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September 29, 2003

Welcome to the Irony Posse, Prof. Froomkin!

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:48 pm

To: Prof. Michael Froomkin, U. Miami Law School

From: Word Usage Panel

Re: Irony Subcommittee

Due to your obvious love and mastery of the English language — as evidenced daily at and ICANNWatch, and more specifically, on September 28, 2003, in your posting ‘Irony Distinguished From Chutzpah’ — the ethicalEsq Word Usage Panel Section (WUPS, pronounced “whoops”) is pleased to offer you the Chairmanship of our Irony Subcommittee.

Admittedly, this is a big job for an already very busy law professor, pundit, and author, but it is an especially important job. As demonstrated daily on television newscasts, in articles from every medium (see, e.g., our recent Verbal Quibble entry), and in student essays and (sadly) legal memoranda across the land, the word “irony” is being chronically abused in our society, most frequently in its adverbial form, “ironically.” The indiscriminate discovery or attribution of irony where there is no incongruity is, to use the vernacular, dumbing down the English language, as well as the human thought process. As aptly noted in the American Heritage Dictionary:

The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply “coincidental” or “improbable,” in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly.

For further discussion of the use and misuse of the concept of irony, see the Guardian article Isn’t It Ironic? (June 28, 2003) (“‘Isn’t it ironic?’ You hear it all the time – and, most of the time, actually no, it isn’t. Hypocritical, cynical, lazy, coincidental, more likely.”) Also, see the Wikipedia entry on the topic (which includes discussion of the Alanis Morrissette song “Ironic”). If you’re not convinced of the depth and breadth of the problem, please peruse the Purpose page at Irony Central. Ironically, that site’s editor apparently believes you can achieve irony by merely stating the opposite of what you believe — even if you tell the reader that you are doing exactly that.
With your help, WUPS hopes to turn the tsunami of misuse that is drowning a once precious word into a gentle tide of precision and restraint. At the very least, we hope to rid legal weblogs, memoranda of law, and even court decisions of such verbal abuse.
Please join us in this noble enterprise.

P.S. Sadly, some people may not see the connection between legal ethics and irony. That’s a topic for another posting, or perhaps an entire weblog.

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