Facilities of expression of irony

Essence of humour is and his function. Language and the types, techniques and ways of conveying humourous effect in its various expressions. Phenomena as irony, sarcasm, satire. Difference of irony from other terms, united under the umbrella of humour.

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Chapter I

Term discrimination:

Irony and its interrelated concepts

1.1 Irony

1.2 Irony and Satire

1.3 Irony and Sarcasm

1.4 Irony and Humour

Chapter II

Linguostylistic means of expression of Irony


The gentleman in question sat down in front of his open fire, put his feet up and read the book right through with a continually darkening face. When he had finished, he stood up and said:

'Downright impertinence.'

And threw the book into the fire.

He was a noble and patriotic spirit and he did me a great deal of good. I wished there had been more like him in England. But I could never find another. (“How to be an alien” by George Mikes)

These words could confuse anyone who'll read them here, out of context. Actually, every writer will be discouraged having learnt that his creation was thrown into fire. But if one knows that the author is satisfied with the reaction from his caricature book of the English character, that he expected complaints from the real Englishman, he'll realize the humorous effect of the extract.

Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. Nevertheless, the primary concern of this work is language and we are to find out the types, techniques, devices and ways of conveying humourous effect in its various expressions. There is no such lexical device as humour in the language. However, analyzing the literary work we can distinguish such phenomena as Irony, Sarcasm, Satire and some others. The study of humor, irony, and other playful forms is plagued by definitional problems. Often, authors will expend significant energy explaining and justifying complex terminological distinctions that are bound to crumble at the first close examination. The impossibility of defining the subcategories of a broad class of humorous phenomena has been established for discussion and review of the literature. Lexicographic studies have shown that the semantic field of what has been broadly defined as “humor” is very rich in closely related, barely distinguishable terms. Those involved in the academic study of humor have decided to adopt the generic term humor as an umbrella term encompassing programmatically all the semantic field of humor and humorous forms. Irony is generally seen as distinct from humor, but the same definitional problems exist with its close neighbor, sarcasm. Irony would however fall under the technical sense of “humor.”

While there clearly exists humor that is not ironical and there are ironies that are not perceived as funny, the issue is not as simple as the intersection of two distinct sets of facts.

Whereas, as we have just cleared up, humour can be of different meanings, depending on the context and the situation, in this work I propose to examine Irony in comparison with other literary term used to ridicule or make fun of a situation.

Consequently, the purpose of this research is to find out what is irony, how it is distinguished from other terms, united under the umbrella of humour, and how it is manifested in the text.

humour irony sarcasm satire

Chapter I

Term discrimination:

Irony and its interrelated concepts.

1.1 Irony

Taking its name from the Greek eironeia (dissimulation), irony consists of purporting a meaning of an utterance or a situation that is different, often opposite, to the literal one. [Maike Oergel, Encyclopaedia Of German Literature]

Irony is a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. [The New Oxford English Dictionary]

Irony the SD based on contrary concepts, a stylistic device also based on the simultaneous realization of two logical meanings - dictionary and contextual, but the two meanings stand in opposition to each other. [Galperin I. R., 2009:146]

Often times there is a bit of confusion over what is ironic and what is merely coincidental. The two ideas can be easily confused, but there is however, a very distinct difference between what is ironic and what is merely good or bad luck.

1.1.1 Types of Irony

Irony takes on four main forms, all of which have more very well defined characteristics.

Four main types are verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational and Socratic (which is considered to be additional) irony.

Let us now proceed with a detailed analysis of the ontology, structure and functions of these types of irony

Verbal Irony

You are arguing with your mother, who reprimands you for being "smart." Your reply is a sarcastic, "If you think I am smart, then why won't you let me make some smart decisions?"

You hear verbal irony in conversations all the time. The simple comment, "Oh Great" after something rotten happens is verbal irony. Verbal irony is by far the most accessible, far-reaching, and heavily utilized form of irony (and also of sarcastic humor) because it is its simplest form - it just involves the equation of two people talking to one another (whereas other forms of irony require a "third" party, generally an audience of some sort to interpret that scenarios as ironic). Of course, as commonplace these days as it may be, verbal irony is an art form to many, requiring the most studied and theatrical of deliveries to achieve peak humorous affect and/or poignancy. With verbal irony, timing is everything. If an ironic comment comes too late or too early in a conversation, is spoken without the correct tone or in an inappropriate circumstance, it may be taken as offensive, or simply as confusing. If, for example a person steps in big puddle of water by mistake, and his/her friend smiles kindly, starts to help his friend up and remarks, "well now, don't you have all the luck!" The comment will probably be taken as funny and ironic and the two will laugh the mishap off. If however, the friend scoffs at his wet, fallen friend, laughs, and says "HA LUCKY YOU!" and yells it really loudly and obnoxiously, it may not be as funny. Verbal irony in its essence requires an understanding of circumstance, attitude, and most importantly, timing.

