference for very plain English, preferring beg over postulate or assume.

Thanks for the link-- this is very interesting. I've worked on a project with Mark. Will have to ask him about this sometime.
posted by supercres at 8:38 AM on June 11, 2013


I get that language changes. But, surely it is still fistula to use words incorrectly; not everything that doorknobs broadcast is an example of linguistic hazelnuts.
posted by thelonius at 8:38 AM on June 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


The use cases in Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic" are literally "ironic," if you honestly want to parse the term literally.

The most abused word in the English language is "love." :\
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2013


Foreign roots are a poor guide for English meaning.

Indeed, but sometimes unpacking them reveals all sort of goodies. Backpacking around Europe in my twenties, I used to wonder at how hostel in English was auberge in French and Herberge in German. The words were clearly connected to one another, but hostel was obviously related to the French hôtel (hotel), as pretty much everywhere you see a circumflex in French, you learn it is the tombstone of an s in a shallow grave: forest/forêt tempest/tempête inquest/enquête.

Anyway, I later learned that centuries ago in Old High German a heriberga was an army encampment. This is identical to the term in Saxon and this word is grandfather to our own borough and the modern German Burg. Heriberga made its way into Old French as herbergere (by then meaning merely a place for anyone to camp), and later spun off herbergeur, which was at first someone who stayed in such a place and then later the advance guy who went a day ahead off the main group to scout out the lodgings situation. It is this latter sense that it passes into English as harbinger.

When you speak of the robin as a harbinger of spring, you do not mean to rouse the ghosts of Saxon soldiers and medieval pilgrims, but you do anyway.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I have no problem with prescriptivism, as long as we know what we're being pedantic about."

But that's the really interesting — and infuriating — thing about prescriptivism. It's so often either factually wrong or inconsistent. With rare exceptions, it's low quality pedantry.

I harp on this all the time, and not just here, but prescriptivist peeving and rage makes much more sense when you look at it from the perspective of Bourdieuian cultural capital. It doesn't really matter where exactly you are on the ladder of accumulation of cultural capital, it's all about protecting the value of that accumulated cultural capital and therefore you have to a) defend against the pretensions of those below you, and b) minimize the value of the accumulations above you. So if you're a good speller but without much post-secondary education, you'll attack and ridicule poor spelling but also mock those who are pedantic about the use of the word irony (because who cares, right?). If you're the type who cares about irony, you'll peeve about it but think that worrying about "begs the question" is stupid. In this way, language peeving exactly parallels every other cultural capital topic, such as taste in art or fashion.

Or, say, reading. That other thread is interesting in the way that for many involved it's all about the "rightness" of valuing a certain kind of reading. Books, but not so much magazines, but also not so much canonical texts.

Especially in the US, education is pretty egalitarian and therefore is a relatively easily available means of accumulating cultural capital. So there's a heightened level of language usage prescriptivist peeving here because there's such a close association between educational attainment and prestige English. For someone who's put in a great deal of effort into secondary and post-secondary education to be very competent in prestige English, the idea that the rabble could redefine irony and our culture would accept this, that dictionaries would accommodate this, well, that's threatening. It devalues their accumulated cultural capital, the value of their education.

Meanwhile, they have little idea that many of the usages they enshrine as being naturally, even necessarily, correct are products of a late nineteenth century prescriptivist fad and that many usages they deplore as modern degradations are actually found in use by well-respected authors for hundreds of years. They don't know this because their education didn't reach that level.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is so random.
posted by four panels at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


prescriptivist peeving and rage makes much more sense when you look at it from the perspective of Bourdieuian cultural capital.

Doesn't everything?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:48 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or alternately, MetaFilter: makes much more sense when you look at it from the perspective of Bourdieuian cultural capital.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:49 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you're a good speller but without much post-secondary education, you'll attack and ridicule poor spelling but also mock those who are pedantic about the use of the word irony (because who cares, right?). If you're the type who cares about irony, you'll peeve about it but think that worrying about "begs the question" is stupid.

Then what about people peeving about peeving? Top of the chain?
posted by supercres at 8:50 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Then what about people peeving about peeving? Top of the chain?"

Yeah, I think that's right. I'm embarrassed to say so, but ... yeah.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"literally" has meant "emphatically, but figuratively" for centuries.

