Posts Tagged ‘sarcasm’

A Lesson Plan Which Utilizes “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan to Highlight the Distinction Between Sarcasm and Verbal Irony

March 1, 2014

casm

Americans frequently use the term sarcasm to describe verbal irony.  This needs to stop.

Verbal Irony Definition: A speaker means something different than, often the opposite of, what she says.

Thus, verbal irony occurs when a speaker says what she DOESN’T mean.

Examples of verbal irony:

“Oh, great! It’s raining and I forgot my umbrella.”

 “I can’t wait to start writing these forty-seven reports.”

“My walk home was only twenty-three blocks.”

Sarcasm definition: the implementation of contemptuous language or verbal irony in order to mock or insult.

Sarcasm is often a subset of verbal of verbal irony which occurs when a speaker says what he DOESN’T mean with malicious intent.

Examples of sarcasm:

“I just love working with incompetent people.”

“You call this a cup of coffee?”

“I was hoping to encounter a competent sales clerk today.”

 Lesson Plans:

Step #1Teach this life-altering lesson on the three types of irony.

Step #2. Ask class to reiterate the difference between verbal irony and sarcasm.

Step #3. Have each student read aloud a line of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan.  (If you have less than thirty-two students, some lucky students will get to read two lines.  If you have more than thirty-two students, your students’ parents should sue the local school board.)

Step #4. Listen to the actual song.  (I like this version, but If you want to rock, try Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan together.)

Step #5. Ask students if they have ever said mean and angry things to someone during a romantic breakup.  Ask them why anyone would ever want to hurt someone with whom he has shared a special part of his life.  (You will probably get some interesting answers.)

Step #6. Number students off into groups of no more than three.  Instruct each group to list at least six examples of sarcasm from the song and explain their answers.

Step #7. Collect student work and review it as a whole-class activity.

Additional lyrics that can be used to discuss verbal irony:

Consider the following lines from “Troublemaker” by Weezer

I’m such a mystery
As anyone can see
There isn’t anybody else
Exactly quite like me
And when it’s party time
Like 1999
I’ll party by myself because I’m such a special guy

Also, there are some lovely examples of verbal irony in the song “Walking Slow” by Jackson Browne.  See if your class can spot them.

by Richard W. Bray

Didn’t MEAN it

September 12, 2012

aaaaamean

I didn’t mean it as an insult
When I asked who cuts your hair
I think your hair is perfect
If that’s the style you’re gonna wear

I didn’t mean it as an insult
When I said your kids were foolish
It’s costing me a fortune
That my offspring are so schoolish

I didn’t mean it as an insult
When I asked about your age
Experience breeds wisdom
So you must be sage

I didn’t mean it as an insult
When I called your car a clunker
I’d save a lot of cash
If I got myself a junker

I didn’t mean it as an insult
When I said your house was small
I think it’s rather cozy
I should get one for my doll

It’s really not my problem
If you’re quick to take offense
You might be neurotic
Or maybe you’re just dense

by Richard W. Bray

The Three Types of Irony and an Amusing Teacher Story

December 4, 2010

Coincidence is NOT irony

As George Carlin and others have pointed out, sportscasters, particularly baseball announcers, have an irony problem. Many of them simply don’t understand what the word means. Usually they mistake coincidence for situational irony. For example, an announcer might say,

“It’s ironic that Stubby McGillicutty broke the single season RBI record in Anaheim where Angel great Jackie Fullcup, whose record McGillicutty broke, spent his entire career.”

No. IT’S COINCIDENTAL.

The Three Types of Irony

1) Verbal IronySaying what you DON’T mean

Definition: A speaker means something different than, often the opposite of, what she says.

Examples:

“I can’t wait to start writing these forty-seven reports.”

“My walk home was only twenty-three blocks.”

(Note: The terms sarcasm and irony are often used interchangeably, but there is a semantic difference. Sarcasm is meant to insult or cause harm. So strictly speaking, “Great, I forgot my umbrella” is ironic, whereas “You call this a cup of coffee?” is sarcastic.)

2) Situational IronyThe gods are laughing at me by giving me ten thousand spoons when I just need a knife.*

Definition: When the outcome of actions or events is different than the desired or expected result

Examples:

If Dave died because he was allergic to the antibiotics that were supposed to save him, he is not merely a victim of bad luck. There is an oddly perverse poetry in Dave’s plight. Such a phenomenon as situational irony would only occur to a species which has a concept of fairness and a tendency to automatically anthropomorphize Fate.

The Psychic Friends Network went bankrupt due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

(George Carlin’s marvelous book Brain Droppings has some wonderful examples of situational irony, particularly the one about the Kurd who survives a brutal attack by Saddam Hussein at the end of the First Gulf War and escapes over the mountains only to be crushed by an airdropped box of humanitarian aid. If you want to teach Carlin on situational irony, however, be prepared to explain about the Kurds and the first Gulf War and to tell them who Darryl Stingley was.)

3) Dramatic IronyThe reader or audience knows something fictional characters don’t

Definition: When we say something is ironic we almost never mean dramatic irony. Dramatic irony occurs when the reader or audience has important knowledge which is withheld from a character or characters in a story, a movie, or a play.

The most obvious example of this is when the young lady in the slasher flick doesn’t realize that the guy in the hockey mask with the meat cleaver is hiding behind the hot tub—but we do.

Perhaps a more erudite example would be that the audience knows who Oedipus Rex’s parents really are.

* From the song Ironic by Alanis Morissette which can be a good teaching tool because it contains some hits and several misses. (Rain on your wedding day is simply a case of bad luck unless you are having an outdoor wedding in Southern California in June and all your bridesmaids are wearing paper dresses.) The song has been much-derided by English teachers because it contains one example of verbal irony, four examples of situational irony, six examples of bad luck, two examples of stupidity and one example of coincidence.

Evaluation

State whether the following are examples of verbal irony, situational irony, dramatic irony or not ironic in any way.

1. “Oh, great! It’s raining and I forgot my umbrella.”

2. I failed the test because I did not study.

3. Dave’s blood pressure medication gave him a heart attack.

4. Batman doesn’t know that the Joker is waiting for him, but the audience does.

5. Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly SLO are both located in California.

6. The box of airdropped humanitarian aid landed on the refugee and killed him.

7. I missed the job interview because I overslept.

8. “Thank you for this ticket, Officer. You just made my day.”

9. Three celebrities died in three separate plane crashes yesterday.

10. “I heard that sun block causes cancer.”

An Amusing Teacher Story (which is in no way ironic)

I made a class of college freshman read Welcome to the Monkey House, a collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. At the end of the quarter we watched some videos of stories from the book which were introduced by the author. Before class a student came up to me and asked how the man in the video could be Vonnegut when it says on the book jacket that he is “our finest black-humorist.” I explained that there are people who practice dark humor and there are also African-American humorists.

Richard W. Bray