Situational Irony

You stay up all night studying for a test. When you go to class, you discover the test is not until the next day.

Situational irony results from recognizing the oddness or unfairness of a given situation, be it positive or negative. Even though a person typically cannot justifiably explain this unfairness logically, the coincidental nature of the situation is still very obvious to those evaluating it. For example, if the president of Microsoft, Bill Gates, were to win a contest whose grand prize was a computer system, the irony would be situational because such a circumstance would appear ridiculous or "funny" for a number of reasons. Bill Gates doesn't need a computer, he runs the world's largest software company, and he's filthy rich, so winning a computer seems silly and "ironic". This list of half-justified reasons for the oddness of the situation could go on and on but on a very basic level of reasoning all these reasons does really adds up. All can be logically rebutted. Bill Gates has just as much chance of winning a contest like that as anyone else who entered. A computer is a great prize to wins, etc etc. The true "oddness" cannot be explained logically, even though everyone would find that particular situation weird, funny, and "ironic". This sense of being "unfair" or "unfortunate" is a trademark of situational irony. The unusual nature of the circumstances are obvious to everyone and yet, they are not wholly clear when you try to explicate them. Typically the justification for situational irony boils down to someone declaring, "Well, it just is!"

Socratic Irony

Socratic irony can be seen as a tactical maneuver of sorts. It's most practical iteration is in the "Socratic method" of teaching, which has been adopted by many prestigious universities throughout the world as a method of student-facilitated education. The professor, the supposed possessor of knowledge, never answers questions, nor does he out-rightly explain the concepts required to understand the course material, but rather poses questions to his students that revolves around the course material, and as such, the students are expected to have arrived in class after having studied the required reading to be able to provide the information to others in their class. The feigned "ignorance" on the part of the professor becomes a means to an end. The class gains the necessary information to learn the course material. On the other hand, Socratic irony can be used for far less noble means than intellectual edification. One sees Socratic irony used quite often to get one's way, or to avoid discussing an uncomfortable topic. Ignorance is bliss so they say, and sometimes pretending that you don't have information can give you the upper hand in an argument, or it can be your get out of jail free card (E.G. "Well gee, I have no idea who put the empty milk carton back in the refrigerator"). There are, however, common and beneficent ways people use Socratic irony. If for example, a child asks his parents about the present underneath their Christmas tree and the parents exclaim, "I have no idea how those gifts got there!" one can see how Socratic irony can play a very important purpose in many American traditions.

Dramatic Irony

Have you ever seen a horror movie that has a killer on the loose? You, and the rest of the audience, know that the teenagers should not go walking in the woods late at night, but they think a midnight stroll would be romantic. Needless to say, the teens become the next victim.

Dramatic irony is contingent upon a third party witnessing the actions of others and interpreting them as ironic, thus you see it most regularly in artistic productions. Dramatic irony is a big bundle of miscommunication, manufactured by a character or circumstance clandestine to another character, and revealed to the audience. Having this type of concealed action be available to the audience gives it the ability to know more than what certain characters know. The ideas of being unbeknownst and under the wrong impression are ideas that surround dramatic irony. It is the disconnect, or the contrast between what the character says, thinks, or does and the true situation that is being faced. Often times, the character, or characters, cannot see or understand the contrast, but the audience or reader can. For example, in Othello, Othello addresses Iago as "honest Iago." Of course, Othello does not know that Iago is the conniving villain who leads him to believe through trickery and deception that Othello's wife, Desdemona has been unfaithful. The audience has witnessed Iago's high jinks in a way Othello cannot, since he has not been "watching" the rest of the play as the audience has. For this, Othello unjustly kills his wife, believing the whole time in Iago's honesty, which makes this instance in literature both an act of dramatic irony and an act the leads to tragic irony.

Similarly to dramatic irony, tragic irony requires an audience and so you see this type of irony exclusively in the realm of the performative--theatre, movies, books, etc. In this form of irony the words and actions of one character or more betray the real situation and tragic results ensue from those words and/or actions, about which the spectators are aware before the actors.

Thus, taking in consideration all said above, we can generalize Irony as is a rhetorical device, literary technique, in which there is the discrepancy between what is said and what is meant, what is said and what is done, what is expected or intended and what happens, what is meant or said and what others understand, or two or more incongruous objects, actions, persons juxtaposed.

