"Thanks, I hate it!" is an expression one could use to passive-aggressively indicate a strong dislike for something. What kind of literary device is used in this saying? Can this be considered an example of an oxymoron?

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    Hi & welcome user 19705 This seems to be a general english language question rather than having specific direct work of literature reference and therefore is probably best addressed at : English Language & Usage Stack Exchange or English Language Learners Stack Exchange instead.
    – schweppz
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 12:38
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    Contra schweppz, this question is on-topic here at Literature, as it is about the terminology for literary devices, which is a literary topic. Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 12:43
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    @LukeSawczak That's not true at all wherever I've seen it. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 21:17
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    @HashimAziz I don't doubt that there are plenty of people who still use it in a negative sense, but I think I've only seen it in joking form for at least a year. Also, I teach high school students, who tend to normalize, change, and move on from these expressions pretty quickly. Maybe it's different in their context. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 21:41
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    I feel a need to ask first, how we could ever say that, in that way. I suggest that comma doesn't work and instead a full stop, colon or semi-colon is needed. That might seem purely pedantic but I hear the pause indicated my a mere comma as too short to support the meaning. I also don't understand how passive-aggression comes into this, any more than it being considered an example of an oxymoron. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 22:02

3 Answers 3


The word “thanks” is not intended sincerely, so this is irony:

irony, n. 1.a. The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

Oxford English Dictionary.

This is sometimes described as “verbal irony” to distinguish it from “dramatic irony” (a dramatic situation in which a character is unaware of something that has been revealed to the audience).

I wouldn’t use the terms “oxymoron” or “paradox” as those are generally reserved for cases where both parts of the contradiction are intended sincerely.

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    +1 for “irony”. But (at least in the colloquial uses of this phrase I’m familiar with) both parts are intended sincerely — pragmatically it means “I hate what you’ve shown/told me [and presume you do too]; thanks for sharing it so that we can enjoy sharing this hatred.” So there’s a surface contradiction between the two parts, but no contradiction once they’re interpreted appropriately in context. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 18:33
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    I suggest Gareth was correct and 'Thanks…' is not intended sincerely… which to my ear would make it not mere irony, but sarcasm. Sadly, we can't know the author's intention. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 21:54

I'd say "sarcasm", rather than "irony", though perhaps the language has drifted since I was younger.

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    +1 because it definitely is sarcasm, but one meaning of "irony" is "saying the opposite of what you mean for effect" (roughly), and so it's also that, I would say. The word "sarcasm" etymologically focuses on how cutting the irony is, and "irony" focuses on the meaning being different from the explicit thing you said. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 1:59
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    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Could you elaborate on why sarcasm rather than irony is the right term to use here? Without further explanation, this seems more like a comment than a full-fledged answer. Thanks!
    – verbose
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 4:26
  • Sarcasm is a subset of irony, specifically this type of verbal use. "Irony" is more often used to refer to situations rather than statements.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:55
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    The expression as a whole is purely sarcastic: it feigns politeness in an overtly aggressive and contrary manner. Some verbal irony is employed to achieve this - but it would be less precise to describe the expression as a whole as "ironic", since that term alone cannot fully convey the intent of the author. You can be insulted by sarcasm, but not by mere irony.
    – ekhumoro
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 21:24
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    It's definitely sarcasm, but it's also verbal irony. Oxford Languages even defines 'sarcasm' as "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt."
    – reirab
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 21:47

The problem is context.

Your sister gives you a sweater to wear for Christmas, because she always complains how plain your clothes are, so it's bright and festive. She knows it's not your taste but the pictures will be better and mom will be pleased. So you say, "Thanks... I hate it." You are honestly thanking her for the gift, and honestly telling her the truth about the sweater.

Your boss finally comes through with a new chair, and it looks like it's made of spiderwebs and razor blades, and every time you raise it up it sighs back down, and he comes by and says, "How's the new chair working out?" So you say, "Thanks... I hate it." This scenario has a more contempt and suppressed anger vibe. Maybe not so thankful, as "I want my old chair back"

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