Can this idiom, "Talk about...!" be used ironically?

Example. He is so boring. Talk about humour!

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  • Is this an invented example? – snailplane Dec 22 '13 at 12:41
  • yes, it is. I'd appreciate it if you could give me a more edifying example. – user2492 Dec 22 '13 at 13:40
  • How about this example, then? "Talk about a class act!" I could imagine this being used genuinely (as praise) or ironically (as an insult). – snailplane Dec 22 '13 at 19:40
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    @snailboat: That's just because referring to someone (or something they did) as a "class act" can be either high praise or extreme condemnation. It's not directly related to the fact that idiomatic Talk about X! is only ever used in contexts where the speaker really is saying something relevant to an extreme example of X (whatever X might happen to be). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '13 at 21:50

I'm not sure "ironical" is relevant to the usage (I'd say it's just an idiomatic exclamatory form of emphasis). But more importantly, OP's example is an incorrect usage. In the construction...

Some statement A. Talk about some adjective/attribute B!.

...what the speaker means is A is an extreme example of B. That implied relationship between A and B is the same even if they're presented the other way round, as "Talk about B! statement/example A".

So (assuming the subject is boring because he's not funny/amusing) OP's example should be something more like..

"He is so boring. Talk about humourless!"

I can't really say anything about the origin of this idiomatic form, which is almost exclusively restricted to informal speech. But it's certainly related to...

Person A: "This part is so boring! I wish John was here. He's always interesting."
Person B: "Speak of the devil! There's John at the door right now!"

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  • I think OP understands the normal usage of this idiom. They're asking if it can be used ironically/sarcastically. When A is an extreme example of not-B, in your example. – The Photon Dec 22 '13 at 21:31
  • @The Photon: I think if OP understood the usage he would have chosen a better example, given boring and humour aren't particularly linked either as synonyms or antonyms. People (esp. younger speakers) will introduce ironic "meaning reversal" at the drop of a hat these days, so I suppose it's just about possible someone might have said "This is so boring! Talk about stimulating!". But that would be so "non-standard" it hasn't really got any place in a site devoted to learning English. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '13 at 21:44
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    I don't think it's so hard to see "boring" and "homorless" as synonyms when we talk about people. Whether that makes "boring" and "having humor" antonyms I'm not sure, but if OP had a perfect vocabulary in English s/he probably wouldn't be asking questions here. Since the question is specifically about "can this be used ironically" it seems reasonable to give them the benefit of the doubt that the really did want to ask if it can be used ironically. – The Photon Dec 22 '13 at 22:12

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