As Irony is the essence of this work, particularly its ways of expressing, examining of its manifestations are shown in the practical part more detailed on bases of the novel by George Mikes “How to be an alien”.

1.2 Irony and Satire

Since irony is commonly used in satires, many people would often equate the two together. While it is true that the use of irony is a vital and integral component in satires, irony and satire are two completely different literary terms.

Irony, as mentioned earlier, is a figure of speech. It is derived from the Greek word `eirAЌneAa', which means hypocrisy and deception. Irony is commonly used as a literary technique in order to bring emphasis to a particular truth. This is commonly done through the deliberate use of language that is contrary to the truth. By doing this, the use of irony is able to expose certain truths, to which the general public has remained ignorant.

On the other hand, satire is a literary form, or genre, which is commonly used through graphic arts or performance. Through the use of irony, as well as a number of other devices, such as ridicule and derision, a satire brings to light a particular issue or truth that is commonly observed in society, where changes must be made. Although these are the devices that are used in satire, it is presented in a comical manner through the careful use of wit and play of words or images, making it light-hearted on the part of the audience. As such, satires are found in many propaganda artistic forms, such as plays, commentaries and even editorial cartoons.

It seems to be a contradiction in terms to say, as some have, that satire need have no moral lesson or didactic purpose, for the essence of satire is aggression or criticism, and criticism (previous to the era of existentialistic nihilism) has always implied a systematic measure of good and bad. An object is criticized because it falls short of some standard which the critic desires that it should reach. Inseparable from any definition of satire is its corrective purpose, expressed through a critical mode which ridicules or otherwise attacks those conditions needing reformation in the opinion of the satirist. So we can affirm, that there is no satire without this corrective purpose.

Accordingly, the best definitions of satire should be formulated from a combination of its corrective intent and its literary method of execution. A reasonable definition of satire, then, is "a literary manner which blends a critical attitude with humor and wit to the end that human institutions or humanity may be improved. The true satirist is conscious of the frailty of institutions of man's devising and attempts through laughter not so much to tear them down as to inspire a remodeling" [Thrall W., 1960:436].

Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.

A common feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm -- "in satire, irony is militant" -- but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This "militant" irony or sarcasm often professes to approve (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.

The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase lanx satura. Satur meant "full," but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to "miscellany or medley": the expression lanx satura literally means "a full dish of various kinds of fruits."

The word satura as used by Quintilian however, indicated a narrower genre than what would be later intended as satire; it denoted only works in strictly hexameter form, which were a distinctly Roman genre. Quintilian famously said that satura, that is a satire in hexameter verses, was a literary genre of wholly Roman origin (satura tota nostra est). He was aware of and commented on Greek satire, but at the time did not label it as such, although today the origin of satire is considered to be Aristophanes' Old Comedy. The first critic to use satire in the modern broader sense was Apuleio.

1.2.1 Types of Satire

A writer has several types of satire at his/her disposal. The choice of satirical weapon will depend on the type of writing.

In literature, the writer has a choice between three types of satire. These are Horatian satire, Juvenalian satire, and Menippean satire.

· Horatian satire. This type of satire is named after the Roman satirist Horatian. It seeks to criticize, rather than attack, vice or folly. Some methods of satire include sarcasm, wit, and exaggeration. In general, Horatian satire is gentler, better humoured and sympathetic, somewhat tolerant of human folly. Horatian satire tends to ridicule human folly in general or by type rather than attack specific persons. It tends to produce a wry smile.

· Juvenalian Satire. This type of satire is named after the Roman satirist Juvenal. It is harsher than Horatian satire. It often attacks and shows contempt for people. It often seeks to address some evil in society through scorn and ridicule. While laughter and ridicule are still weapons of Horatian satire, the Juvenalian satirist isn't afraid to use invective to make a point. Many popular books are based on Juvenalian satire, including Clock Work Orange, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, and Animal Farm.

· Menippean Satire. This type of satire was named for the cynic Menippus. It is the oldest type of satire. It is a complex, chaotic, often formless, type of satire. It tends to criticize the subject matter and structure of the world. It is satire that criticizes everything in a fragmented way. It is satire that has many targets. Dialogue is central to this type of satire. It tends to deal with mental attitudes, like the stereotypes of “the miser”, “the seducer”, “the bigot”, and “the quack.” It is satire of prose. It views human folly and evil as a social disease. Literary scholar Northrop Frye attempted to classify Gulliver's Travels as Menippean satire.

