Americans frequently use the term sarcasm to describe verbal irony. This needs to stop.
Verbal Irony Definition: A speaker means something different than, often the opposite of, what she says.
Thus, verbal irony occurs when a speaker says what she DOESN’T mean.
Examples of verbal irony:
“Oh, great! It’s raining and I forgot my umbrella.”
“I can’t wait to start writing these forty-seven reports.”
“My walk home was only twenty-three blocks.”
Sarcasm definition: the implementation of contemptuous language or verbal irony in order to mock or insult.
Sarcasm is often a subset of verbal of verbal irony which occurs when a speaker says what he DOESN’T mean with malicious intent.
Examples of sarcasm:
“I just love working with incompetent people.”
“You call this a cup of coffee?”
“I was hoping to encounter a competent sales clerk today.”
Step #1. Teach this life-altering lesson on the three types of irony.
Step #2. Ask class to reiterate the difference between verbal irony and sarcasm.
Step #3. Have each student read aloud a line of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan. (If you have less than thirty-two students, some lucky students will get to read two lines. If you have more than thirty-two students, your students’ parents should sue the local school board.)
Step #4. Listen to the actual song. (I like this version, but If you want to rock, try Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan together.)
Step #5. Ask students if they have ever said mean and angry things to someone during a romantic breakup. Ask them why anyone would ever want to hurt someone with whom he has shared a special part of his life. (You will probably get some interesting answers.)
Step #6. Number students off into groups of no more than three. Instruct each group to list at least six examples of sarcasm from the song and explain their answers.
Step #7. Collect student work and review it as a whole-class activity.
Additional lyrics that can be used to discuss verbal irony:
Consider the following lines from “Troublemaker” by Weezer
I’m such a mystery
As anyone can see
There isn’t anybody else
Exactly quite like me
And when it’s party time
I’ll party by myself because I’m such a special guy
Also, there are some lovely examples of verbal irony in the song “Walking Slow” by Jackson Browne. See if your class can spot them.