Testing, stretching, and aligning: Using ‘ironic personae’ to make sense of complicated issues

Winston Kwon, Rowan Mackay, Ian Clarke, Ruth Wodak, Eero Vaara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Irony and humor play an important role in both organizing and organizations, because they both help to collide and contrast ideas as well as mitigate and moderate criticism. Our empirical observations of a senior management team suggest participants frequently use verbal irony and aggressive conversational humor through 'ironic personae' - a cast of characters, real or imaginary - as a vehicle for pragmatically making sense of complicated topics. We show how ironic personae perform three functions: (i) testing new positions on topics in a non-committal way; (ii) stretching the frame of comparison of a group; and (iii) aligning shared understanding and commitment. Thus, our analysis sheds light on an underexplored and undertheorised aspect of irony that serves as a pragmatic vehicle for the expression of humorous verbal irony and aggressive conversational humor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-58
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date19 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ironic personae
  • sensemaking
  • humor
  • carnival
  • complexity
  • discourse analysis


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