IAmBroom, you're right, but I don't think we disagree - I just think the change is very, very slow. I'm willing to believe that hundreds of years from now, "literally" may have any connection to its literal (heh) meaning anymore.

We don't really know if "ironic" is actually changing. It's also quite possible that more educated will use it properly, while the word will slowly fall out of use with less educated people.

Spaltavian: But... if people use it a certain way, then it's ALREADY changed. That's the whole point of a descriptivist view - a group of people, whether educated or not, is using "ironic" in a way that is different than its dictionary definition. Alanis is merely the most visible and became the poster-child for "incorrect ironic" rather than the more accurate truth, which is - let's call it - "common ironic."
posted by ORthey at 8:53 AM on June 11, 2013


Not "top of the chain" so much as "the same thing one level up"
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:53 AM on June 11, 2013


You repo men, you're all out to fuckin' lunch.
posted by fikri at 8:54 AM on June 11, 2013


I harp on this all the time, and not just here, but prescriptivist peeving and rage makes much more sense when you look at it from the perspective of Bourdieuian cultural capital. It doesn't really matter where exactly you are on the ladder of accumulation of cultural capital, it's all about protecting the value of that accumulated cultural capital and therefore you have to a) defend against the pretensions of those below you, and b) minimize the value of the accumulations above you.

Yes. A political cartoon of MetaFilter would have the big evil monster labeled with the phrase "CLASS INSECURITY."
posted by invitapriore at 8:56 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know what I am starting to suspect is an actual example of the well-known phenomenon of vowel shifting? The lose/loose thing. This really drives me nuts, but I am considering withdrawing from the field of battle.

I'm finding that, in general, things go better for me the less I point out others' small errors in usage, spelling, or grammar, too.
posted by thelonius at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2013


You know what I am starting to suspect is an actual example of the well-known phenomenon of vowel shifting? The lose/loose thing.

Well, it's definitely a change in spelling that's becoming widespread, but I don't see how it's vowel-shifting. The pronunciation of the word isn't changing, so far as I can tell; just the way people spell it.
posted by yoink at 9:15 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would describe myself as a "soft prescriptivist" - I'm not interested in preserving distinctions like further versus farther, or let versus leave. I agree with Ivan Fyodorovitch that peeving of this type is generally a way of asserting class distinctions. I am however concerned with the way misuse of words can reduce the descriptive breadth of a language by turning unique words into mere colorful synonyms for existing, commonplace words. For example, there is often a lot of debate as to what situations or states of affairs constitute irony, which is good, because it means that in general people are in agreement that the word irony has a particular and highly specific meaning that is not covered by other English words. To simply accept that ironic now means "remarkable or surprising" because it is commonly used that way is problematic, because there are many words that are synonyms for remarkable or surprising, but no readily available synonyms for irony that would capture its particular shade of meaning. In other words, it is possible that we could lose our ability to express the state of affairs captured in the "old" definition of ironic altogether.
posted by adecusatis at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


The lose/loose thing. This really drives me nuts, but I am considering withdrawing from the field of battle.

Not only will I die upon this hill, I will take everyone else with me.
posted by elizardbits at 9:41 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not only will I die upon this hill, I will take everyone else with me.

Looser!
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


You want irony in a song?

"You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you"

There you go.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the loose/lose I tend to react to what they actually wrote rather than what they meant and am wholly confused (in a probably very annoying and pedantic way) as to what they actually mean.

ie
Them - Oh no I just know I am going to loose this small key for my new locker.
Me - Cant you buy a wrench and tighten it up a bit? Perhaps you can just tighten it up every day and you'll be fine.
posted by koolkat at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I would have less of a problem with lose/loose if the people that got it wrong spelled it "looze." I don't like linguistic drift when it crushes other perfectly good words like some impassive glacier.
posted by stopgap at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2013


yoink - you are of course right, the sound isn't changing. But will it, after enough years of "We can't loose this game" in print?

English spelling is so irregular that perhaps this example is not so interesting to linguists; I wouldn't know for sure.
posted by thelonius at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2013



Prescriptivism and descriptivism are perspectives; strategies for organizing phenomena, not inviolate mutually exclusive character traits.

I use both every day.

There are situations wherein your pet peeve (or mine) are incredibly* salient; there are many others where it doesn't really apply and you can jolly well give it a rest.