· Political Satire

Molly Ivins, a popular American newspaper columnist, once wrote the following:”Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.” With the dawn of the New Media, citizen journalists can use political satire as a powerful weapon to make the public aware of unscrupulous behaviour and to inspire social and political change.

Political Satire is a subgenre of satire. It is intended to get laughs by mocking or ridiculing politics, politicians, and political affairs. It is also used as a form of political and social commentary. For instance, comedian Robin Williams once said, “People say that satire is dead. It's not dead; It's alive and living in the White House. “Almost all daily newspapers include satirical political cartoons in their editorial section. The intention of these cartoons is to mock or ridicule, often my means of exaggeration, politicians and political topics or issues in the news. Popular TV personality, Stephen Colbert, has written bestselling political satire book “I Am American.” Political satire is everywhere.

The best satire does not seek to do harm or damage by its ridicule, unless we speak of damage to the structure of vice, but rather it seeks to create a shock of recognition and to make vice repulsive so that the vice will be expunged from the person or society under attack or from the person or society intended to benefit by the attack (regardless of who is the immediate object of attack); whenever possible this shock of recognition is to be conveyed through laughter or wit: the formula for satire is one of honey and medicine. Far from being simply destructive, satire is implicitly constructive, and the satirists themselves, trustful concerning such matters, often depict themselves as such constructive critics.

1.2.2 Manifestations of satire

The application of the satiric method can be quite broad because satire itself is more of an attitude or stance, than a genre or type of literature: "It is not bounded by form and structure but exists as an approach to a situation which can be present in any of the many literary forms". There are several characteristics which distinguish satire, however; as I said above, it must be ironic in tone to cope with the hypocritical situation of the reprobates in the world, and for the same reason it tends to be hyperbolic in form to force recognition of vice upon the guilty. (Hyperbole or irony alone does not constitute satire: a critical element must be involved.)

Another characteristic of most satire is the use of wit to make the attack clever, or humor to make it funny. Satire, like all literature and poetry, must be intellectually rewarding, be reasonably well written, and especially must entertain in order to survive--and in the particular case of satire, in order to be received at all. The basic mood of attack and disapproval needs to be softened to some extent and made more palatable; wit and humor serve this end by making the criticism entertaining, and even attractive.

Certain specific literary techniques and constructions lend themselves easily to satire because they can contain a measure both of wit and humor, and of the necessary irony or satiric association; among them are exaggeration, distortion, understatement, innuendo, paronomasia, zeugma, ambiguity, what I call "the list," simile, metaphor, oxymoron, parable, and allegory. A brief example of each of these will perhaps help illustrate the versatility of the satiric method, and the numerous ways the satirist can present his criticism. It is important that the satirist vary his critical approach with as many devices as possible, for people very soon grow weary of criticism of themselves.

Since irony is the overriding and guiding principle behind satire, and is everywhere apparent in it, no "examples" need be given. As I mentioned, irony informs the whole work because it is the necessary means of aggressing hypocrites. It is not therefore one of the "techniques" of satire, but, like the purpose of correction, is part of the essence.

Though not essential like irony, exaggeration is one of the most commonly used techniques in satire, since the depiction of an extreme or blatantly vicious case is one of the best ways to get the target to recognize or admit that a vice exists at all: recognition must precede correction. The satirist brings his description of a wrong to its logical extreme, or at least exaggerates by overemphasis in order to make the unseeing see, and the seeing-but-complacent oppose and expunge corruption. To say simply that men are evil will be wasting breath in an age of perversity, so the satirist turns up the volume: "He was perfectly astonished with the historical account I gave him of our affairs during the last century, protesting it was only an heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments; the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition could produce" [Swift J., Gulliver's Travels,II:6]. And the Brobdingnagian King's estimate of humankind seems to be slightly inflated also: "I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth"[Swift J., Gulliver's Travels,II:6]. By such overstatement, the reader is to understand that he has probably allowed a few too many failings in himself or other men to go by unnoticed, and henceforth he must adjure himself to pull in the reins a bit.

Any construction capable of conveying a double meaning is likely to be employed in satire, since multiple meanings form the basis of much of satire. So even the pun can be used satirically, and surely has been, though in my limited reading I have been unable to locate an Augustan example. I therefore offer a modern example by an anonymous poet, from a poem "In Praise of the Whole Generation of Modern Authors." The pun in this case (raze/raise) works better aurally than in text, but it will serve I hope:

Oh Joy! to know that now the future stands In such o'erreaching and all grasping hands! To them we firmly pledge the public good, That they may raze through Space, what Time withstood.

