What is irony?

We explain what irony is and the types of irony that are often used. In addition, examples of this rhetorical figure and what is sarcasm.

  1. What is irony?

Irony is known as a rhetorical figure that consists in transmitting information completely contrary to the message that is said or written . It can be used both with the purpose that the receiver recognizes the ironic turn and thus generate a certain sense of humor or complicity, or that it cannot detect it and the expression constitutes a kind of offense.

In that sense, irony is  not usually accompanied by explicit indicators that clarify the real meaning of what is said , although it can either go to gestures or, in written communication, quotes, emotíconos or a sign specifically used for irony in certain contexts: (?).

The word irony comes from the Greek word  eir ön eía , which can be translated as dissimulation or pretense, because whoever uses it would simulate an ignorance that he does not possess. An equivalent would be the Hispanic expression “playing dumb.”

It also happens that, being a complex turn of language , it usually requires a cultural background or a knowledge of the use of language to be able to detect it in most cases. That is why it is so difficult to translate into other languages, or so complex to detect by foreign speakers.

Types of irony

In literary texts and narratives , irony  can be used as a stylistic or poetic figure , beyond the verbal ironys of everyday language. This occurs to the extent that a character is made to say something that contradicts the common knowledge of the readers or the audience.

For example, it is ironic that a character fervently expresses a point of view that he will later suffer, or that he incurs attitudes he normally rejects. This is the situation ironys.

It is also possible for a character to take for granted something that the public knows false and act accordingly, as Juliet does in  Romeo and Juliet  William Shakespeare, to commit suicide after believing his lover dead. This figure is known as tragic irony.

  1. Examples of irony

  • To reject a threat: “Oops, I’m shaking with fear” (verbal ironys).
  • A fire station on fire (situational ironys).
  • In  Oedipus King  of Sophocles, King Oedipus promises the people to punish the former king’s murderer with banishment, and investigations reveal that he has been himself, without knowing it, so he must banish himself (tragic ironys).
  • When referring to an enemy: “Juan and I get along great” (verbal ironys).
  • A character prepares a trap with care and ends up falling into it (situational ironys).
  1. Irony and sarcasm

irony and sarcasm
Sarcasm consists of a form of cruel mockery or scathing irony.

It is often difficult to distinguish between irony and sarcasm . Perhaps because the latter includes ironys in certain cases, provided it is a particularly cruel one.

That is to say: while ironys consists in expressing something with the opposite terms, sarcasm instead consists of a form of cruel mockery or scathing ironys that seeks to offend or mistreat someone.

That is, sarcasm constitutes a maximum and more evident degree of irony , insofar as it has the more or less explicit intention of generating pain or becoming an affront.

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