Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Doncha think?

On the death of the motorcyclist in the Waikato:

A police officer who made a fatal u-turn in front of a motorcyclist was left so badly shaken by the man's death he could not key in an emergency call on his cellphone, says a witness.

In an ironic twist, the allegedly speeding motorist who the officer was about to pursue when he made the u-turn may have been the motorcyclist's best friend.

The Oxford English Dicitonary defines 'irony' thusly:
2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things. (In F. ironie du sort.)
Let's ignore that fact that, even if this situation were ironic, pointing it out - an "ironic twist"? - in the second sentence of an article about a man's death, as if we were watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie, might be considered a wee bit too wry.

"A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected". Now we can probably accept that you wouldn't expect that, when a man is killed after a police car sideswipes him during a U-turn, the policeman happened to be about to pursue someone who may have been the victim's best friend. That much is certainly true, in the same way as it's true that one might find it unlikely to meet the man of one's dreams and then, in short order, meet his beautiful wife. But it's hardly the opposite of what was expected, is it?

It's not even "a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things". Now, if the policeman had been about to go and rescue the victim's friend from a burning car, that might have been ironic - he's ended up saving one, but harming the other. Unfortunately for the English language he was only about to give the man a speeding ticket.

7 comments:

  1. Indeed.

    Although, the increasing use of "isn't that ironic?" when people really mean "isn't that a strange coincidence?" is one of those odd English language developments we may have to come to learn to live with.

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  2. Bollocks we do. We no more have to live with it than we have to live with gonorrhea.

    Also: yay, you're back!11eleven

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  3. The article implies that it was a strange coincidence, as though the bikes were going in opposite directions. If they were going in the same direction, then it is highly likely that they would be mates going for a ride together. Nothing even slightly ironic or unexpected about that.

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  4. Nothing unexpected about two 'mates going for a ride together' in separate vehicles? Nothing?

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  5. Welcome back.

    While the Herald's misunderstanding of the definition of irony is clearly a weighty matter, and one that amply demonstrates how rotten-to-the-core that particular organ is, shouldn't we be focusing on the real issues? Like bunny rabbits?

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  6. James, when this all blows over you and i should get an apartment together. I used to work with this guy that would habitually start sentences with, i think it ironic... he would then go on a tangent of something completely unrelated to anything ever... turns out he had Asperger Syndrome

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  7. He didn't have Aspergers, he was just an asshole.

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