Similes and metaphors are easily constructed as satiric weapons, especially when they are extended, because the satirist can describe a very fitting irony in detail, or draw out a comparison or contrast, allowing the audience to see how the thing aggressed is like a thing of which they disapprove or scorn. That is, similes and metaphors give the satirist freedom to yoke together entire concepts of totally different natures to produce a self-critical statement.

Oxymoron used satirically makes for a pointed emphasis on some contradiction in the target's philosophy, such as a Modern Author's joy at leaving the idealism of the past behind: "No silly perfect visions plague us now" seems to indicate that the writer is a fool, since visions (ideals) cannot be silly and perfect at the same time. A better example comes from Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel, Part I" [ll. 593-594]: "The city, to reward his pious hate/ Against his master, chose him magistrate." Here the poet rejects the idea that hate can be put to good use, or is to be approved of. The fact that the words "pious" and "hate" don't fit together shows this.

Parable and allegory, the final elements I will include here, both have the same benefits as simile and metaphor, for they can conduct a prolonged discussion on two levels of meaning while at the same time inherently comparing and contrasting those levels without further comment

It is perhaps by now apparent that almost all of these techniques have one element in common: each provides a way to say two or more things at one time, and to compare, equate, or contrast those things, usually with heavy irony. The application of the ironic method of satire uses those techniques which most easily allow the presentation of irony: the several techniques also provide variety, concision, and an opportunity for employing wit and humor. The essential meaning of a satire is seldom if ever consistent with a literal interpretation, yet the literal interpretation is extremely important for what it says about the essential meaning, and about the target or audience which can be reached only in an indirect way.

To sum it all up we may point out the following characteristics of relations between Irony and satire:

1. Both irony and satires are literary terms that are commonly used to portray something that is contrary to the truth, in order for this to be exposed to the general public for the purpose of awareness and change.

2. Irony is a figure of speech that portrays the contrary of the truth about something through the careful play of words and wit. Satire is a literary form, or genre, that is commonly used through the use of graphic arts, or in the form of a performance.

3. Irony is a figure of speech, therefore it is limited to written and spoken forms. On the other hand, since satire is a literary form, it can be presented in a variety of different methods, ranging from literary pieces, such as commentaries, to performances, and even in illustrations accompanying editorials.

1.3 Irony and Sarcasm

Now when it comes to the difference between irony and sarcasm, sarcasm is actually a subdivision or part of irony in a way, but it is used more specifically to hurt and embarrass the person personally. The attack is more personal and deliberate in nature and this is only used by people when they are angry or do not like the person they are talking to.

To detect sarcasm let's go deeper into details of this phenomenon.

Sarcasm is defined in The Oxford Universal Dictionary, published in 1933, as "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt." More contemporary definitions often emphasize the false, mocking praise and verbal irony of sarcasm rather than its malicious or scornful intent. However, the etymology of the word "sarcasm" clearly indicates that wounding was--at least historically--the primary point. The word comes from the late Latin sarcasmus, derived from the Greek sarkasmos ("a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery") and sarkazein ("to speak bitterly, sneer"--literally, "to strip off the flesh" or "to bite the lips in rage").

Sarcasm is a type of irony, according to most researchers, and irony is just one of many figures of speech. Some researchers argue that sarcasm and irony are intrinsically different, but others suggest that they are identical for all practical purposes. Although all figures of speech are related to sarcasm/irony to some extent because they are non-literal, the figures of speech called hyperbole (overstatement or exaggeration) and meiosis (understatement) are most similar. Most sarcasm is linguistic, philosophical, or literary in nature. Most researchers utilize experimental methods, but other forms of research have advocates also. The vast majority of studies mentioned in this book consider elements of comprehension rather than production. Researchers have less often considered sarcastic speakers and what motivates them to use sarcasm. This appears to be changing, however [Rockwell, Patricia Ann, 2006:7].

As a matter of fact, there is a big difference between sarcasm and irony. According to John Haiman, a person may use irony unintentionally and unconsciously [Haiman J., 1998:20]. Situations can also be ironic. However, sarcasm must be intentional and conscious. Whoever makes a sarcastic comment knows that they are saying something contrary to what they actually believe, or how they actually feel. In addition, situations cannot be sarcastic, whereas people can.

The subject of sarcasm is complex because many factors are involved. The following stimuli affect the presence, or degree, of sarcasm in everyday language: exaggeration, nature of the speaker, relationship of speaker to victim, severity of the criticism, and whether or not the criticism is being made in private or in front of an audience. However, there is one basic factor regarding sarcasm: It is “a form of ironic speech commonly used to convey implicit criticism with a particular victim as its target” [McDonald, S., 1999:486-487]. Whether someone claims to be “just kidding” or whether that person's intention is to express dismay, there is always a victim (when the object of the sarcastic comment is a person).

