Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Isn't it Ironic?

Now, any regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing about proper language usage. And if you don't know that, go read my archives. Are you back? Good. As I was saying, I think proper grammar, word usage etc. is important. I even get a little worked up about it sometimes. Dare I say... angry. Not as angry as some people, like this chap who wrote this piece for McSweeneys.

I read that when it was published back in 2003 and I've never forgotten it. Way better grasp of the nuances of English than me. Funnier too. And angrier.

One of the many things that has the capacity to make me angry is misuse of the term "ironic". I don't get too worked up because I'm not too sure I always use it accurately. The simplest dictionary definition is "An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning." In other words, the literal meaning of your words is the opposite of what you intend to convey. But you also get into Socratic irony and dramatic irony and it really gets complicated. I actually did research for this piece (besides reading McSweeneys) and found a piece, via Wikipedia, that is both an excellent explanation of irony and a lot of fun to read. It's much better researched than anything I could do and also funnier.

Guardian Article: The Final Irony

Suffice to say, people are almost always wrong when they say "isn't that ironic?" More often it's simply a coincidence or bad luck. For instance, Alanis Morrisette's song "Ironic" doesn't contain a single example of true irony (is that ironic?)

Anyway, believe it or not, the whole reason that I started struggling with the proper use of irony was that I was thinking of George Bush. I am continually appalled at the shit he gets away with. Being a lefty, I start from a default position that a right-winger is going to piss me off but Bush even betrays traditional Republican values. Not that I'm a fan of many traditional Republican values but it freaks me out that he pisses all over their core tenets like fiscal responsibility and small government and all the while he has these rabid cheerleaders asserting he can do no wrong. Any pity the traditionalist who speaks up about this betrayal. The goon squad are all over them, branding them disloyal and unpatriotic.

You could be a dyed-in-the-wool lifelong Republican but if you question the glorious leader, his slavering minions will rip you limb from limb. And I get more than a little spaced at how quickly the baying mob can flip from championing a particular commentator to publicly eviscerating them because they dared to question Bush. Not matter how self-evident their observation is, like, ummmm... he's a fuckwit.

To be fair, I can't nominate a conservative who actually called Bush a fuckwit. I'm reading between the lines.

But there are signs Bush's most ardent supporters might ba about to turn on him. It isn't about lying, it isn't about screwing up Iraq, it isn't about encouraging torture. It's about immigration. Bush seems like he's actually about to do something halfway decent regarding the millions of (mainly Mexican) illegal immigrants in the US. In an acknowledgement that the economy is essentially dependent on these workers, he's trying to find a reasonable compromise. And his "base" are turning on him over it.

So that's the point of this whole screed: Bush spends his whole tenure committing a seemingly endless cavalcade of incompetent and illegal acts and gets a free pass. He attempts to do one halfway decent thing and his shrieking cheerleaders turn on him.

Is that ironic?


Dr. Nazli said...

Dear Mr Angry,

Ironic indeed - though, ironically, I quite enjoy misusing the word 'ironic'.

Good post. There was actually another occasion when the Republican (and even the Democratic) base went against President Bush; when he defended the right of Dubai Port Authority to do business in the US. Do you remember?

The main backlash from his base was:
a) they are an "Arab" country
b) there were two 9/11 terrorists from UAE
c) UAE does not do business with Israel

And Bush argued back (logically) that the UAE is now the strongest ally in the region and they would have nothing to do with port security. Ironic!

As for proper grammar, once a stranger said to me "you speak 'good' English. Fortunately for her my manners prevented me from correcting the 'irony'; "ma'am, it's actually 'you speak English well'?"

Dr. Nazli

pigeon weather said...

deliciously ironic. i am hoping you caught the stephen colbert session.if not, here's a link - http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=3&entry_id=4791 - . and a good day for lefties was topped off by Bolivia's nationalization of their own resources. ExxonMobil is "studying the situation". To quote Peter Tosh, "it's been four hundred years"

Fulumirani said...

I'm only going to mention one thing:

"Rabid cheerleaders"--I love it.

beatnikzblog said...

I can totally relate to your anger about the misuse of words and improper grammatical usage. So just imagine what all I have to undergo everyday when almost everyone,with a few exceptions ,says- " I didn't understood what you just said"..or " He didn't went there.." I remember my class 4 teacher beating a boy black and blue for using the past participle form of the verb with 'didn't '. Or when they say- "The only criteria to be fullfilled is...". How can they not realize that criterion is the singular form while criteria is plural! Guess we can't be blamed for the aforementioned mistakes, since the language English is not our mother tongue, and the average Indian(including yours truly) still thinks in vernacular.
But I have a doubt regarding the word 'farther'. According to an article by an emminent English prof, only the purists prefer to differentiate farther from further. Acc to what he says, farther n further can be used interchangeably, as has become the practice these days.Though I personally prefer the differentiation. Please comment.

beatnikzblog said...

n surely i meant to write 'eminent' , not 'emminent'..lol!

Mr Angry said...

Oh, how much do I love my readers? I can't imagine having a blog without comments. Although, I've had the first pieces of comment spam, if that gets worse I might have to do the word verification thingie.

Dr N: Yes, the cracks are starting to show in his facade perhaps? And how frustrated must you be at people who compliment your English (because, you are of course foreign and decent white folks must encourage foreigners) when your English is actually better than their?

Tom: Colbert is my new god! I am posting a transcript today.

Fuluminari: I aim to please! :)

Beatnikz: You had some hardcore teachers! Actually beating a kid for bad grammar? I had to swear at the teacher or not do my homework for a month to get the strap. And I agree that guy I linked to is insanely obsessive - I just wanted to show there was someone worse than me!