Logophile Tuesday – Verbal Irony

Perhaps my favorite form of wordplay is clever verbal irony. That is, simple phrases that are internally contradictory in delightfully evocative ways.

Douglas Adams introduced me to the joy of this in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Regarding Alcohol:

“the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.”

Regarding Hyperspace:

You better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace; it’s unpleasantly like being drunk.

Well, what’s so unpleasant about being drunk?

You ask a glass of water!

This is a pattern continued in his fabulous tour of the natural world Last Chance to See:

Sadly, however, it seems that not only has the kakapo forgotten how to fly, but it has forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. Apparently a seriously worried kakapo will sometimes run up a tree and jump out of it, whereupon it flies like a brick and lands in a graceless heap on the ground.

Does anyone else have any favorite ironic turns of phrase? I predict a comment section full of Wilde.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life. – Terry Pratchett

    Biers was where the undead drank. And when Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn’t mix a metaphor. — Terry Pratchett

  2. “I’ve got a mind like a steel sieve.”

    And of course there’s the ever-popular “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.

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