It's already dead.
August 28, 2009 6:46 PM   Subscribe

If you tell a zombie to "Go Forth and Die", is this irony?

its the title of a dethklok song.

i am working on a novel.
in tribute i would like to have "Go forth and die." be the only thing
a demon says to his zombies.

an argument arose between my wonderful staff of muses, and it is undecided as to whether or not this is irony.

yeah its a stupid question, but some of the smartest people i know do not agree, so have at it.
posted by Palerale to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I vote no. If that's ironic, then it's also ironic to say "listen to me" to a deaf person*.

Irony is the sense that the universe is mocking you: you shoot your wife so that you can spend the rest of your life with your girlfriend, but your wife ducks and the bullet hits your mistress instead.

* it might be ironic for me to say "listen to me" to a deaf person if I didn't know he was deaf and I spent a lot of time lecturing people, telling them they should be sensitive to the handicapped. Similarly, if I don't know that there's a zombie disease out there, and I say, "Buddy, you'll be dead soon, and then I'll be safe from you," that might be ironic.
posted by grumblebee at 7:01 PM on August 28, 2009


I think it depends, if the zombie is considered "not yet dead, but will probably die in the course of zombieing it up" then it's not ironic. On the other hand, if the zombie is considered "already dead" then it would be a little ironic, I guess.
posted by delmoi at 7:04 PM on August 28, 2009


grumblebee: here is how wikipedia defines irony:
Henry Watson Fowler, in The King's English, says “any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same."
...
These modern theories of rhetoric distinguish between three types of irony: verbal, dramatic and situational.
* Verbal irony is a disparity of expression and intention: when a speaker says one thing but means another, or when a literal meaning is contrary to its intended effect. An example of this is sarcasm.

* Dramatic irony is a disparity of expression and awareness: when words and actions possess a significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not.

* Situational irony is the disparity of intention and result: when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect. Likewise, cosmic irony is disparity between human desires and the harsh realities of the outside world (or the whims of the gods). By some definitions, situational irony and cosmic irony are not irony at all.
It seems like you're only talking about 'cosmic irony'.

Here the statement could be ironic because the surface meaning can't be the same as what was said, if the zombies are already "dead". But that leaves open the question of what the underlying mean is supposed to be. What does the demon actually want the zombies to do?
posted by delmoi at 7:08 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Oh, I just noticed the title of the question is "It's already dead.") so I would say it is ironic.
posted by delmoi at 7:09 PM on August 28, 2009


In my head, if i told a zombie to die, "DIE ZOMBIE DIE", the irony is that it cannot die, because it already has?

maybe it depends on how literally you take the word "die"?
there are ways to "kill" zombies.

in this case, the demon has no experience with death. sure, people come to hell via dying, but he has never experienced death, and they do not particularly die themselves.

he is sending them off to war at his disposal.
posted by Palerale at 7:14 PM on August 28, 2009


i mean "he has never experienced loss..."
i got excited
posted by Palerale at 7:18 PM on August 28, 2009


The problem here is that, while zombies are already "dead," they can die more completely still.

If you were to say "that zombie is a real live one," that would be ironic. If you were to say "that zombie's not going to be alive when I get through with him," that would be ironic. But saying that a zombie is going to die is not ironic, because it can, literally happen. A zombie is not alive. But it can still die. Again. Or something.
posted by The World Famous at 7:19 PM on August 28, 2009


I think the phrase "Go forth and die" is probably an allusion to the phrase "Go forth and multiply" which is commonly understood to be biblical, but actually does not appear in the bible. While God, if one believes he said "Go forth and multiply" to someone, commanded that a living person go forth and create more life, the speaker saying "Go forth and die" is commanding a dead thing to go forth and die more fully, and presumably spread more death in the process. This could be an example of dramatic irony, in that the audience understands this phrase to be an allusion to a diametrically opposed more common phrase, while the speaker may not. However, I think it is just wordplay.
posted by ND¢ at 7:33 PM on August 28, 2009


Irony usually has a purpose - to convey the opposite (or at least a disparate) meaning to the verbalised one. But what's the opposite here, what's the true meaning? Don't go forth and die? That has the exact same problem with it when said to zombies.

So what your character is doing is more uttering a paradox - advising creatures to do something that they can't do by definition. It's much like saying "Bachelors - go forth and remain married." All these words mean something individually which gives us a feeling we should be able to understand the sentence, but when you put them together in that construction they are, in fact, meaningless and paradoxical.

This, of course, ignores handwavey alternate interpretations of die such as 'become less animated' which wouldn't really be irony either.
posted by Sparx at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my head, if i told a zombie to die, "DIE ZOMBIE DIE", the irony is that it cannot die, because it already has?

