Teach the "teacher"

Hi, I’m not a teacher but help out some of the colleagues in my department by teaching them once or twice per week (sorry t.b. moonlighting on you guys’ turf …), kind of a team-building thing more than real classes really, but anyway …

We recently stumbled upon the word “ironically” in a China Post article we were reading, and I got myself deeper and deeper into trouble trying to explain to them what irony is, making things worse by mentioning sarcasm and satire … About the only “principle” they seemed to understand was “humour” … It seemed to me they had a basic, possibly cultural, problem with these “tools of expression” … Any helpful tips on how I can help them understand? Thanks, Xpet.

I usually explain it as fengci (satire or sarcastic).

I guess you would also need to see the sentence in context. Because “Ironically” is sometimes use as a more colorful “however.”

I can only explain through examples.

What is irony?

Your car being stolen from the police pound
An architect getting lost in the building he designed (or maybe that’s just stupidity)

One dictionary defines runs as such "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result "

So how do you explain incongruity?

Really it is when an unexpected result occurs that it is humorous because of the situation.

Still easier to give lots of examples!!! :blush: :help:

Thanks guys, I’ll try my luck with incongruity … :smiley:

Yes, slim, that’s exactly the kind of examples I was groping for, but my brain seemed to be frozen or something … I think if I give them enough examples like these, they have to get an incling of what I’m talking about, we’ll see …

Dropout, thanks for the hint, but in our example they were actually referring to something as being “ironic” (the story was that of a sw company that markets its own anti-pop-up ad sw, but advertises them in pop-ups … seemed a clear case to me, not to them however …).

Thanks, Xpet.

I’m no help, sorry, but that’s pretty funny. :laughing: It’s not a Taiwanese company is it?

I think I read about this mob. Can’t remember where they were based.

They marketed their anti-popup software by bugging people with popups. ‘Want this pop-up to go away? Give me money’ sort of thing. If this is the case it’s extortion rather than irony, which may have confused the sutdents somewhat.

I read somewhere (it may have been at laughlabs.co.uk) that laughter is an evolved social behaviour that has it’s origins in a shared reaction to escape from danger. ie the outcome is not what we thought was going to happen and we express our relief by laughing together. A smiley face is not that different from a ‘fear face’ in terms of what your muscles are doing either.

‘Humour’ is basically a name for an outcome that is different from what one might expect, creating a tension that is resolved by laughing. A traffic cone on top of a statue is incongruous, therefore funny - at least the first time. Irony is a bit more subtle.

I think irony is more to do with something that you do having unforseen consequences for the person doing the action. The popular story about Dr Guillotin being beheaded by his own invention would be a good one. Or the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK being arrested for trying to pick up prostitutes a few years ago.

That song by Alanis Morissette didn’t have any good exampled in that I recall.

You are right! That song (isn’t it ironic?) did not contain any real examples of irony … which I guess is ironic!


I googled ‘misuse of irony’ and found this from a blog, which I think you’ll agree, is pretty funny.

[quote=“big dog eat child blog”] One time I was hanging out with my friend we’ll call him Bill and everything was going great. We were sniffing glue and punching each other in the stomach, you know guy stuff. Anyway, then Bill looked over at me with a glazed eye and some bovine perspiration on his upper lip area. And he said, “isn’t it ironic that we both have the same color t-shirt on.” So I said, “I believe that could best be described as a coincidence and not irony.” Then I hit him, and I hit him, and hit him and hit him, until he stopped moving and then I threw his body in the river and drove home like nothing ever happened.

  Ha ha ha, crimes of passion are funny. Anyway, irony is an important linguistic tool, which can be used as a way to convey criticism, disdain, or just plain be funny. Throughout history many famous people have used irony to amuse us and advance our society; such as Lenny Bruce, Michael Moore, Andy Kaufman and David Foster Wallace. However as Bill demonstrated irony is often misused in our society. We will first examine the causes of the misuse of irony, the effects of this misuse, and how we can make irony be used correctly. 

  According to the English Language irony means full of iron, it is also a complex way of looking at things or expressing a point. There are many types of irony, such as situational irony, which is the discrepancy between appearance and reality, expectation and outcome, like a health nut getting hit by a granola truck, or Hitler's thousand year reich, because he thought it would last forever. 

   Then there's verbal irony, which is when someone says the opposite of what they mean, and is generally sarcastic in nature, like when Johnathan Swift suggested in his essay "A Modest Proposal" that English people should eat Irish babies to point out how the English don't value the lives of Irish. 

   There's also dramatic irony, which is where the joke is on the speaker, like when Dan Quayle said, "I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix." Or when the British turned the tables on Johnny Swift and ate Irish children, boy was his face red. 

    And there's Socratic irony, which involved feigning ignorance but was much deeper than that. Whatever, good thing he's dead. Despite its many practical applications irony is often misused in our society. For uno it's used way too much. For two-o People don't use irony correctly. And for three-0 it's used in an unhealthy manner.[/quote]

Zoe Williams gives a good inter-LEC-tewl account of all the various uses and abuses of the word ‘irony’ in this Guardian article.

Didn’t Ethan Hawke mumble something about it in Reality Bites? “Irony is when the actual meaning is the complete opposite of the intended meaning,” or something.

Then he finished his cup of coffee and left Winona standing there mulling, pontificating and contemplating the depth of her tortured, misunderstood friend. Fucking crybabies. Sorry, it’s hot and Spack’s smilies are mooning me and giving me the finger (ooh!)

Isn’t that irony? A smiley being pissed off?

To add to the biggest blunder in the song “Ironic” to make it a true case of irony:

Rain on your wedding day would be ironic if the groom was a weatherman because you expect the weatherman to predict the weather, but rain on a wedding day is usually unexpected.

To save up every single dime to buy a computer, leaving you broke until your next payday and the next day, it gets a few hundred dollars knocked off it.

A vegetarian getting eaten by an animal.

A pissed-off smilie would actually be an oxymoron, wouldn’t it?

That was a hell of an article, Spack.

Am I particularly stupid, or was it nonsense?

Does this have to be an ‘or’ question? (Looks for “running away” emoticon…)

I think she (Zoe) is going in for a bit of tongue-in-cheek pseudo-waffle.


Braxtonhicks, it’s apparently a Californian company by the name of “D-Squared Solutions LLC”, based in San Diego … see article url above!

Spack, thanks for this little treasure, hilarious!


Happy hour tonight, my love, and I know what you look like.

Happy hour tonight, my love, and I know what you look like.[/quote]

:homer: D’oh! :help: