I'm thinking of a definition like this:

v. Insincerely acting out or pretending at a set of actions and/or beliefs, often for comedic effect, with such vigor and frequency that the actions or beliefs become habitual and are eventually indistinguishable from one's sincere behavior

e.g. "I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me I was ________"

The closest I can think of is "invoking Poe's Law", but Poe's Law is specific to the internet and I'm looking for a single word if possible.

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    Maybe doing a bit. – GoldenGremlin Jun 15 '16 at 19:04
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    @medica, people are telling him that he uses irony and sarcasm so much and so seemlessly that they can no longer tell what (of his) is sincere. I think the OP is looking for a word which describes this state. – GoldenGremlin Jun 15 '16 at 19:32
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    "I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me I was becoming / exemplifying it." – NVZ Jun 15 '16 at 19:50
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    I added a link to the Wikipedia entry on Poe's law (since many will not be familiar with it), as well as added a phrase-request tag since there's likely no single word capturing what you're looking for. – GoldenGremlin Jun 15 '16 at 19:55
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    @Silenus thanks for the meta help, I'm new here :) And you hit the explanation head on. I think NVZ's "becoming" might be the closest to a single-word answer, but still doesn't quite encompass the idea. Perhaps this concept doesn't yet exist in common vocabulary. – Reuben Mikes Jun 15 '16 at 19:58

Let me start by saying that I don't think invoking Poe's Law quite fits in your blank. You're not invoking the law, but you may be demonstrating or exhibiting or corroborating it.

The closest phrases I can think of that fit your situation are blending fact with fiction and can't tell what's real.

For example:

I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me I was blending fact with fiction.

Unfortunately, blending fact with fiction is sometimes used to describe the process of mixing falsities into the telling of a true story. But understood in a different way, it clearly applies to your hypothetical person who does sarcastic and ironic bits so often and so seemlessly that others cannot tell what (of his) is sincere.


I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me they couldn't tell what was real.

The phrase can't tell what's real is rather common, and it perfectly describes your hypothetical audience.

  • This may be as close as we can get with current language -- as you pointed out in comments it's a relatively new idea. – Reuben Mikes Jun 15 '16 at 20:34

"I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me I was becoming it."


verb 1.1 Grow to be; develop into

Or, turn out to be

Related quotes:

"Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

"The mind is everything. What you think about, you become." - Buddha
"You become what you think about all day long."Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • That related concept would be perfect if only there were a concise word or phrase encapsulating it. – Reuben Mikes Jun 15 '16 at 20:12
  • @ReubenMikes, is the idea really that you are becoming what you ironically imitated? That is, suppose you very often make ironic bigoted comments. Is the situation you want to describe one in which you are actually becoming a bigot (that is, your beliefs are changing)? Or is it only that other people cannot tell that you're joking? – GoldenGremlin Jun 15 '16 at 20:20
  • @Silenus If something exists for the former that would be interesting to me as well, but for this topic I was looking for the latter, a sense of ambiguity around the speaker's intention. Sort of a boy-who-cried-wolf effect, but more about a speaker's misrepresentation of themselves than of facts. – Reuben Mikes Jun 15 '16 at 20:30
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    In my answer, I do not imply that you are becoming the thing you joke about. Instead, I meant that the people around you think that you are becoming it because you overdo certain things. Thus they forget that you are pretending. – NVZ Jun 15 '16 at 20:34
  • Example: "Ken is really strange. Is he for real?" – NVZ Jun 15 '16 at 20:37

"I swear I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me I was playing it a little too close to the cuff."

close to the cuff

It means that a person keeps their motivations a secret. It comes from poker: you hold your cards close to your "vest" or body so you don't "tip your hand" or accidentally allow the other players to see your cards. –ELU

In this instance, they've cried wolf too many times and we're no longer sure if they're faking it. Because they like to play this game a little too close to the cuff.

Keeping with the spirit of Poe's Law and to use a single word, I'd reword to include facetious.

"I was only doing it ironically, but people kept telling me that they couldn't tell if I was being facetious."

facetious /fəˈsēSHəs/ adjective

treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor; flippant. –Google



2. having two contrasting aspects, as the alternation of mood in a capricious person.

3. two-faced; deceitful.

5. having or containing contrasting characteristics


2. deceitful or hypocritical.


2. using duplicity; treacherous.


1. marked or characterized by duplicity.


1. allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous: an equivocal answer.

2. of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious: aliens of equivocal loyalty.

3. of uncertain significance; not determined


1. open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer.


not discernible; that cannot be seen or perceived clearly; imperceptible.


2. capable of acting two ways or having opposite effects

[All definitions from "Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary"]

  • Equivocal seems to fit the blank fairly nicely. – GoldenGremlin Jun 15 '16 at 21:17
  • yeah I wasn't really focusing so much on the blank in OP's sentence, but I do think that all of these words fit the general idea of Poe's law in describing someone who acts in an uninterpretable manner. – user180089 Jun 15 '16 at 21:35
  • the main problem in finding a proper synonym is that Poe's law is only used for text, and any written language has trouble with properly identifying sarcasm or insincerity. But when we attempt to bring Poe's law into real life then it is much easier to discern intent because you can look at body language, vocal intonation, the prior context of the conversation, etc. So it isn't so much a matter of not being able to discern someone's intent in real life (because that would be pretty easy), as it is a case of examining someone's behavior in the context of the conversation they're in. – user180089 Jun 15 '16 at 21:45
  • this is why Poe's law is defined for an AUTHOR's WRITTEN intent, and why it doesn't really apply to real life conversation. – user180089 Jun 15 '16 at 21:49

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