It sounds like you're claiming that it's irony to tell someone to do something he can't do. Do you think it's ironic if I tell a whore to lose her virginity or an honest person to lie?

I don't see how that fits any of the above definitions of irony.
posted by grumblebee at 7:56 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it could be an example of verbal irony to tell a whore to lose her virginity, assuming you actually meant something else. The irony isn't that you're telling them to do something they can't do, but rather telling them to do something else. Presumably, in the case of zombies, it's to kill other things. The demon is not telling to zombies to become more fully dead. He's telling them to live the zombie lifestyle.
posted by delmoi at 8:03 PM on August 28, 2009


I would view it as sealing the knot rather than irony.
posted by Iron Rat at 8:38 PM on August 28, 2009


It isn't ironic, but it is metal.
posted by pwnguin at 9:22 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sparx is correct; irony has a specific definition, and this isn't it. I wouldn't be insistent about that—people can generally use words to mean whatever they want, really—but for the fact that it's actually an ancient Greek word, and a pretty important one. Stuff all the fancy definition like "hipocrisy" or "deceptiveness;" in ancient Greek, εἰρωνεία ("eh-roh-nay-a," whence "irony") just means saying one thing while thinking another. (One of the biggest reasons why the Athenians disliked Socrates and eventually put him to death was because they had the sneaking suspicion that he was being ironic—that is, he was saying one thing while thinking another—and they felt as though they couldn't therefore trust him.)

Palerale: In my head, if i told a zombie to die, "DIE ZOMBIE DIE", the irony is that it cannot die, because it already has?

Being a discrepency between words and intentions, irony doesn't exist in concepts but in people. That is to say: it's ironic to say "die" to something that can't die (again) but only if you're thinking that at the time you're saying it, and therefore are saying one thing ("Die, Zombie!") while thinking another ("aren't I clever? Of course he can't die, he's a zombie! Ha ha!")

It seems to me that if you say tell something that can't die to die without realizing what you're doing, there's nothing ironic about it. You're just mistaken.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 AM on August 29, 2009


Irony means saying what you don't really mean. So if you knew the thing was already dead it would be irony. If you didn't, it wouldn't be.
posted by bardic at 12:15 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


zombie is not defined enough, so any form of irony doesnt have impact.
its not an exact question, so if the context needs clear irony, then no it doesnt count.
posted by edtut at 3:50 AM on August 29, 2009


Being a discrepency between words and intentions, irony doesn't exist in concepts but in people
....
It seems to me that if you say tell something that can't die to die without realizing what you're doing, there's nothing ironic about it. You're just mistaken.



You are, of course, right that intention is vital to irony - it is a property of the speaker more than the speech. I had typed out some scenarios before I noticed that delmoi had said more or less the same thing. And it can be hard to tell intention from the written word in a textual snapshot. This is why emoticons were invented. It could go many ways.

"go forth and die", he screamed - who knows what the speaker is thinking? The character could just be over excited by power. Not definably irony.

"go forth and die, my undead legions", he screamed - pretty big chance of irony being involved on the character's part (unless powerful necromancers gain some advantage in ignoring literacy. Could happen...)

"go forth and die!", he screamed as the undead legions began to shamble past the maw of the bone gate" - here it's the author pointing out the irony - the authorial voice is ironic in intent, but the character's voice is less certain

"go forth and die :-/", he blogged, posting secretly via a zombieNet. I ate some brains and then typed my comment based on my newly gained intelligence. "first post!!!!", I entered carefully on the rust-red, sticky keybaord. I refreshed the website and saw that three people had beaten me to the draw. My vision became a single bloodstained point...
- at this stage your humble answerer explodes in the face of reckless contrivance
posted by Sparx at 8:50 AM on August 29, 2009


Suppose you're a bad guy in a movie, and you had an army of very-much-dead zombies, enslaved. A well-meaning hero jumps in, attacks and slays you, freeing the Zombies. In his moment of triumph, the hero jumps up on a shipping container, pumps his fist in the air at the swarm of no-longer-enslaved zombies, gestures to the door, and shouts "Your lives are now your own; go forth and live them!"

If the hero did not realize they were zombies when he said this, but the audience watching the movie already knew this (and knew the hero did not), it would be dramatic irony. If the hero did realize they were zombies when he said this, it would be verbal irony. If they were actually not zombies at all, but living people, and at his urging they swarmed en masse for the door -- which turned out to lead to a steep cliff off which they all plunged to their death -- that would be situational irony.

"Go forth and die" to a collection of freed zombie slaves, however, would actually be quite literal; they would be doing exactly what they were told. That they were already dead before has no importance. Similarly, saying "Go forth and live" to a live person (meaning they should go and live their lives to the fullest) doesn't become ironic just because they were already living before.
posted by davejay at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I vote no, it's more Alanis Morissette than ironic.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


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