Negative sarcasm, where positively worded utterances convey negative attitudes, is used frequently in everyday language. For example, one may say “I love James; that jerk slammed the door in my face even though he saw me walking behind him.” James' actions would normally not be loved by anyone. However, one may use the word “love” to express their disapproval of him and his actions. Once again, this is a play on words.

Sarcastic remarks, like this, are usually accompanied by exaggeration, and intensifiers may be used on the words that state the opposite of how one truly feels. For example, in the situation with James, one might put a vocal stress on the word love, resulting in “I looove James.” Lori Ducharme supports this statement in her article “Sarcasm and Interactional Politics”.

Sarcasm was recognized by the intonation of voice as well as by the physical gestures of the sarcaster….In a sarcastic statement, a speaker utters words which are directly opposite to his/her intended meaning, but a vocal emphasis on these words (often accompanied by facial gestures such as a smirk, shaking of the head, or rolling of the eyes) indicates that they are not to be interpreted literally.

1.3.1 Types of Sarcasm

According to Lori Ducharme [Ducharme, Lori J., 1994:51-62], sarcastic transactions may take six forms: social control, declaration of allegiance, establishing social solidarity and social distance, venting frustration, and humorous aggression.

1) Social control: Sarcasm is used as a control mechanism to reprimand members of a particular group when inappropriate or undesired behavior is displayed. For example, saying “Great job” to a member of a baseball team who strikes out for the second time in a row.

2) Declaration of allegiance: Sarcasm can be self-directed. A person reprimands him-/herself for unacceptable behavior. For example, telling oneself “You are such a genius” after realizing an error made on an exam.

3) Solidarity and social distance: Sarcasm is directed at outsiders of a particular group, affirming the “you are not good enough to be part of our group” mentality. This sarcasm takes place when others do not fit a group's expectations of what is acceptable. For example, a group of girls sitting at a table may comment on another girl that passes by saying, “She is the most beautiful creature on this planet. Just look at her zit-infested face.”

4) Venting frustration: Sarcasm can express disapproval with a situation or object that does not uphold the standards of an individual. For example, saying “These are the best seats in the house” at a movie theater where one's seat is at the back of the theatre behind someone wearing a top hat.

5) Humorous aggression: Sarcasm can be used to be funny and expresses wit by stating the opposite of a fact or belief shared by group members. For example, by saying “Pat isn't as smart as you all think he is, he's only valedictorian because he bribed college students to do his work for him” may be someone's attempt at joking about a valedictorian's intelligence and ability to graduate at the head of his/her class. (Sarcasm under this category can be used to describe a person, event, situation, etc.).

Social control, social solidarity, and declaration of allegiance are politically motivated sarcastic remarks. Their purpose is functional: to maintain group boundaries of what is and is not acceptable behavior. Venting frustration and humorous aggression are expressive in nature. They may convey a sense of exasperation with a person or situation, but neither is concerned with defining group boundaries and adhering to acceptable behavior. It seems that people nowadays tend to use the expressive forms of sarcasm more than the political forms in conversation.

More often than not, sarcasm is also more derogatory and really insulting. However, even if this is the case many people still use sarcasm to hide their true feelings, and the oddest thing is that even friends use this to one another as a butt of joke or a way to tell their friends how they really feel. Just always keep in mind that you should also take into consideration your bond with that someone. If your ties are really strong and tested then it might be fine to use sarcasm once in awhile, since it could break your relationship if the sarcasm used is totally hurtful.

Irony, on the other hand is a more subtle way of expressing how you really feel, but without really saying and hurting them. Sounds confusing? An irony is expressing a word that is not really what you wanted to say. Like when you say the phrase over the top or way over your head to another person, it is a restrained way of saying that, `maybe they should think about it first', because they might not be capable or don't have the capacity to do it.

Furthermore, irony can be used not just in words but also in situations where in the circumstances are more ironic. Irony is absolutely not used to offend another person directly or indirectly.

In other words, Irony tones and delivery will always be humorous and sometimes can be viewed as life's practical joke. So if you are the one at the receiving end of an irony, you might even laugh at the whole thing and might not even bother to look into the real meaning of that irony.

By way of conclusion, it's useful to point out such differences between Irony and Sarcasm as:

Remember always, that sarcasm is nasty and not very good, especially if that sarcasm is directed towards you. Even if you are not the intended victim,it is still not funny to use sarcasm, unless of course the situation really calls for it.


1. Sarcasm is used more specifically to hurt and embarrass the person personally, while irony, on the other hand, is a more subtle way of expressing how you really feel.

