‘THERE ARE MANY WAYS in which the thing I am trying in vain to say may be tried in vain to be said’.1 J. L. Austin shared Samuel Beckett's wistful fascination with the vulnerabilities of speech: that we may utter words and fail to say something, or fail to do something. Austin called the latter ‘infelicities’ in his Speech Act theory, and pounced on particular instances:

And I might mention that, quite differently again, we could be issuing any of these utterances, as we can issue an utterance of any kind whatsoever, in the course, for example, of acting a play or making a joke or writing a poem – in which case of course it would not be seriously meant and we shall not be able to say that we seriously performed the act concerned.2...

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this article.