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You people were irreverent to POP's speech.

irreverent = disrespectful - flippant - impious

Is it a correct sentence according to syntax and semantics?

If it can be written in a better way, please post your example sentence.

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closed as off topic by tchrist, simchona Sep 14 '12 at 6:28

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I don't know, I don't think I would normally use be irreverent to [thing] like this –  Cerberus Sep 14 '12 at 1:33

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The sentence is fine syntactically. However, irreverent is improper here unless POP is a deity, a religious dignitary, a sage, an eminent statesman, or some other person worth of reverence—which is, according to Merriam-Webster, "honor or respect felt or shown : deference; especially : profound adoring awed respect".

And ordinarily it is persons to whom reverence is due, not their actions, unless those actions are themselves imbued with deep symbolic significance.

Disrespectful is probably what you want: respect is a less exalted term, with a broader reference.

EDIT: I should add that you will frequently see humorists, satirists, comedians and the like (or their works) referred to as irreverent where their targets are not figures worthy of reverence. In these cases, however, the word irreverent is used as a mark of approbation, because the artist is perceived as mocking those who have phoney pretensions to "reverence"—who take themselves more seriously than they deserve.

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You people were irreverent to POP , is it correct? –  user26158 Sep 14 '12 at 1:43
It depends: who is POP? –  StoneyB Sep 14 '12 at 1:43
POP is religious pundit. –  user26158 Sep 14 '12 at 2:00
@guru Ah! in that case, irreverent is appropriate, and You people were irreverent to POP is correct. You people were irreverent to POP's speech would also be correct if POP's speech was something like a sermon, a formal discourse to his followers on a religious topic which listeners would be expected to listen to with reverence. But if POP was appearing on the Tonight Show, reverence would not be called for--just respect. –  StoneyB Sep 14 '12 at 2:14
I think it still sounds weird even if POP is a figure worthy of reverence. As Cerberus said in his comment on the question, I almost never hear "irreverent to [somebody]", just "irreverent", almost always as a description of someone's attitude in general. –  alcas Sep 14 '12 at 2:24