Excuse Me, Madam, You’re Standing On My Rhetorical Device

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An interesting thing, this blog business.

I started receiving some snarky comments. One was so bizarre it appeared to be vaguely malevolent computer generated gibberish. Two were just randomly snarky, the sort of generic snarkiness written by people who don’t have enough to do, and I deleted them, or trashed them, or whatever you call it when you don’t post a comment. One attacked another person’s comments for what was either a typo or a spelling error, and that too I deleted or trashed or whatever, partly because I don’t wish to promote warfare, partly because my own typing leaves much to be desired, and partly because I subscribe to the dictum that it’s a damn poor mind indeed that can’t think of at least three ways to spell any word. As Mark Twain pointed out, spelling “cow” with a K is better than spelling it with a C. “It gives the imagination a broader field, a wider scope. It suggests to the mind a grand, vague, impressive, new kind of cow.”

But there was one comment, in response to my criticism of the New York Times’ choice of books, I was about to relegate to the snarky pile, when it occurred to me the author might have a point. A dull point, to be sure, and somewhere off to the side of the target, but a point nonetheless. He or she said, “Hahaha! So anyone without your taste has bad taste, is that it?”

The temptation, of course, was to say, “Yep! That’s it precisely,” but I refrained.

There is a brewery down in San Diego County that makes a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale, and on the back of the bottle, their description of their ale reads:

“This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory—maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.”

Now that’s my kind of advertising. That’s my kind of humor. The use of irony to express a positive is very much a guy thing. When two men happily insult each other, it means they’re good friends; when they’re carefully polite, it means they despise each other. Think of politicians. When I call my wife my brainless little sex object, it means I think she’s smart (she graduated from college summa cum laude, getting straight As in everything, including algebra—obnoxious show-off) funny, and generally wonderful. And sexy. When I get formal and say, Yes, Dear, or call her Darleen, it means the milk of human kindness in my veins is getting close to its expiration date.

I had thought, when I wrote the last sentence about my readers’ having taste as bad as the New York Times, that I was using irony in its truest, most masculine sense, and doing so on multiple levels, using that particular rhetorical device to express my admiration for the Times, for modern literature, and for my readers all in one fell swoop. Pure genius! Rare subtlety of expression! Devastating humor! Positively kow-like brilliance!

Or maybe not.

I assumed that it was understood by one and all that the writer has yet to be born who wouldn’t cheerfully lop off his left testicle to merit a review in the Times. I had just mentioned three books that all received excellent reviews from the Gray Lady (“To Be Sung Underwater” was reviewed in the other Times, the one on the west coast). But perhaps not everyone appreciates the subtleties of my use of irony. Or, perhaps that comment was itself intended as irony and I was just too thick to get it. In which case…

In which case, I think I’m getting headache.

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