Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders' incomprehension.
Modern English Usage, H W Fowler
I like irony. I use irony a lot, especially when blogging. I've used it an awful lot over the last few days, especially on Wednesday when my post was nothing but irony from start to finish. But I do sometimes wonder whether all this irony is a good idea. Because not everybody notices that I'm being ironic.
It's much easier in real life. Most of the conversations I have are with people who can see my face while I'm talking. They can tell from my expression whether I'm being deadly serious or whether I'm lying through my teeth. Most of the conversations I have are with people who share the same cultural experiences as myself. They know when I'm saying something that goes against expected norms. Most of the conversations I have are with people who've met me before. They know not to take everything I say at face value.
But on a blog it's much harder. Readers can't tell whether I'm frowning or smirking merely from looking at words on a page. Readers don't hear that telltale inflection in my voice when I'm being less than serious. Readers from outside the UK may not understand the regional subtext involved in everything that I write. And because most blogs aren't ironic, readers don't initially expect mine to be. Not until they've worked me out, that is, which takes a while.
So I thought it might be a good idea to add an "irony flag" () to some of my posts, to make it easier for my readers to tell when I'm being ironic. This means that, in future, everyone will be able to tell the difference between...
Tony Blair has been an excellent Prime Minister.
Tony Blair has been an excellent Prime Minister .
That bearded bloke on the tube is almost certainly a radical fundamentalist with a bomb factory in his shed.
That bearded bloke on the tube is almost certainly a radical fundamentalist with a bomb factory in his shed .
I'm sure that this novel approach to identifying irony will prevent all future misunderstandings . Even amongst Americans, whose understanding of the concept of irony is already highly developed . Because the last thing I want to do is to appear patronising to my less intelligent readers .
I'm really pleased with my new idea, and I feel smug that I may have unleashed an icon of great importance onto the internet . In fact this is such a great idea that I urge you to digg it, because this will send lots of new readers to my site and make me feel extremely important .
So (especially if you're a bit stupid ) please watch out for the flag of irony on my site. Or even use the icon on your own site, assuming you're intelligent enough to understand the concept of irony in the first place . I shall, of course, be using it frequently in the future .