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I was reading this blog post and had trouble understanding this comment on the piece:

Or you could appropriate the Freudian hermeneutic: "Sometimes a vessel is just a vessel."

I understand "hermeneutic" to be a study of interpretation, especially that which concerns the bible. I also understand "Freudian" to be a school of psychoanalysis in which importance is given to theories of sexuality (and that it has come under critical scrutiny of and is at large disregarded by feminists).

So I would like to ask whether the above is meant to be ironic?

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Exactly what part of the Freudian hermeneutic don't you understand? –  Robusto Nov 26 '12 at 15:05
Freud was famous for his interpretation of human behavior as being colored by sexual symbolism: swords, cigars, skyscrapers are male symbols because they are phallic. Freud is also famous for his self commentary 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar' (meaning the sexual symbolism isn't obligatory). In the context of that blog posting and comments, the writer is just saying, maybe 'vessel' isn't a euphemism, it's just a metaphor for 'what young men are carrying' (including their lust). It's not ironic (Look up the definition of ironic). –  Mitch Nov 26 '12 at 15:12
@Mitch: "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke." –  Robusto Nov 26 '12 at 15:17
ummm, I was thinking that the vessel was the female equivalent to the cigar. –  Kristina Lopez Nov 26 '12 at 18:51
@Mitch I did not know that quote of his!! (hence "ironic") THANK YOU!! –  janexlane Nov 26 '12 at 21:53
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closed as too localized by Mitch, MετάEd, Robusto, JSBձոգչ, Kris Nov 27 '12 at 13:10

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3 Answers

Not so much ironic as a parallel to a putative Freudian claim. Freud was known for interpreting dreams, often reading a sexual intent into seemingly innocuous objects. He is also often portrayed chomping on a cigar. However, allegedly he claimed "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." The alternative being to interpret a cigar as a phallic symbol.

This is the parallel being drawn here. I couldn't find the comment you refer to, but the essential meaning is sometimes a thing isn't a symbol of something else, it just is what the plain meaning is. Or to put it more simply -- sometimes we over analyze the meaning of things.

FWIW, indications are that Freud's remark was apocryphal indicated in this article.

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for some reason I was familiar with his cigar chomping pic but not his quote! thanks; it all makes sense now. –  janexlane Nov 26 '12 at 21:55
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No, it's not an example of irony, which is

The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

The words are used correctly, but it's facetious (verbosity, long-windedness, loquaciousness, etc.).

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+1. And I'd add pretentious. –  Barrie England Nov 26 '12 at 18:52
@Barrie England: I thought about making that point (but let's be honest - we all do it sometimes, and sometimes we'd rather be thought of as "witty", not "pretentious", when we do! :) –  FumbleFingers Nov 26 '12 at 18:57
@BarrieEngland: It would be pretentious if it was applied seriously. .. –  SF. Nov 27 '12 at 9:13
@FumbleFingers: Thanks for reminding me of the word I definitely must shift into my active dictionary. I definitely abuse "cynical" and "ironic" where "facetious" is a perfect fit. –  SF. Nov 27 '12 at 9:14
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Irony means using a word or phrase to mean the opposite of it's literal meaning. Like, "Well, THAT was a very nice thing to say" when someone says something rude. Or it can mean an event the opposite of what was expected or intended, like "How ironic that Jeff's efforts to get a promotion resulted in him being fired." So I don't see any irony here. I'm not sure what the opposite of "vessel" would be, but I don't see any sense in which the word is being used to mean the opposite of what you'd expect. This is a metaphor, not irony.

Frankly I don't understand the point of the poster's comment. Clearly here "vessel" is NOT being used literally -- a vessel is not just a vessel. Paul is not talking about water jugs, he is talking about human bodies.

In context, well, I guess you could make the argument about Paul using "vessel" to mean "wife". I find that unlikely here, but perhaps you could make a case for it. Barring that, whether he is using "vessel" to refer to the whole body or to sex organs in particular is a moot point. Either way, he's talking about sexual behavior, so it doesn't change the meaning. Ultimately, he clearly and plainly IS talking about sex organs.

(It seems like the writer is over-studying the metaphor just so he can build up to a mildy crude comment for, what, mild shock value? It seems a little silly to me. I can just see the author giggling to himself as he says, "Hee hee, I wrote the word 'pecker' on a theology site". Is he 12 years old? Note to people who like to shock: Inserting sexual comments into a discussion about math or gardening may shock people and/or give you a thrill. Inserting sexual comments into a discussion that is already about sex does neither. Oh well, I'm getting off topic.)

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Irony is also when something meant figuratively happened literally, say, the new motorcycle cost someone an arm and a leg. –  SF. Nov 27 '12 at 9:18
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