When a person is said to be irrelevant

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panzerfaust0

Senior Member
mandarin
Hello. I believe the word "irrelevant" is typically used for ideas, points...etc. When people are discussing something, if someone says something that is un-related to the topic at hand, they will say that his/her point is irrelevant. This part I get.

However, I have also heard of "irrelevant" being used to describe humans. I suppose this is figurative. And I wonder how to understand it.

Where I encountered this:

1. In this movie review I found online, the author was bashing 50-shades of grey, both the movie and the book. He said the novel "may be the most sexist, poorly written piece of literature since Tucker Max thought he was relevant". See the original text here: 17 Dumbest, Most Disturbing Aspects Of '50 Shades Of Grey'

2. On youtube, I was watching this parody about Pharrell Williams' "happy" by this guy called Bart Baker (you can find it on youtube by typing Bart Baker parody Pharrell Williams' happy). A line from said parody goes, "I really owe Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, cause without them I'd be irrelevant".

I can guess from the context that an "irrelevant" person means a person who is unsuccessful. But I don't know if this is correct. Please tell me, thanks.
 
  • panzerfaust0

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    Thanks for your response, Thomas.

    So does this mean I should avoid calling people "irrelevant"? Also, are there any alternatives that are not abusive?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    since Tucker Max thought he was relevant"
    since Tucker Max thought he has some influence (on some aspect of life/culture, etc.)"
    "I really owe Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, cause without them I'd be irrelevant".
    "I really owe Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, cause without them I'd be unknown (as a performer)".

    Being relevant/irrelevant, in these contexts, tends to reflect how influential a person is in his sphere. It is a term mainly (but not exclusively) connected to the arts.
     
    since Tucker Max thought he has some influence (on some aspect of life/culture, etc.)"

    "I really owe Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, cause without them I'd be unknown (as a performer)".

    Being relevant/irrelevant, in these contexts, tends to reflect how influential a person is in his sphere. It is a term mainly (but not exclusively) connected to the arts.
    :thumbsup: Sounds right to me. And there's sometimes an element of put-down.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Generally the situation in which a person is irrelevant is going to be pretty narrowly defined and is probably going to be a cultural or perhaps a political context. That context will be implied by the discussion.

    For instance let's imagine an aging rock musician whose band was influential in the 1970s. They still tour sometimes and make fans happy. He has a family and has held a job for decades. He volunteers for an important charity. He lives a full useful life and is *not* irrelevant to the many people he sees every day.

    However it would be totally fair for a music critic to point out that the revival tour of his old band is merely an exercise in nostalgia and that he is irrelevant to the current pop music world.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Here we disagree, I fear.

    I'd regard it as gratuitously abusive.
    Ah you may have a point. But a lot would depend on the context. And it could be something the agung rock star knows and accepts :) and he may say himself that he has no time for rap or EDM.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That's the meaning. Whether you think it's fair to use that word about a person or not, that is the intended meaning.

    In a creative field, like performing, it's a claim that the person has nothing more or nothing useful to contribute to the current state of that field. They might have been relevant in the past or might never have been relevant in the eyes of their critics. But whatever work they are producing now is considered to be not worth wasting time on.

    Fashion in the arts and design can change quickly. You can go from cutting edge to a nobody (being irrelevant) in no time.

    "I really owe Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, cause without them I'd be irrelevant".

    What he's saying (his parody version) is that if he hadn't recorded famous songs with those other people, then no one would pay attention to any of his songs today. He is only famous because of his association.with them, not for anything he did all by himself.
     
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