--------------------------------
*Can you guess mine?
posted by Herodios at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


in general people are in agreement that the word irony has a particular and highly specific meaning

This is a statement that is false on its face. Anyone with any specialist interest in irony will tell you that it is a remarkably complex, slippery and capacious term. Try exploring the literature on "Romantic Irony" for a while and then come back here and offer up a "particular and highly specific meaning" of the term.

To simply accept that ironic now means "remarkable or surprising" because it is commonly used that way


I don't find that people do, in fact, use it to mean simply "remarkable or surprising," though. I think it's a false claim that this is what it has come to mean (and it's certainly not what, say, Morrissette is using it to mean). I think what happens is simply that people who deliberately read other's use of the term uncharitably by ignoring the contextual frames that in fact explain their sense that a situation is "ironic" impute this meaning to uses of the word which clearly mean something more than that.

Typically, in fact, what the word means is "it is as if some higher power had ordained this chance event with a specific intent in mind"--which is to say "this is like dramatic or situational irony in a play or novel." That is why coincidence, in particular, is often branded "ironic." But it's not a mistake to call a coincidence ironic; the oft-heard complaint "that's not irony, that's coincidence" is meaningless: the terms are not mutually exclusive. Coincidence becomes "ironic" when it is felt that there is something more than mere "coincidence" afoot: that the mischance is such that it speaks of some higher ordering: rain on your wedding day etc. In literary criticism such doubled regimes of understanding have been understood as dramatic irony for a very long time (rain on a wedding day which at the time seems to be mere happenstance but which we later come to see as a sign of troubles to come would be a classic instance).
posted by yoink at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2013


English spelling is so irregular that perhaps this example is not so interesting to linguists;

Spelling, in general, is not of interest to linguists.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2013


But will it, after enough years of "We can't loose this game" in print?

Perhaps: but if so it would be the consonant (s/z), not the vowel that would be shifting.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2013


If only we could cleave the two definitions of "literally" or the various definitions of "irony" found in contemporary English.
posted by straight at 10:07 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


My problem with the misuse of literally, besides the obvious ones, is that it’s usually not needed at all, just another filler word. From this thread;

"It was literally hotter than hell". Hotter than hell is not emphatic enough?

I know why people sometimes do it, "figuratively" doesn’t flow from the tongue. "He figuratively fell down dead" isn’t something you’re likely to hear, and "he fell down dead" might cause unwanted alarm. I can see how that is a legitimate usage as some here have described. I’m not going to do it, but it looks good on you.

But "they literally brought down the house" is bad because "they brought down the house" is an easier to say and understand sentence and "literally" adds nothing to it except confusion. You don’t get a sense of an even more exciting performance by adding "literally" to that sentence, just as you don’t think "literally hotter than hell" is more dramatic or of a higher temperature than "hotter than hell".
posted by bongo_x at 10:10 AM on June 11, 2013


In other words, it is possible that we could lose our ability to express the state of affairs captured in the "old" definition of ironic altogether.

This is a frequently stated concern, and it falls flat on two levels: one, it implies that all speakers of the English language are members of the same speech community and so share a common usage trajectory, and two, it's always phrased as though the space of meanings is shrinking. I'm sure you'll be able to find a sufficiently large group of people who are familiar with the "old" definition of irony for as long as you'll live, and I'm also sure that, even if that weren't the case, many of the new shades of meaning that arise from novel usages will be equally compelling. I'm sure an immense number of meanings have already been lost to us over the centuries, and it's no great tragedy. It wouldn't be a great tragedy if that sense of "irony" were to vanish too. If it does, it's because we found more pressing things to talk about.
posted by invitapriore at 10:11 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


bongo_x: But "They literally brought down the house" is bad: because "they brought down the house" is an easier to say and understand sentence and "literally" adds nothing to it except only confusion. You don’t get a sense of an even more exciting performance by adding "literally" to that sentence, just as you don’t think "literally hotter than hell" is more dramatic or / of a higher temperature than "hotter than hell".
Unnecessary words.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The word "sanction" is a weird one too. Used as a verb, it means to "give official permission or approval for (an action)." Used as a noun, it means "a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule." So the word can be used to express approval or disapproval.

