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Re: sarcasm & irony (was: Re: Re : Re: A request from a non-conlanger)

From:Patrick Dunn <tb0pwd1@...>
Date:Thursday, October 14, 1999, 22:24
On Thu, 14 Oct 1999, Sam Bryant wrote:

> I was just thinking about sarcasm in English. My mom was reporting a > conversation with a neighbor of ours who often helps with construction and > stuff who I thought might be able to re-solder a part on my guitar, and she > says "and he didn't seem particularly enthusiastic about doing it." > > Almost always, it seems, the words "especially", "particulary", etc., when > combined with a negative, mean "not all all": > > Q: "How didn't your presentation go?" > A: "The teacher didn't seem particularly impressed." > > Literally, this means the teacher didn't get up and clap. Probalby, it > means she looked like she was about to throw up. > > Odd. > > A sarcasm morpheme seems a contradiction: irony/sarcasm always don't convey > the literal meaning. But certain words end up associated far more > frequently with sarcasm, such that they lose the need for non-standard > voice inflection, etc. The best example I can think of is "yeah, right" in > English. > > sam
This practice of understatement has a long and revered history in English. It's one of the defining characteristics of Old English poetry, where it isn't even always sarcastic. Things like, "Beowulf was somewhat strong" (this isn't an actual example) mean "Beowulf was the strongest man alive!"