Verbal irony is a figure of speech used by most of us in our day-to-day lives. We use it without even realizing which makes it quite an interesting topic of discussion.
Let’s find out more about verbal irony. What it means, what its connotations are, and how to use them better in situations to exhibit our emotions in a manner that explains what we mean.
Verbal irony can be explained as a situation wherein the literal meaning of what someone says is different from, and often opposite to, what they actually mean.
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An unseasoned learner may confuse the figurative meaning with its literal connotation. This may lead to a sense of frustration and lack of self-confidence in the learner towards the English language.
Learners who begin to effectively use verbal irony show a better understanding of the language. They display an enhanced understanding and command of English.
The underlying meanings of messages conveyed with the help of figures of speech like anaphora, hyperbole, irony, metonymy, paradox, etc. are culturally specific in nature, where two or more words are used together in order to produce a particular effect.
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What is verbal irony?
Verbal irony is when a speaker or writer says or writes the opposite of what they really mean. In most cases, verbal irony is used to emphasize one’s thoughts that are a lot different from their literal meaning.
We hear a common form of verbal irony in almost every show we watch, every book we read, and the people we speak to, in the form of sarcasm.
A common misunderstanding is that verbal irony is the same as sarcasm. But sarcasm is a part of verbal irony and is not the only one. There are many ways in which we can use verbal irony.
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What are the different parts of verbal irony?
Sarcasm involves the use of language to mean something other than its literal meaning but always with the intention to mock or criticize. (I’m not saying I don’t appreciate you, what I’m saying is that you are literally the Monday of my life.)
- Socratic irony
Socratic irony involves pretending to be ignorant to show that someone else is ignorant. It’s a figure of speech used to entice people to make statements that can be challenged.
(I’m confused, I thought your curfew was at 11. Isn’t it past 12 now?)
When something is presented or expressed in a subtle and effective way to intentionally show something as way less important than it really is. (The next closest star to the Earth is a mere 4.22 light-years away.)
When something is presented or expressed in an exaggerated and overdone way. (I haven’t seen you in a million years!)
How and when to use?
Verbal irony can be used to denote positive and negative inferences. As parents and teachers, who have the responsibility of mentoring children to be better individuals, we can leverage verbal irony to communicate desirable behavior.
Verbal irony requires the listener to think about the applied meaning further. As children are not directly told what to do, how to think, and what to say, they will be nudged to think of the correct choice of behavior. This also helps with helping children think of what is good for them, without having to directly enforce the next steps.
Example: Saying “Wow, you look beautiful with your face covered in mud!”, to a child who has had a good time in the park, will definitely make the child smile given the verbal irony, and then the child will proceed to clean up since that would be the desired thing to do.
Or another instance like asking, “Why are you up till so late? Are you Batman?” to a child who is caught awake at 1 am at night. Here, verbal irony can help with lightening the mood and help in asking the child to wind up and go to sleep.
Verbal irony has a way to improve the learning of the English language as well. We can use vocabulary that is not usually used by us in everyday lingo.
“That acquaintance is as friendly as a rattlesnake.”, might require the child to think about their company and traits that might connect a rattlesnake with the acquaintance.
Along with just improving vocabulary, reading between the lines is a skill that only a few have. But it is so vital when it comes to understanding all kinds of people around us. Whether it is a friend, or a foe, or a stranger whose intentions you are trying to gauge, reading between the lines is a skill that one must-have.
Furthermore, human psychology and verbal irony also have a deep connection. The way we react to situations, the examples we give, the irony we bring forth, all depend on the kinds of experiences we have had, and want to share in a witty and indirect way.
When we use verbal irony, we often do it to express ourselves better. Whether it is to express seriousness, happiness, or annoying emotions, and every other feeling that exists.
We meet people who use it more than the others, and that is because of how comfortable they are with using verbal irony. Shy and conservative people tend to use verbal irony in a milder way as opposed to an extrovert who has had experiences wherein he/she uses verbal irony to express emotions unreservedly.
When we use figures of speech like verbal irony in our everyday language to express ourselves, we ensure that we’re polishing our skills of reading between the lines and incorporating different figures of speech in our vocabulary. This in turn helps foster skills that not everybody considers very often.
Why is irony so popular?
Why do people use verbal irony to share their thoughts in a more enhanced and dramatic way?
Verbal irony is used by many authors and poets to write books and poems. It is used by scriptwriters to give a wholesome and witty storyline to series, movies, plays, and all sorts of media communication.
The use of verbal irony enhances the effect of what is being communicated in a manner that is creative and something that gets the reader thinking and imagining.
Our sentences are like mere sketches, and verbal irony brings out the true essence of the messages that are being delivered.
When you notice yourself using words that are clichés and slang, you know you need to get better at expressing yourself in a way that people appreciate your keen intelligence & humor.
How to incorporate verbal irony in vocabulary?
Different types of verbal irony statements can be made with the discretion of the speaker/ writer, but there is no one formula.
All we need to do is – look at the situation in a creative way, think out of the box and set our imagination loose. You will notice yourself looking at situations that can be described to listeners/ readers, in a way that they might feel they were a part of the experience themselves! Having people empathize with you can be something that happens at the snap of your fingers.
Such intentional deviation from ordinary language is almost always appreciated since it offers a fresh frame of reference.
Communicate with verbal irony to express yourself, help children learn to read between lines, and draw conclusions from sentences that might not always make sense in their original format.