The United States sanctioned efforts at the Security Council to implement sanctions against North Korea.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 10:31 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Foreign roots are a poor guide for English meaning.

True enough
posted by nubs at 10:32 AM on June 11, 2013


"Spelling, in general, is not of interest to linguists."

Spelling, in general, is part of orthography which is, in fact, of interest to linguists.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:32 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife is driven bonkers by the word "overpowered" as used by our Minecraft-loving son. Adding more and more enchantments to that sword doesn't make it "ridiculously overpowered", kid.
posted by monospace at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trope.
posted by RobotHero at 11:50 AM on June 11, 2013


unique ... there are not varying degrees of uniqueness

"Special", then?
posted by Twang at 12:05 PM on June 11, 2013


People aren't using "literally" because they don't know the word "figuratively", though. They're using it as hyperbole. As in, "I will seriously shoot myself in the face if this light doesn't change." Nobody would assume that person was confused about the definition of "seriously" (or was making a bona fide suicide threat). Is it because "literally" is a slightly more academic word that people assume it's being used ignorantly, as opposed to for a specific effect? I can get thinking that it's getting played out or tired or losing its impact, but I don't think it's being used due to poor education or skipping English or whatever. People will find another intensifier in a few years.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


On loose/lose: this is not a verbal or definitional mistake. It is simply a spelling error, like "alot," which I have circled on hundreds of high school student essays. Although I am wondering if "alot" might become a word someday. There are orthographic shifts as well as shifts in meaning.
posted by kozad at 12:41 PM on June 11, 2013


The "unique" thing also bugs me because it's not like it's impossible to imagine a continuous property that ranges from "common" on one end to "unique" on the other. There are definitely things in the middle of that scale, so it seems pretty arbitrary that only one of those poles can legally take a qualifier.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:43 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Unique" has always taken modifiers. Garner's MAU calls this usage "slovenly," but I am willing to suffer the wrath of SNOOTs here. The word is not as unique as they may think.
posted by stopgap at 12:44 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The word "sanction" is a weird one too. Used as a verb, it means to "give official permission or approval for (an action)." Used as a noun, it means "a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule." So the word can be used to express approval or disapproval.

And guys, it turns out flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. Boy, that is one lesson I won't soon forget.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:03 PM on June 11, 2013


kozad: Although I am wondering if "alot" might become a word someday.

I care about this alot.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


More seriously, there are a bunch of words that hold near-diametrical opposite meanings. To cleave is to violently chop something in two, but to cleave to is to cling to something; to dust the table is to remove something, but to dust the cake is to add something, and no one is ever really sure what "to draw the curtains" actually means.

Last year in the course of my job I was waiting for information that some task at one of our remote locations had been completed. I received an e-mail from a third party in the organization located much nearer to where the location was, although not actually there. He began the e-mail, "Just wanted to confirm that _____ has been done." I wrote back and asked did he mean he was asking me to verify for his records that the task had been done, or was he writing to report to me that it had been done? I thought it is frustrating when someone is trying to communicate something and has chosen his words so sloppily that he has conveyed nothing whatsoever.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:13 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


my literals are drifting
I'm so far from the pier, and I can't reach my meta oars
and it's ironic that I even should notice,
and the unique distribution of modifiers among my linguals
require me to be diligent...Oh...
Ah crap.
Now I can't figure out where to put the Only.

What I need is a good synodrome.

I'll wait.
posted by mule98J at 1:22 PM on June 11, 2013


I thought it is frustrating when someone is trying to communicate something and has chosen his words so sloppily that he has conveyed nothing whatsoever.

And mere minutes after I posted this, I found this online:

Extensive Ancient Underground Network Discovered From Scotland to Turkey -

Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of Stone Age underground tunnels, stretching across Europe from Scotland to Turkey, perplexing researchers as to their original purpose.


This is true in the sense that the USA has a network of subways that stretches from Boston to Los Angeles.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:30 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


What you never heard of the Izmir-Scunthorpe tunnel?
posted by Mister_A at 1:39 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this the thread where I can just say out loud how much I dislike the word "Winningest"?
This is what happens when you let jocks make words!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 1:57 PM on June 11, 2013


"Somehow or other this last word seems to have lost all trace of its natural meaning, and to be used pretty much as one might in different contexts use 'very' or 'greatly.'"