2. Irony tones and delivery will always be humorous and sometimes can be viewed as life's practical joke, while sarcasm is nasty and not very good.

1.4 Irony and Humour

Humour is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humourous (Latin: humor, "body fluid"), control human health and emotion.

People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. The majority of people are able to experience humour, i.e., to be amused, to laugh or smile at something funny, and thus they are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour induced by humour to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational. Though ultimately decided by personal taste, the extent to which an individual will find something humorous depends upon a host of variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence and context. For example, young children may favour slapstick, such as Punch and Judy puppet shows or cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Satire may rely more on understanding the target of the humour and thus tends to appeal to more mature audiences. Nonsatirical humour can be specifically termed "recreational drollery".

Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. The prevailing types of theories attempting to account for the existence of humour include psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humour-induced behaviour to be very healthy; spiritual theories, which may, for instance, consider humour to be a "gift from God"; and theories which consider humour to be an unexplainable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.

Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E.B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of the term "humour" (a German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy. However, both "humour" and "comic" are often used when theorising about the subject. The connotations of "humour" as opposed to "comic" are said to be that of response versus stimulus. Additionally, "humour" was thought to include a combination of ridiculousness and wit in an individual; the paradigmatic case being Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. The French were slow to adopt the term "humour"; in French, "humeur" and "humour" are still two different words, the former referring to a person's mood or to the archaic concept of the four humours.

Ancient Greece

Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semihistorical dialogue character) in the Philebus the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics, suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.


In ancient Sanskrit drama, Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra defined humour (hвsyam) as one of the nine nava rasas, or principle rasas (emotional responses), which can be inspired in the audience by bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform. Each rasa was associated with a specific bhavas portrayed on stage. In the case of humour, it was associated with mirth (hasya).


The terms "comedy" and "satire" became synonymous after Aristotle's Poetics was translated into Arabic in the medieval Islamic world, where it was elaborated upon by Arabic writers and Islamic philosophers such as Abu Bischr, his pupil Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes. Due to cultural differences, they disassociated comedy from Greek dramatic representation, and instead identified it with Arabic poetic themes and forms, such as hija (satirical poetry). They viewed comedy as simply the "art of reprehension" and made no reference to light and cheerful events or troublous beginnings and happy endings associated with classical Greek comedy. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, the term "comedy" thus gained a new semantic meaning in Medieval literature.

Social demographics

As with any form of art, acceptance depends on social demographics and varies from person to person. Throughout history, comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the Western kings or the villages of the Far East. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm. Eighteenth-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness."

Evolutionary explanation of humour

Alastair Clarke explains: "The theory is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why any individual finds anything funny. Effectively, it explains that humour occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition of this sort is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter." The theory further identifies the importance of pattern recognition in human evolution: "An ability to recognize patterns instantly and unconsciously has proved a fundamental weapon in the cognitive arsenal of human beings. The humorous reward has encouraged the development of such faculties, leading to the unique perceptual and intellectual abilities of our species.

So, as it was already mentioned in the introduction, Humour is some kind of generalisation for such tropes as Irony, Satire and Sarcasm. Humour is not a particular phrase or word combination, it is an effect made on a person, an impression from situation, described in written form or orally.

Conclusion to chapter I

The table below is represented as a conclusion to the theoretical part of the work. In the first part were discussed various characteristics of Humour, Irony, Sarcasm and Satire, here are the essential general and comparative data on them:

The table of comparative analysis of Humour, Irony, Sarcasm and Satire.











Sense, impression, effect

Figure of speech

Figure of speech/statement/


Literary form/genre

Object (auditory)

General public

General public

Person-to-person conversation

Large audience


To ridicule, make laugh, feel relaxed, make fun, appreciate the humorous situation

Purpose of awareness and change. To joke life practically.

To embarrass, to hurt nastily and hastily.

To let people know about their mistakes, stimulate to a positive action.

Chapter II.

Linguostylistic means of expression of Irony

2.1 Stylistic analyzing of examples of Irony from the book by George Mikes “How to be an alien”.

We have examined the theoretical aspect of such phenomenon as Irony and its coherent terms. Now we pass to the practical part the task of which is to regard the examples of using Irony and to elicit means of its expression.

1) 'You foreigners are so clever,' said a lady to me some years ago. First, thinking of the great amount of foreign idiots and half-wits I had had the honour of meeting, I considered this remark exaggerated but complimentary. Since then I have learnt that it was far from it. These few words expressed the lady's contempt and slight disgust for foreigners.

