Archive for the ‘Sarcasm and irony’ Category

Briefly: You couldn’t pick up a phone?

April 18, 2021

The 2/16 One Big Happy, in which Ruthie tries to make sense of an interaction between her grandmother and her Uncle Andy:

Several layers of indirection here, starting with

(1) You couldn’t pick up a phone?

instead of

(2) Couldn’t you pick up a phone?

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Knowing how vs. knowing that/what

December 22, 2020

The grilling of the One Big Happy kids on their social / cultural knowledge as evidenced in their language use continues in the 11/30 strip (previous episode: my 12/20/20 posting “What question are you asking?”):


(#1) Note the context. One person could ask another whether they used sarcasm, just as chat or small talk, but that’s not what’s going on in the strip. This is some kind of test — note the dad’s laptop — and Joe is perfectly aware of that, though he has no idea what’s being tested.

Then there’s something of a trap in the question “Do you use sarcasm?” It’s perfectly possible to know how to use sarcasm without knowing that the contemptuous verbal practice you’re engaging in is in fact called sarcasm: you know how, but you don’t know what it’s called. As turns out to be the case for Joe: he can wield sarcasm just fine — he uses a sarcasm-devoted linguistic form in Like I know what X is, conveying that you don’t know what X is and expressing contempt for someone who expects that you should.

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Present at the creation: the weaponization of sarcasm

September 25, 2019

A Mick Stevens Caveman cartoon in the 9/30/19 New Yorker (about to arrive in the mail), memorializing a signal moment in the cartoon Stone Age:


(#1) The weaponization of sarcasm in prehistoric times

The later history of weaponized sarcasm is vast, but certainly reaches one of its high points in 1970 in the career of British gangster Doug Piranha. During a period of perhaps 70 years sarcasm has spread to become, in the view of some cultural critics, absolutely pervasive in modern society, at least in the Anglophone world.

Meanwhile, the idea that elements of culture can be weaponized — used like bludgeons not just against individuals, but also to aggressively serve social or political purposes — has recently become fashionable.

(And then, of course, there’s the question of the semantic work that the derivational suffix –ize does in converting various groups of lexical items to verbs (as in N weapon > V weaponize).)

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Ostentatiously playful allusions

May 18, 2019

(OPAs, for short.) The contrast is to inconspicuously playful allusions, what I’ve called Easter egg quotations on this blog. With three OPAs from the 4/20/19 Economist, illustrating three levels of closeness between the content of the OPA and the topic of the article: no substantive relationship between the two (the Nock, Nock case), tangential relationship (the Sunset brouhaha case), and tight relationship (the defecate in the woods case).

The three cases also illustrate three degrees of paronomasia: the Nock, Nock case involves a (phonologically) perfect pun; the Sunset brouhaha case an imperfect pun; and the defecate in the woods case no pun at all, but whole-word substitutions.

I’ll start in the middle, with Sunset brouhaha. But first, some background. Which will incorporate flaming saganaki; be prepared.

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Deterrence, lessons, and examples: pour encourager les autres

June 26, 2018

A typical report on recent approaches to those seeking entrance to the U.S. at the Mexican border, “Here Are the Facts About [REDACTED]’s Family Separation Policy” by Maya Thodan in Time magazine on the 20th:

Administration officials have often characterized these policies [of interviews and hearings] as “loopholes” that are exploited by those seeking to enter the U.S. Some administration officials have suggested that the “zero tolerance” policy could serve as a deterrent for other migrants who are seeking to come to the U.S.

The idea is that applicants should all be rejected, and in a way so savage that others would be deterred from applying. The aim of the policy is, in Voltaire’s pointed phrasing, pour encourager les autres.

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Charmed, I’m sure

May 20, 2018

The Bizarro/Wayno from the 18th, another exercise in understanding cartoons:

   (#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

Three things to recognize: the figure of Medusa, the figure of the (Indian) snake handler, and the politeness formula charmed. And then, of course, you need to know that such snake handlers are conventionally known as snake charmers in English and that  the politeness formula is part of the social ritual of introduction, where it serves as an alternative to Pleased / Pleasure / Nice to meet you, formal How do you do?, and the like.

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Water source of questionable information

April 7, 2018

This New Scientist cartoon by Tom Gauld:

Five nominals of the form N1 of Mod N2. The first panel has the model for the other four: the metaphorical idiom family fount of all N2, where N2 refers to a kind of information. The last four are somewhat snide plays on this original. In effect, the cartoon supplies a template for generating fresh — in two senses —  metaphorical idiom families on the basis of an attested one.

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Exercises in high macho style

December 11, 2017

Passing between channels on my tv on the 6th, I caught a moment from the show Mr. Robot (S3 E9) in which Terry Colby, an exec at the Allsafe Corporation, spins out a riff in high-macho figurative language, a piece of crude poetry:

That’s all teddy bears and hand jobs, but what are your financials?  We can’t wake up one day and find ourselves tits up, dicks blowing in the breeze.

The masterstroke in all this is all teddy bears and hand jobs, an invention intended to convey an ironic, dismissive version of the high-toned all sweetness and light or, better, the vernacular all beer and skittles ‘all fun and pleasure’ (skittles, the game of ninepins)

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Fixing things

July 9, 2017

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm, featuring the computer dogs (the bull terrier Grimm at the keyboard, the Boston terrier Ralph advising him):

(#1)

To understand this strip, you need to know about keyboard shortcuts on a Mac computer, in particular the combination

Command-Z: Undo the previous command. You can then press Command-Shift-Z to Redo, reversing the undo command.

⌘-Z undoes, or reverses, keyboard actions. In the cartoon, the dimwitted Ralph suggests using this computer key combination to reverse events in general — in this case, the falling of the lamp to the floor and the breaking that resulted from the fall. ⌘-Z will fix it!

If only.

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Is that a Paschal Peep in your pouch?

April 24, 2017

From Chris Hansen on Facebook, a late entry in this year’s Easter Peepstakes: a model who dreamt he played with yellow Peeps in his Aronik swimwear:

(#1)

About the company, its products, its models, its symbol, and its name

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