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Re: (teach) Defining "Irony"

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  • Ed Quo
    ... Aha, asking us for help with your homework, eh? This question actually arose last semester in my composition class, which comprises mainly English Language
    Message 1 of 7 , Apr 30, 2003
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      >I was completing an assignment for a course in which I am enrolled.
      >The following question was posed: How would you define "irony"?
      >
      >Sometimes, it is easier to pair the word with the word in the
      >student's mother tongue. There appears to be no Chinese equivalents
      >to either "irony" or "sarcasm". What's more, native English
      >speakers sometimes have difficulty understanding the meaning
      >of "irony". Just out of curiosity: how would you define
      >"irony" to a class to whom you are teaching English?

      Aha, asking us for help with your homework, eh?

      This question actually arose last semester in my composition class, which
      comprises mainly English Language and Literature majors. So I had to start
      by defining "literary/dramatic irony" which is where the reader or audience
      knows what's going to happen before the characters do (such as when two
      people fall in love aboard the Titanic). But the 'everyday' use of irony
      actually falls into two categories, a verbal one and a situational one. So,
      coming into a classroom while dripping rainwater all over the floor and
      saying, "Wow, nice weather!" is irony -- using words or expressions to
      indicate the opposite of their literal meaning. Situational irony is when
      something happens that is NOT just unexpected, but presents a sense of
      contradiction -- the examples I used were the time a female student wearing
      Levis jeans and a New York Yankees t-shirt was lecturing me on the evils of
      American culture, and going to my gym and seeing all of the workout
      "coaches" standing outside and smoking.

      Also, while I understand your use of translation, I've found that my old
      hobby of etymology also often helps -- for example, "irony" originally comes
      from a Greek word that means "to pretend ignorance" -- and Socrates was the
      master of this, as he would pretend not to know something that he was
      actually well-prepared to teach; he would ask his "victims" to explain a
      word or an idea, and would then skewer them with his wisdom. There's even a
      term in philosophy called "Socratic irony".

      But DON'T use the Alanis Morissette song from a few years ago, "Isn't It
      Ironic." Most of the examples she uses are NOT irony (e.g., rain on a
      wedding day, finding only spoons when you need a knife, meeting a guy and
      then meeting his wife, etc.).

      quo
    • j vickers
      ... Actually, I ve finished that portion assignment. I currently teach high school. I usually encounter irony in a literary sense, although I do
      Message 2 of 7 , Apr 30, 2003
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        >Aha, asking us for help with your homework, eh?



        Actually, I've finished that portion assignment. I currently teach high
        school. I usually encounter irony in a literary sense, although I do
        distinguish between types of irony. It's a little easier to explain irony
        to students who are proficient (at least I hope!) in English. I typically
        use Socratic irony with my students. They hate me for it, but it achieves
        my purpose of having them achieve an answer independently rather than have
        me spoon-feed it to them.



        I like the example of the female student wearing Levis and a Yankees shirt
        lecturing you on the evils of the American culture as well as the coaches
        smoking outside the gym. The latter one makes for an interesting
        juxtaposition.


        I was just curious as to how others handle teaching abstract concepts such
        as irony. I'm not scheduled to go to China until the end of July. I would
        prefer to have some exposure to situations and ideas others have encountered
        such as this prior to the actual situation, even though situations vary.

        jason





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      • Darren Taylor
        I have been able to explain irony and sarcasm using the Chinese word feng ci ·í´Ì. Distinguishing between the two words themselves is more difficult, as
        Message 3 of 7 , May 1, 2003
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          I have been able to explain irony and sarcasm using the Chinese word feng ci
          ����. Distinguishing between the two words themselves is more difficult, as
          their definitions overlap. I would say that there is a connotative
          difference: sarcasm potentially sharper, harsher and irony subtler,
          indirect. Or, I direct my students to theonion.com.
        • Bruce Prince
          Jason Firstly, irony and sarcasm are different, being defined by the two Chinese expressions fan3yu3 and feng3ci4 respectively. What is the difference?
          Message 4 of 7 , May 1, 2003
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            Jason

            Firstly, "irony" and "sarcasm" are different, being defined by the two Chinese expressions "fan3yu3" and "feng3ci4" respectively.