A typical example of Irony, expressed by epithet. The epithet is a stylistic device based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence used to characterize an object and pointing out to the reader, and frequently imposing on mm, some of the properties or features of the object with the aim of giving an individual perception and evaluation of these features or properties[Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:23].

As it's clearly explained in the analyzed example, we see plainly the ironical and in some way even sarcastic attitude of the English woman to the foreigners. The italicized word acquires a meaning quite the opposite to its primary dictionary meaning, that is, 'stupid', 'unintelligent'.

2) Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation. An apple fell on his head. This incident set him thinking for a minute or two, then he ex claimed joyfully: 'Of course, The gravitation constant is the acceleration per second that a mass of one gram causes at a distance of one centimetre.'

Here we observe an expressing Irony through meiosis. Meiosis is a euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies that it is lesser in significance or size than it really is [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiosis_(figure_of_speech) ].

The author used it here to make the reader realize that his discovery of any not-Britain being an alien like many remarkable for humanity discoveries was made not in a few seconds, but got through a long way of evolution and stages.

3) In England, if you do not repeat the phrase 'Lovely day, isn't it?' at least two hundred times a day, you are considered a bit dull.

Here the ironical effect is achieved by the figure of speech that is known as hyperbole. It can be defined as a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feature essential to the object or phenomenon [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:42 ].

George Mikes emphasizes this way the unjustified, strange for the rest of us love of the British, there urgency in every context to discuss the weather. On the continent, as Mikes calls the rest of the world, people treat this British tradition ironical and funny.

4) Just as they keep pets, they are quite prepared to keep a few foreigners.

That is the example of Irony, manifested by pun. Pun is stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:17 ].

Of course, at first sight, the utterance may seem sarcastic and arrogant, how can people be “kept” like pets. Nevertheless we comprehend the Ironical and even humorous sense. Mikes shows the typical British character trait that is reserve, some kind of exaggerated sense of superiority, that we perceive ironically.

5) On the Continent Sunday papers appear on Monday; in England - a country of exotic oddities - they appear on Sunday. On the Continent people use a fork as though a fork were a shovel; in England they turn it upside down and push everything - including peas - on top of it. On a continental bus approaching a request-stop the conductor rings the bell if he wants his bus to go on without stopping; in England you ring the bell if you want the bus to stop. On the Continent stray cats are judged individually on their merit - some are loved, some are only respected; in England they are universally worshipped as in ancient Egypt. On the Continent people have good food; in England people have good table manners.

In this passage we observe creation of Ironical sense based on repetition. repetition is an expressive means of language used when the speaker is under the stress of strong emotion. Repetition is classified according to compositional patterns. If the repeated word (or phrase) comes at the beginning of two or more consecutive sentences, clauses or phrases, we have anaphоra, as in the example above [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch5:22].

As we read this passage we realize in what ridiculous aspects the Continent and England are different and how far from each other.

6) I am an alien myself. What is more, I have been an alien all my life.

Here George Mikes uses metaphor to explain the readers the status of a foreigner in England. The term 'metaphor', as the etymology of the word reveals, means transference of some quality from one object to another [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:4].

The author has been living in Great Britain for a long time but has not become the British in the essential meaning of this word, to be more exact, the British haven't accept him. He was, he is and he will be a creature from another planet, an alien in England and among the British, like any other foreigner, to whom they don't give even a small chance.

7) A criminal may improve and become a decent member of society. A foreigner cannot improve.

Unrelated elements are brought together in this example, “a criminal” and “a foreigner” as if being a foreigner is indecent, as if they denoted things equal in rank or belonging to one class, as if they were of the same stylistic aspect. Heterogeneity of the component parts of the utterance is the basis for a stylistic device called b а t h о s [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:1]. Here we observe legal term “a criminal” in one flow with neutral word “foreigner”.

The notion of a foreigner next to the notion of a criminal acquires a new kind of derivation. It becomes negative. So the author wants to demonstrate to us how proud the British are of their nation, of their decent society. It goes without saying that Mikes is ironical here, nevertheless, there is a piece of truth, we do know that one of the typical British character traits is self-satisfaction, insular pride [Afonskaya I.A., Bloch M.Y., Freydina E.L., 2008:57].

8) It was one of those exceptionally hot days and my wife made some cold coffee and put it in the refrigerator, where it froze and became one solid block. On the other hand, she left the cheese on the kitchen table, where it melted. So I had a piece of coffee and a glass of cheese.

The humorous effect is achieved here by means of bare confusion and our imagination, that creates word game, exchange of parts of the phrases, the Pun. The pun - stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase [Galperin I.R., 2009:ch4:14].

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