Ivy/Ivory League wordplay

Leps

New Member
Russian
In "A Confederacy of Dunces" there is an episode of an unintentional wordplay when two women from New Orlean talk by phone and one of them tells her friend about her nephew who graduated from police academy:

"When he graduated from the cops’ academy, you woulda thought he just made it outta the Ivory League".

She meant "Ivy League", eight private universities in the Northeastern United States. I need to analyse this pun, its semantic and idiomatic pecularities. Can we say that using this pun the author speaks ironically of university graduates and there is a reference to an idiom "to live in an ivory tower" here?

Thanks
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Are you sure it's a pun? Perhaps the woman made a genuine mistake.

    What race were the women by the way? If they were African-American, and especially if the story is set well in the past, it might have been intentional. Ivory is white, or off-white, so it might be some sort of reference to the police force being dominated by whites.

    Welcome to the forum.
     

    Leps

    New Member
    Russian
    Are you sure it's a pun? Perhaps the woman made a genuine mistake.

    What race were the women by the way? If they were African-American, and especially if the story is set well in the past, it might have been intentional. Ivory is white, or off-white, so it might be some sort of reference to the police force being dominated by whites.

    Welcome to the forum.
    They are not African-American, the action is set in the early-1960s. At first I also thought it was a mistake, but then I found this definition of "in an ivory tower": in a place, such as a university, where one can be aloof from the realities of living.

    Thank you!
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think the author intends "Ivory" to be the woman's mistake (one made due to her lack of sophistication). That it's due to her confusion between Ivy League and "ivory tower" is quite possible. From my hazy recollections of reading the novel I doubt it's anything racial.
     

    Leps

    New Member
    Russian
    I think the author intends "Ivory" to be the woman's mistake (one made due to her lack of sophistication). That it's due to her confusion between Ivy League and "ivory tower" is quite possible. From my hazy recollections of reading the novel I doubt it's anything racial.
    So you mean it is possible that the author wanted the readers to see this irony?
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    So you mean it is possible that the author wanted the readers to see this irony?
    I think the author meant for the reader to realize that the woman was unintentionally conflating the two terms. There are two levels of irony, because the woman is mocking the pretensions of the police academy graduate, but she herself is making a mistake.
     

    Leps

    New Member
    Russian
    I think the author meant for the reader to realize that the woman was unintentionally conflating the two terms. There are two levels of irony, because the woman is mocking the pretensions of the police academy graduate, but she herself is making a mistake.
    Thanks a lot!
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think the author intends "Ivory" to be the woman's mistake (one made due to her lack of sophistication). That it's due to her confusion between Ivy League and "ivory tower" is quite possible. From my hazy recollections of reading the novel I doubt it's anything racial.

    I agree. The context seems to bear this out (it is a Google copy so I cannot quote):

    A Confederacy of Dunces

    But she goes on to say, "Suppose somebody I know sees him with one of them wagons..."

    The incorrect use of the word "them" is another tip off.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top