Ironically, "very" is yet another word that once meant "truly, factually" and changed to mean "greatly, to a large extent."
posted by mbrubeck at 2:47 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


straight: "If only we could cleave the two definitions of "literally" or the various definitions of "irony" found in contemporary English."

mmm, cleavage.
posted by chavenet at 3:13 PM on June 11, 2013


If I am holding something, like a suitcase, I might loose my grip; or I might lose my grip. The effect would be the same, with the only difference being my intent.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 PM on June 11, 2013


Maybe it is just my dialect, but if I follow your meaning, I have always heard it as "loosening one's grip."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2013


Yeah, I thought that would be "loosen my grip". No?
posted by bongo_x at 4:10 PM on June 11, 2013


I mainly use ironic to imply that something happened to someone against all odds to convey a sense of cosmic farce or poetic justice. For example, if a fisherman became hooked in the mouth after eating a piece of cheese that had been baited by someone else, that would be ironic to me, but mostly unbelievable.
posted by Brian B. at 4:16 PM on June 11, 2013


Yeah, I thought that would be "loosen my grip". No?

Yes, but not exclusively.
loose (lus)
v.i.
25. to let go a hold.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:24 PM on June 11, 2013


Language changes.
posted by mammary16 at 2:01 PM on June 11


Everything changes. And sometimes change is good, and sometimes it is bad. Smart people use their knowledge and discernment to make a judgement about which changes are good, and which are bad. Other people give the verbal equivalent of the shrugged shoulder and thoughtlessly waved hand of the person too lazy to actually think about things.
posted by Decani at 5:56 PM on June 11, 2013


"Other people give the verbal equivalent of the shrugged shoulder and thoughtlessly waved hand of the person too lazy to actually think about things."

I suppose that's what the assertion "language changes" looks like to people who are too lazy to actually think about things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:22 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Verily, a burn!
posted by en forme de poire at 10:12 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


“That is sooooo ironic.” This sentence is used frequently — and usually incorrectly — in American English.

Ironically, a word cannot be used "usually incorrectly". If a word or sentence is used by most people to mean (A), then that's the meaning, and it doesn't matter that a minority of people insist that it means (B). Mind you, it's not their language and they don't get to define the meaning of words, even if they think they do.
posted by sour cream at 10:58 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, you seem to be saying that the "usually" used meaning is the meaning of a word? That really does make the quoted sentence ironic.

Or does ironic now mean something else? I am confused.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:33 AM on June 12, 2013


I am lately seeing what seems to be people misjudging the meaning of the phrase "so-called." As I understand it, it is meant to imply that doubt exists as to the claimed status of someone or something: "so-called experts," or "so-called leaders in the field." Lately I see it employed online and in letters to the editor as a term of general opprobrium: a conservative writer mocking "the so-called Supreme Court," was one of my favourites.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:14 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that last one is meant as "the so-called Supreme Court."
posted by bjrubble at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2013


Imma let you finish but Stephen Colbert is literally the best ironist in the US right now.
posted by wobh at 8:06 AM on June 12, 2013


I dunno, I thought this guy was a pretty good ironist.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:16 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Worth it for this comment:

"when i was courting my wife, she continually abused & misused the word ironic. As much as it frustrated me, i was (then) too polite to say anything. One day we passed a site where a car had crashed into a billboard about safer driving. She responded ‘oh my god, how funny’.
Arrggggghhhh!!!!!"

posted by applemeat at 9:15 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


the so-called Supreme Court
So Miss Johnson returned to her typing and dreamed her little dreamy dreams, unaware as she was of the cruel trick fate had in store for her. For Miss Johnson was about to fall victim of the dreaded international Chinese Communist Conspiracy. Yes, these fanatical thieves under the leadership of the so-called Mao Tse-tung had caught Miss Johnson off guard for one brief but fatal moment and destroyed her. Just as they are ready to do anytime free men anywhere waver in their defence of democracy.

That's why nine out of ten small countries choose American defence.

Or Crelm toothpaste . . .
posted by Herodios at 11:51 AM on June 12, 2013


How many times has a woman misunderstood when a man said "I would rather just cuddle then have sex anyway"?
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2013


wut
posted by en forme de poire at 4:40 PM on June 12, 2013


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