To Irony and Back


Opinions, please: Is irony coming back, or going out?

Until last week, I had thought the phrase "winning hearts and minds" could never again be used in any but a smart-aleck sense (e.g., the once-popular service wisecrack, "Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow"). Now it's all over the place. Ditto the "Mother of All Battles." All these years the closest anybody's gotten to a serious iteration of that expression was stuff like "Come on down to the Mother of All Presidents Day sales!" Now Saddam (never a very dry wit) has given the Mother of All Battles Medal to his suicide-bomber NCO.

On the other hand, I haven't heard anybody use the phrase "Shock and Awe" without scare quotes (as opposed to the regular quotes I just used), since the first time it was uttered. I'm figuring it's about two weeks before you hear, "I'm shocked and awed by the low prices at Nobody Beats the Wiz!" And what of "embedding?" Even when people use that expression in its current straight sense they make funny little harrumphing noises. It would take the discipline of an anchorman to say "embedded" with a straight face. And forget about "decapitation." Where do any of these phrases fit on the Ironic/No Longer Ironic continuum?

And is there a Tomahawk equivalent of a Scud Stud?


NEXT: Johnny vs. Rummy

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  1. Describing a particularly brutal firefight that destroyed a village in Vietnam, a soldier says to a reporter, “We liberated the hell out of that place!”

    Are we also liberating Iraq?

  2. Yes, Beato has already taken a lead in ironicized use of “liberate,” although others may have gotten to it first:

    “U.S. Army liberates Geraldo Rivera.”


    “American pilot fires on British troops, killing one, liberating three others.”

    I’d actually be kind of sad if all references to “liberation” were permanently irradiated as a result of this adventure.

  3. The problem with irony is that it’s so ironic. Doh!

  4. “Friendly fire” is one phrase that won’t go away in a hurry. As Canadians know and the Brits are finding out, being a friend to the US can be as dangerous as being an enemy.

  5. > And is there a Tomahawk equivalent of a Scud Stud?

    An Al-Samoud Dude?

  6. I think, by “shock and awe”, the administration meant that we would be shocked at how awful things went.

  7. Referring to Geraldo, Lou Dobbs used the
    term “debedded” yesterday.

  8. After I heard the investment tax allowance for accelerated depreciation in the economic stimulus package ends Sept. 11, 2004, I started thinking about 911 sales.

  9. The “shock and awe” made me yawn. When the firebomb Baghdad, and it creates a massive fire that runs for 2-3 days, I will be shocked and awed. In other words, when it comes to absolute destruction, level of bombing, etc., WWII is far more shocking and awing than this war.

  10. I’m still waiting to hear how we have to destroy the town in order to save it.

  11. “We’re coming with a mighty force to end the reign of your oppressors […] And we are coming and we will not stop, we will not relent until your country is free,” Bush said.

  12. While I agree that the start of the “shock & Awe” campaign was a bit anticlimactic, I still find it interesting that we are so jaded as to watch tons of incredibly sophisticated and destructive ordinance dumped onto a city full of no doubt terrified occupants (civilian & military) and talk about it as if it were a bad movie that we regret paying $6 to have seen. I’m sure there are some Iraqis who would consider the terms “shock & awe” insufficient descriptors for entirely different reasons.

  13. Tomahawk Tomato?
    Cruise Missile Cutie?
    Hellfire Hottie?

    Ok, so they’re all lame.

  14. I already heard “shock and awe” used ironically in a joke on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Quite funny.

  15. Arnett uses “Shock and Awe”, in his new Mirror column in reference to his termination by NBC. I’m guessing that pretty much buries it, at least until it becomes a rap song title.

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