Cole Moreton: Can't take a joke? It's just a bit of fun, m'lud

Our writer tells Elton John why irony is worth fighting for

Share
Related Topics

Sir Elton John has a very good sense of humour. Always poking fun at himself. Such a calm and understanding chap. Psst, reader... you may think this is irony. Just between us, strictly hush hush, you might be right. Keep it under your Versace titfer, though, because irony is not something Sir Elton gets.

Money – now that is something his lawyers get plenty of, as they are sent into battle yet again on behalf of the man with the diamond-encrusted ego. But their attempts to sue for libel after the waspish Guardian columnist Marina Hyde wrote a spoof diary in Sir Elton's name ended in defeat on Friday, when Mr Justice Tugendhat agreed that no reasonable reader could have taken the words at face value.

Hyde – writing as Sir Elton – made over-the-top confessions about his annual White Tie and Tiara ball which had better not be repeated here in case Messrs Carter-Ruck go to the Court of Appeal, win and take us to the cleaners. Suffice to say that, in a whopping 17-page judgment – well, he had to earn his wad too, Elton's not the only one with a wig bill, only joshing your honour – the judge said: "The transparently false attribution is irony. Irony is a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used."

So it's official: irony exists in law and we can all hide behind it with impunity. Hurrah! Fluck and Law can dust down the Spitting Image puppets. Ian Hislop can allow Private Eye to be funny again. "In satire," as Northrop Frye said, "irony is militant." Or it should be. Now where we? Oh yes.

That Elton John sure can take a joke. And Gordon Brown, what a cheeky chappy, for ever having a laugh. The police? Always get their man. The right man. Down on the floor. Bullet to the head. Never miss. Never wrong.

More, you say? The Royal Family – worth every penny. Eoghan off The X Factor – not an annoying little brat. (Actually, irony can only be stretched so far.) Good game, this, isn't it?

But we'll get in a hole if we carry on, because you'll start to assume the opposite of everything I say. So don't give me all your money. Don't buy 10 copies of the paper. See? It's a tangle. Easy to imagine how Elton got his metaphorical Dolce & Gabbana bloomers in a mess. In the topsy-turvy world of a pop diva, in which water is what you put in your swimming pool and Cristal is a drink, "Ironic" is a song by Alanis Morissette.

You know, the one frequently held up as conclusive proof that Americans don't do irony. "A black fly in your Chardonnay ... like rain on your wedding day. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?" No, love. Not at all. Inconvenient, maybe, but nothing for Mr Justice Tugendhat to get involved in.

As the comedian Ed Byrne says: "The only ironic thing about that song is that it's called 'Ironic' and it's written by a woman who doesn't understand what irony is." Ha, stupid irony-free Yanks, eh? But get this – Alanis is Canadian. Not American at all. Isn't that ironic? Er ... send for the judge. After all, you can always trust the British legal system to deliver the right result. No irony there. Oh no. Not at all.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative / Forklift Driver

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Through a combination of excell...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific