further adventures of "ironic"

Rick Barr rickbarremail at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 7 19:16:17 UTC 2010

It's an odd phrase, to say that closing down the street for the languid
parade was very ironic. I agree with George that "strange" is probably what
the speaker had in mind. But it's a special kind of strange, nuanced by the
standard meaning of *ironic*, involving a disparity between two things (the
real and the one that is presented, the intended meaning and the stated
one). I think that's what the speaker was aiming for, that it was strange to
see such a disparity between the size of the parade and the magnitude of the
chaos produced by it. I haven't seen other examples of this sort of
"ironic." Might the fact that the man was feeling IRate have prompted the
choice of IRonic?

-- Rick

On Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 11:05 AM, George Thompson <george.thompson at nyu.edu>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      further adventures of "ironic"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> An article in today's NYTimes on street processions in the Williamsburgh
> area, honoring patron saints, specifically St. Cono, of Teggiano, Italy.
>  (section A, p. 16, column 1, for those of us still bound to print-on-paper)
>  This area of Williamsburgh was until recently largely inhabited by Italian
> Catholics, but it seems now has a considerable number of young residents not
> raised to the tradition.
> One (Chris Tocco, 26, an actor) is quoted as saying: "It was a tiny parade,
> and they shut down Graham Avenue?  There was one float and a horrible
> marching band.  It was very ironic."
> If Mr. Toco were to be asked to pick a replacement for the word "ironic"
> here, he might choose "having the the nature of irony or covert sarcasm;
> meaning the opposite of what is expressed"; he might choose "showing a
> condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might
> naturally be, expected"; he might even choose "being marked by a slightly
> amusing trivial coincidence"; but I think he would choose "strange".
> A 27 year old onlooker offered the insight "It's kind of like a vestige of
> the old neighborhoods of Brooklyn".  It is like that, indeed, kind of.
> (First two defs. adapted from the OED)
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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