            What is the difference? I think the difference is that sarcasm is a more active expression, be it verbal, a cartoon, caricature, film, or a novel. Also, irony tends to be more witty, I think, whereas sarcasm is usually destructive, or demeaning? Someone may be able to correct me here. They both express an incongruity between what might or could have been, and reality.

            Examples may be the gym instructor taking a break with some students, and smoking. It's ironic that he teaches health principles, but doesn't practice it. It would be sarcasm if someone was to approach him and say something like, "Do you recommend that we take up smoking to assist with this healthy lifestyle that you are teaching?"

            How to explain the difference to Chinese students? That's the hard one and depends on many factors, including their age. Maybe getting some students (as a class exercise) to explain the difference between fanyu and fengci will get them speaking in English, to say the least. Coming up with sentences of examples could be a good exercise.

            Bruce Prince
            ----- Original Message -----
            I was completing an assignment for a course in which I am enrolled.
            The following question was posed: How would you define "irony"?

            Sometimes, it is easier to pair the word with the word in the
            student's mother tongue. There appears to be no Chinese equivalents
            to either "irony" or "sarcasm". What's more, native English
            speakers sometimes have difficulty understanding the meaning
            of "irony". Just out of curiosity: how would you define
            "irony" to a class to whom you are teaching English?

            jason
          • erdal yerli
            Hi If the lines in Alanis s song are not irony, what are they? Eupemism? David ... Ed Quo wrote: But DON T use the Alanis Morissette song
            Message 5 of 7 , May 18, 2003
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              Hi
              If the lines in Alanis's song are not irony, what are they? Eupemism?
              David

              ----

              Ed Quo <edquo@...> wrote:

              But DON'T use the Alanis Morissette song from a few years ago, "Isn't It
              Ironic." Most of the examples she uses are NOT irony (e.g., rain on a
              wedding day, finding only spoons when you need a knife, meeting a guy and
              then meeting his wife, etc.).

              quo

              [Note from List helper -- please remember to snip out the parts of the post to which you're not directly replying. It saves both bandwidth and time. Thanks, --JW]
            • David Roland
              erdal yerli wrote:Hi If the lines in Alanis s song are not irony, what are they? Eupemism? David ... Ed Quo wrote:
              Message 6 of 7 , May 19, 2003
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                erdal yerli <erdal642002@...> wrote:Hi
                If the lines in Alanis's song are not irony, what are they? Eupemism?
                David

                ----

                Ed Quo <edquo@...> wrote:

                But DON'T use the Alanis Morissette song from a few years ago, "Isn't It
                Ironic." Most of the examples she uses are NOT irony (e.g., rain on a
                wedding day, finding only spoons when you need a knife, meeting a guy and
                then meeting his wife, etc.).

                quo


                dave r wrote:yo,Quo This sounds like a case of "could you ". Irony, is one of those words with a multitude of nuances.

                According to one of my electronic dictionaries, the word( irony) is defined as: 1- use of words to express the opposite of the literal meaning.

                2-incongruity between the actual and the expected results of events.

                INCONGRUITY- inappropriate or out of place.

                EXAMPLE: and you want to know the irony in all of this, this morning I met this terrific guy and he asks me out. Then on my way home from work,I was sitting next to this woman I've never seen before and I strike up a conversation and I tell her about this terrific guy that I had met in the morning.

                She says to me "he sounds just like my husband, David ". She then goes into her purse and pulls out a picture of him, and guess what? My terrific guy, IS David. (out of place- UN expected results of events.)



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              • erdal yerli
                To me irony is the situations that ioppose to each other. Like I keep talking about being dirty and lecturing how we should be clean. But I myself is really
                Message 7 of 7 , May 20, 2003
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                  To me irony is the situations that ioppose to each other. Like I keep talking about being dirty and lecturing how we should be clean. But I myself is really dirty in my personal life. This is ironic. And an old man -say 80 years old- who wins a $6 miillion lottery dies in a plane crash is ironic. May be double Ironic.
                  Cheers
                  David

                  [[List helper note -- please do remember to snip out the parts of earlier messages to which you are not directly replying. Thanks, --JW]]
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