A Sense of Irony; October/November 2008; Scientific American Mind; by Wray Herbert; 2 Page(s)
¿Well, that¿s just great.¿ Quick, what does that sentence mean? Is the speaker acknowledging some good news, celebrating a joyful event that just took place? Do we take the statement at face value? Or could the person who said it mean something quite different, maybe even the opposite? Perhaps his pleasure is not genuine.
The fact is we do not know. The words are ambiguous. The comment could be kind and authentic: imagine his daughter has just announced that she made the school honor roll for the first time. But he could just as well be stuck in rush-hour traffic, late for an important meeting. His comment in that case is probably not genuine at all but sarcastic.