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Most instances of verbal irony are labeled by research subjects as sarcastic, suggesting that the term sarcasm is more widely used than its technical definition suggests it should be (Bryant & Fox Tree, 2002; Gibbs, 2000). Some psycholinguistic theorists (e. g. , Gibbs, 2000) suggest that sarcasm ("Great idea!", "I hear they do fine work. "), hyperbole ("That's the best idea I have heard in years!"), understatement ("Sure, what the hell, it's only cancer. . . "), rhetorical questions ("What, does your spirit have cancer?"), double entendre ("I'll bet if you do that, you'll be communing with spirits in no time. . . ") and jocularity ("Get them to fix your bad back while you're at it. ") should all be considered forms of verbal irony. The differences between these rhetorical devices (tropes) can be quite subtle and relate to typical emotional reactions of listeners, and the rhetorical goals of the speakers. Regardless of the various ways theorists categorize figurative language types, people in conversation who are attempting to interpret speaker intentions and discourse goals do not generally identify, by name, the kinds of tropes used (Leggitt & Gibbs, 2000).

The use of irony may require the concept of a double audience . Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage says:

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