There has been entirely too much loose prattle in the popular press questioning whether irony has a future. For instance there was a four page story in Newsweek on January 1st. titled, “Will we ever get over irony?” This was about four times the space they devoted to collapse of the economy in Argentina, but of course if irony was actually at risk of disappearing it would be a big story, or would it? Pick apart these articles and they are complete gibberish. In the Newsweek article the author uses the word ‘recontextualize’ four times in one paragraph. Bizarre, no? He also throws in the following words: bricolage, agitprop, meta-fictions (repeatedly), trope (last used in the Middle Ages), and juxtapositional more times than I can count. And this boy isn’t alone. Time Magazine has taken their shot as well and what all these articles have in common is a bleak trendyness with a smarmy overlay of “I am cool and in the know so if you are stuck in the pre 9-11 world, poor you, fool.” HA. I say. HA! Certain editorial boards are attempting to pull entire sheep over our eyes. The actual fact is the Pyramids will falter eventually and they will probably change the designated hitter rule again, but for a few bored writers to try to discard a basic building block of humor is simply not on. It will not be permitted. As long as situations arise like the case of the woman leading the protest jump against the ban on parachuting off El Capitan in Yosemite who’s chute didn’t open, irony will have a place.
I think I am in a position to address this because I know the definition of the word and I’ll bet if pressed most people would not be about to say what it actually means. I only know because I looked it up in nine dictionaries. It turns out that it has a somewhat elusive definition. The Oxford English Dictionary 3rd Edition tells us that irony is a substitution of meaning by saying the opposite of the literal meaning with a sarcastic or satirical cast. In other words, a somewhat negative or deprecating way of seeing a situation. Fair enough, but I had never thought of irony as so strictly negative. I subscribe to Twain’s notion that “America and England are two countries separated by a common language.” In the American Heritage dictionary it says that irony is that same reversal but not satirically. Webster’s 5th Collegiate splits the difference and states that irony can be at its most negative “light sarcasm.”
I believe that a certain amount of kidding around by pretending things are one thing when they are really another is a good way to get through the day. And example is my recent pairing with Alan Greenspan in The Irish Times as a couple of U.S. economic analysts. They even misspelled my name on purpose to make me look Irish instead of Scottish. Now that’s entertainment!
If you believe that this sort of nonsense is as serious as I do than you actually have go out and do something and not just flap your lips. Last weekend I attended a physicians conference discussing vasol vegal syncopy. Basically 300 cardiologists were having lunch waiting for something to happen. In the middle of the lecture I stood up, clutched my chest, screamed and fell face first into my lunch. I think they appreciated it.
Looking up the “death of irony” on Google will take you strange and wonderful places such ashttp://www.farlops.com/ and http://www.rtmark.com/ . These are sites which keep the faith. So to those writers who are trying to kick irony in the keester I say nay, lads and lassies go get a real job.