How do we know on the internet when someone is being ironic rather than literal in their statements? In real life one can take a cue from the bodily behaviors of facial expression and intonation, as well as vocal cues of pitch or density as the other is speaking; but, in writing one looks for context rather than the actual descriptive phrase. But what if the phrase is a common off-hand expression… oh, say: “Oh, that sounds like fun!” Would one know when this sentence is floating there without any supporting context that the author implied it as ironic rather than a statement of fact, or does one take the context from the previous statements of the other to which this statement is a reply? On the internet typically we add to these statements such things as “lol” (lots of luck). In that we might say: “Oh, that sounds like fun! lol” then one might realize… oh, he was just being sarcastic or ironic, less than serious or literal. He didn’t mean what he said. But if one didn’t add this epithet of “lol” would that always imply that the statement should be taken literally?
Obviously if someone knows the person in question, and has listened or heard or read such off-hand statements before in other contexts one would realize it. Yet, for those who have never known the author or speaker such things would need some added indicator to allow the other to understand: ah, this is an ironic statement, not to be taken literally. I’m being pedantic, of course, because I fall into that trap myself all the time: saying something off-hand that I meant as ironic or satiric, but discover after the fact that people have taken as a literal statement rather than a figure of speech in the ironic sense. Does this happen to you very often? Let me know of your stories… 🙂