Now, For Today’s Lesson…

How many times have you heard someone say: “That’s so ironic?” How many times have you said it yourself? You don’t have to tell me, it’s a rhetorical question! Let’s just say that it is an oft-used phrase along with its oft-used sibling in question form that begins: “Isn’t it ironic…” While there are many, perhaps too many, “ironies” in life, it is also the English language’s most misused and abused word. It has, unfortunately, become synonymous with coincidence, bad luck, and pleasant surprises, none of which are ironic!

The use of irony shows the contrast or incongruity between how things appear and how they are in reality. More precisely, these three definitions will perhaps provide a bit more clarity. Irony, noun: 1. The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. For example: “Don’t go overboard with the gratitude, he rejoined with heavy irony.” This example demonstrates sarcasm, dryness, sharpness, and acerbity. 2. A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. For example: “The irony is that I thought he could help me.” On display here are paradox, incongruity, and peculiarity. 3. A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or the reader although unknown to the character. There are several types of literary irony, such as situational, verbal, as well as others. An example of verbal irony can be seen in Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, where he suggests that the way around the famine in Ireland is to have children specifically bred to feed the starving. Of course, he was not advocating for cannibalism, just using irony to get the reader’s attention. I know when I read it for the first time, it certainly got me thinking!

So why this English 101 lecture on irony that, if you’re anything like me, you slept through the first time around? Yes, very good Albert; that is another rhetorical question. You are so close to that gold star! Have you got a minute? Okay, I’ll stop! Over the last few weeks or so I’ve written several pieces for this blog on technology and, more specifically, the somewhat latest attempt to “better” our lives, with Chat GPT, that large language model that you can ask anything…Well almost anything, and it will give you everything from a terse response to an essay on what Dostoyevsky was thinking when he penned The Brothers Karamazov. After writing my missives, I was feeling a little bit guilty that I wrote all this stuff and had not tried the new technology myself, mostly because I thought it would be an enormous time-suck and between, Spelling Bee, Wordle, Framed, Quordle, etc., etc., the last thing I needed was another technological timewaster. But being the conscientious person that I am, not to mention wanting to shed the guilt, I decided to give it a try today, to better understand the workings of this new technology. I logged onto Google, typed in Chat GPT, and then clicked on the appropriate link, which brought me to a page that directed me to click: “Sign up now.” I clicked on that link and there was a slight pause before my screen was showing me a tan-colored page, which had this in the center: A small square box for me to check with text beside it that read, “I am Human.” Yup, a computer generated artificial intelligence was asking me to confirm that I was not a robot! I couldn’t check the box right away, as I had to make an emergency trip to the loo before I pissed myself laughing. Welcome to the “brave new world!”

Los Angeles 2023

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