This is the disparity of expression and intent where the literal expression does not mean what you are intending. In the high mountain country where I am from, everyone goes to the lay out at the funeral home when someone dies. The most common expression heard there is: “Don’t he look good?” I am thinking, that is verbal irony since no, he is dead and looks so very much like that. Our local undertaker, who is still in business, took care of Hank Williams in the 1950’s when his driver found him door knob dead in our small town when he stopped there for gas travelling to some show.
Girls in Junior High School must attend some secret verbal irony class taught by a bunch of mothers. For the rest of their lives, they say: “I love your hair,” which means “Good God Gertie, what have you done to yourself?” It never means “I love your hair”.
The Southern expression “Bless his heart” usually stands for “what an idiot” in some form. No matter how kindly stated by a gentile lady, it means the actor is somehow impaired.
My favorite irony is in the legal world where you have spent all day with a witness, under oath and in dread fear of perjury, and the witness suddenly says: “To tell you the truth Buddy . . .”. That irony means I have been lying through both of my teeth all day, but I am now about to tell you the only truthful thing in all of today’s lying.
I never understood “I am fixing to . . .”. Perhaps it is some form of irony from the old days. The Appalachian language is said by some English specialists to evolve from the Scotch, Irish and Elizabethan English expressions and language to what we have today in the mountains. Certainly the fiddle playing and banjo picking form a very strong resemblance to what you still experience in an Irish Pub.
When she says: “No, I am not mad. I am fine”, that is in the same category of verbal irony as, “Don’t buy me anything for my birthday” or “Does this dress make me look fat?” Proceed here at your peril. For the love of all things holy, do not answer any of these unless you are certified by a Charm School as a graduate. This is irony in its most dangerous form. One of my law partners drove to a wedding by himself because he said, and I quote: “It looks like sofa fabric” in regard to the wife’s dress.
Even though not irony at all, just honesty, my favorite is the wife who reflects deeply and asks her husband: “Would you re-marry if I died?” Well, I guess so, since I am still a young man. “Would you let her move into this house?” Well, I guess so since it is a nice place and is about paid for. “Would you let her drive my sports car?” Oh hell no honey! She can’t drive a stick shift.