Friday, March 05, 2004

The unbearable lightness of being ironic

In the final episode of Futurama entitled "The devils hands are idle playthings" there is a running joke about the robot devil's use of the word irony.

When Fry agrees to trade his hands with the hands of a randomly selected robot the robot that comes up on the giant wheel is the Robot Devil himself. This event prompts the following dialogue:


Fry: Robot Devil? I get your hands? Zam!

Robot Devil: Oh what an appallingly ironic outcome.

Bender: It's not ironic; it's just coincidental. Now fork over those lady-fingers cookie!


Continuing the story, Fry wants new hands so that he can woo Leela by writing an opera about her and performing the opera on the holophoner. Then the day before the premiere, the Robot Devil installs an air horn on Bender and Bender uses the air horn to deafen Leela. The dialogue ensues:


Bender: Pretty annoying, huh Leela?

Leela: (shouting) What? Are you talking? Oh God I'm deaf!

Bender: Oops. I'm so so sorry Leela. I just wanted to annoy you.

Leela: (shouting) What? Oh this is horrible. I won't be able to hear Fry's opera.

Robot Devil: Ah how delightfully ironic.

Bender: It's not ironic, it's just mean. Take this! [He blows the airhorn weakly.]

Robot Devil: Ooh! Out of aerosol? Also ironic!


The joke finally comes to its conclusion at the opera when the Robot Devil grants Leela mechanical ears in exchange for her hand. In marriage. Oh yes, the "in marriage" part is only in the fine print and Leela comes to rue the agreement she has made. When the Robot Devil reveals the bargain to the audience, Bender muses:


[In the audience Bender reads from a dictionary.]

Bender: (singing) The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention, Now that is "irony!"


Fantastic writing eh? I made a dash for my Wesbster's and indeed that was the definition of "irony"!!

What does all this have to do with anything? Recently on the NexGen list, a subscriber made the following comment about the librarian action figure:

I think the "shushing action" is supposed to be ironic.

Interesting use of the word ironic don't you think?? Dictionary.com has a paragraph that addresses this phenomenon of people using the word ironic to mean "coincidental" or "improbable". Acutally, the use of "ironic" to mean "coincidental" doesn't even apply to the action figure comment!! (And it was made by a person with a master's degree!!)

I find the fact that I have been dwelling on the Futurama episode and the fact that I have recently encountered misuse of the word "ironic" to be an interesting coincidence.

Also I hate that freaking action figure.

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