Friday, October 03, 2008

Facetiously Funny

As I was browsing the New York Times I came across a review for the movie Religulous, which is a documentary about religion and faith by comic and television host, Bill Maher. It's not the review itself that is the topic of this post, but rather a particular turn of phrase that was used in the review. The Times reviewer called the movie "facetiously funny". So now I'm just trying to figure out if he's being superfluously redundant. "Facetious" is one of those words I've come to dislike. It's used way too often by people who think they have to explain that what they just said was not serious, i.e., "it was supposed to be funny". "Oh, I was just being facetious". Yes, maybe. But now you're just being pompous. Anyway, Merriam-Webster defines "facetious" as "joking or jesting often inappropriately", or "meant to be humorous or funny, not serious". And one of its definitions for funny is "seeking or intended to amuse, facetious". Hmm. Facetiously facetious? Funnily funny? Let's say we use the "not serious" definition for "facetious". Can one then be "seriously funny" in a way that means "serious" for real (seriously), not "serious" as its used by some to mean "excessive"? Ironically, one of the definitions for "serious" is "not joking", in which case the phrase, "seriously funny", becomes an oxymoron. OK, so "facetiously funny" bugged me enough that I had to Google it to find out if it had any precedent. At the time I wrote this, Google told me that there were 191 documents with this phrase out on the web and 7 out of the 10 links on the first page of Google search results reference the New York Times review. So then I searched for the phrase by excluding all results that mention "Religulous". Now there were just 49 results. Good. This was a small enough set for me to browse quickly to find out if this phrase had been used anywhere else in a way that justified its use. And yes, I found this link, which in turn linked here for a lovely, little limerick about skiing topless in the Tetons while sipping tea. When one considers the English translation of the French word, "teton", I'd say this little poem is indeed facetiously funny.

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