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Inadvertent Irony Aggravated by Paronomasia

Last year’s Hurricane Irene, which wreaked such terrible damage in the Caribbean and the United States, carries an English name derived from our classical patrimony (< Greek εἰρηνικ-ός < εἰρήνη ‘peace’), also reflected in the recherché adjectives irenic/eirenic ‘pacific, non-polemic, tending to or productive of peace’.

Hurricanes and tropical cyclones are given names by the National Hurricane Center in a predetermined order, so that no name has any natural connection with the storm’s cumulative force. One wonders how many persons who suffered in Irene’s wake are aware of the onomastic exacerbation lurking in the name’s ironic presence, made all the more bitter by its paronomastic connection to Latin īrōnīa < Greek εἰρωνεία.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

 

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