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A lazy person's guide to irony and plagiarism

Friday, March 10, 2006

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  • No ideas of your own? Why not just steal some from the web. (BTW, I drew this graphic myself. No, wait: I didn't. It was on file

    No ideas of your own? Why not just steal some from the web. (BTW, I drew this graphic myself. No, wait: I didn't. It was on file

Written by Marty Williams

Since I have nothing to say, I thought it would be good and appropriate to write on the topic of irony and plagiarism. That way I can steal other people’s ideas on the subject, present them as my own, and -- if I get caught -- claim I was simply being ironic. “Of course I didn’t write that,” I’d say, mealy-mouthed and twitching like a little trapped weasel. “That’s the whole point. Don’t you get it?”

Of course there are some people who would say you should be still when you have nothing to say; that when genuine passion moves you, you should say what you've got to say, and say it well. Those people being, mainly, D.H. Lawrence who said “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.”

Oh wait. Damn. I guess I’m really not a very good plagiarist or I wouldn’t have coughed up that reference as quickly as I did. But please note that I changed “say it hot” to “say it well” because I think it sounds better. Saying you should say things “hot” sounds like a line from a ‘70s porn flick, a short step away from saying “say it funky.” And as I’ve never liked Lawrence much, I find that it’s more fun to steal from him and ruin his intention at the same time. Also, it may just double as ironic (or double the ironic intent) but as I haven’t really said what I think irony is yet, we can’t be sure. So maybe before I keep going off half-cocked, I should try to pop out a definition first.

The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply “coincidental” or “improbable,” in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. Thus if somebody says the sentence “In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York,” you have my permission to kill them.

The paragraph just above was not by me. I found it here . I might have taken credit for it except that I would not have said (in line one) “sometimes used of events . . .” I would have said “used for events . . .” Also, I took out some words and added others. It’s funnier this way. But the real tip-off was that if it was really by me, my example would have been local: as you know, I have never been to Ithaca so no wonder it felt wrong. But is it ironic that I lifted a definition of irony in a column on plagiarism? Is it ironic that what I call a definition of irony isn’t really a definition? Don’t know. You tell me. Maybe?

Well, no matter what it actually is we are talking about here or who is really saying it, I say unequivocally that it’s good to employ irony in all that you do and say. I could probably find somebody who had the same or similar opinion and use it as support for my claim, but that would take some research. That would involve work. Far easier to rant on and/or steal ideas than to look for supporting points of view. Research isn’t fun. And I only do things that are fun. Unless I get paid to do them, or told to do them by somebody who will (on occasion, at least) have sex with me.

So let me say this, then: irony is a good out when you are a lying and cheating bastard. It’s a solid alternative to facing up to the fact that you are morally bankrupt, intellectually shallow, and have nothing to say. When they catch you taking the easy way out – doing a Jayson Blair at the New York Times -- just say that it’s not your fault . Become indignant. Say you did it all deliberately just to see how long it would take them to catch you. Turn the tables and blame the people who employ you; how could they let you get away with this? Play the race card. Tell the world your parents didn’t love you. Blame society.

Whatever you do, don’t for god’s sake just admit that you are a lazy-assed good-for-nothing cheat. That would be so retro. So un-ironic.

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  1. Posted by: bc on Mar 16, 2006 @ 2:43am

    isn't this over yet? I mean, c'mon...

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