Can hardly be suspected of racism

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dreamlike

Senior Member
Polish
Hi everyone,

Suppose some accusations have been levelled against Mr X, about him being a racist.
Let's say that I were to refute them, employing the following sentence:
(1) Mr X can hardly be suspected of racism - [here I would list all the reasons].

Would the part in bold mean "In no way Mr X can be suspected of racism", "hardly" acting as, say, an ironic intensifier?
That's precisely the meaning I want it to have.
 
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  • dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you, Tazzler. Then I gather I'm right in saying that "hardly" acts here as some kind of ironic intensifier, as in, for example:

    Given his manners, he can hardly be regarded as a gentleman.
     

    paieye

    Senior Member
    English - British
    "He can hardly be regarded as" is an alternative to "It is hard to regard him as." You correctly identify this as involving some irony.
     

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    In my opinion, there's nothing ironic in 'hardly'. It's just a way of negating something.
    I wouldn't call it an 'intensifier either -- more like a "de-tensifier" -- because it's usually an incomplete negation. It suggests 'almost not', 'nearly nothing', 'very little', etc.

    For example :
    I have hardly any time -- I can spend a few minutes with you, but not longer.
    I have hardly any money on me -- I have a few coins in my pocket, but no banknotes/bills.
    I hardly know him -- I have met him once or twice, but we are not friends.

    In your example, you're avoiding a harsh judgement like "he can not be regarded as a gentleman" by softening it to "he can hardly be regarded as a gentleman".
    .
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks for all your insights.
    Rival, I agree that there's no element of irony involved in the examples you've listed, but I think it's a bit different with sentences such as:
    He can hardly be suspected/accused of...
    He can hardly be regarded as...

    It strikes me as a bit of an understatement, which is supposed to be ironic -- I think it works on the same principle as does "exactly" in sentences like. He's not exactly Einstein..
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    There's an element of irony/sarcasm....this phrase with "hardly" is often said in response to statements claiming otherwise...
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    What are you specifically referring to, Tazzler? I too can sense irony in my examples, but the same cannot be said for Rivals's examples, in my opinion at least. I'd like to be proven wrong, though :)
     

    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Thanks for all your insights.
    Rival, I agree that there's no element of irony involved in the examples you've listed, but I think it's a bit different with sentences such as:
    He can hardly be suspected/accused of...
    He can hardly be regarded as...

    It strikes me as a bit of an understatement, which is supposed to be ironic -- I think it works on the same principle as does "exactly" in sentences like. He's not exactly Einstein..

    Well, what can I say? It looks as if you and I have rather different understandings of what "irony" is.

    My understanding involves saying the opposite of the intended meaning.

    WR Dictionary seems to support this.
    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/irony
    irony1 /ˈʌɪrəni/
    ▶noun (pl. ironies)
    the expression of meaning through the use of language signifying the opposite, typically for humorous effect.


    In your post #1 you want "Mr X can hardly be suspected of racism" to mean "In no way Mr X can be suspected of racism". I see no 'use of language signifying the opposite', so I don't consider it ironic.

    Of course, there's nothing to stop us using 'hardly' in an ironic way, and we often do. It's just that I don't see it in this thread.
    .
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    "He can hardly be regarded as" is an alternative to "It is hard to regard him as."
    That is perfectly correct. 'Hardly' means 'with difficulty'.
    In other words, this statement is not a categorical denial of the imputation. It is clearly less strong than that.
    You correctly identify this as involving some irony.
    This conclusion seems to go farther than the original quotation suggests. It is perfectly possible for the original sentence to be ironical. In that case, it would be ironical through being a deliberate understatement. This would imply that anyone familiar with the facts would already know the suggestion of racism was untrue.

    However, the sentence quoted does not on its own show whether the context would justify understanding it as ironical.
    In other words, the sentence quoted can function as a strong denial only if it is clear from the context that it must be ironical. If that is not clear, then the statement does not fully deny the accusation.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Writing "Mr X can hardly not be suspected/accused of racism because- " [here I would list all the reasons] should get rid of any problems with interpretation.

    GF..

    Often it is much better to simple state "Mr X cannot be accused", otherwise one has to post on a forum only to find out that it is easy to missunderstand the meaning; even after reading all the posts... including mine.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks for all your answers. George, I don't think that my original sentence is pen to interpretation -- I think it's as clear as it can be, "hardly" changes nothing in this respect, at least to me. Whether it's ironical or not -- given the context, I think it is, at least that was my intention.

    For my part, I am persuaded by Rival's posts, and regret having supported the view that irony was involved.
    I sincerely hope that you will get away with it and won't be held answerable for having held such an opinion! :D :D :D
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I don't think that my original sentence is pen to interpretation -- I think it's as clear as it can be, "hardly" changes nothing in this respect, at least to me. Whether it's ironical or not -- given the context, I think it is, at least that was my intention.
    I do not wish to be awkward, but the word 'hardly' does change things.

    If you leave it out, the sentence clearly says the opposite of what you mean.
    If you leave it in, then it is indeed open to interpretation: depending on the context (see post 12).

    Since you say 'given the context, I think it is [ironical]', then you are in fact admitting that it is open to interpretation.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    All right, Wandle, I guess I'm contradicting myself...

    Of course, George, I feel mortified for having made such a glaring mistake... especially that I got right a few words before... I don't feel very well today, thanks.
     
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