Irony has always been one of the most subjective words/ideas in the common language. I wonder if this is a perception or a lack of understanding of the concept at a deep rooted level.

When does a "dark coincidence" or "paradox" become "ironic"?

Is there any way to identify something as ironic using rules of rhetoric (i.e. free of subjectivity)?

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    Irony is only truly irony when you don't know whether it's irony or not. – Barrie England Dec 18 '12 at 9:27
  • So, irony can only be identified by the user's sense of humor or by a lack of it? – Rahul Ranjan Dec 18 '12 at 9:33
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    Surely this is more of a philosophical question than an English question? If so, I'd be happy to move it to Philosophy. – waiwai933 Dec 18 '12 at 9:45
  • Bender defines irony. – RegDwight Dec 18 '12 at 9:56
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    I concur with @JosephWeissman. Hard to see how this is philosophy, unless the OP meant to write something deeper than what's written or I am simply not reading the question properly. – stoicfury Dec 19 '12 at 1:33

Oren Tsur, Dmitry Davidov and Ari Rappoport, computer scientists at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, devised an algorithm to recognise sarcasm in lengthy texts "by analysing patterns of phrases and punctuation often used to indicate irony". First the researchers trained them with 5,500 sentences consisting of either sarcastic or non-sarcastic type of comments and when tested on other subjects resulted in an accuracy of of "77 per cent of cases". For more you can read the The Telegraph article itself here.


Theoretically, yes of course. If you hold that we as humans are capable of determining whether something is ironic (i.e., "quantify" irony), then you must necessarily think that it is possible to quantify irony. In fact, to even have a coherent discussion about a concept it must be quantified, or defined, in such a way that it can be effectively communicated.

The way you pose your question is somewhat confusing, however, as the term "quantify" means "to determine". What do you mean by "Is there any quantifiable way to determine irony?" such that is different from simply asking "Is there any way to quantify [determine] irony?"

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    "In fact, to even have a coherent discussion about a concept it must be quantified, or defined, in such a way that it can be effectively communicated." You're making an awful lot of assumptions about the nature of language here that I'm not sure are valid. Wittgenstein's language games would disagree with this assertion, and I'm not convinced that the psychology that this claim requires is in any way accurate. – wmjbyatt Dec 19 '12 at 7:32
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    I never said it had to be defined well; only as much as it need be so as to distinguish it from other concepts. Even Wittgenstein would (and seemingly necessarily-so) have to agree with that. – stoicfury Dec 19 '12 at 7:50

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